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Arts Council surveys reveal true impact of pandemic on NI’s creative sector

Thursday 23rd September 2021 at 3pm 0 Comments

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland today (23rd September 2021) published the findings of surveys conducted with artists and arts organisations in Northern Ireland who received Emergency Funding support during the pandemic.

The surveys reveal the devastating impact of the pandemic on Northern Ireland’s creative sector and the lifeline provided by public funding.

Between April 2020 and February 2021, the Arts Council co-designed and administered eight emergency programmes, with funding from the Department of Communities, stabilising the sector, protecting jobs and skills, and increasing opportunities for people to access the arts during lockdown.

£11.3 million was distributed through 2,869 grants to creative practitioners and £14.7 million through 501 grants to arts organisations.

Key findings:

Artists and Creative Practitioners:

  • 97% sustained significant loss of earnings as result of the pandemic; 74% lost more than half their income.
  • £12,960 was the average loss of earnings.
  • Artists experienced a high level of hardship and social disadvantage, with 74% forced to curtail all non-essential spending; 22% struggled to meet basic food costs.
  • 36% said they would have ceased trading without emergency funding.
  • 84% reported that their grant had alleviated immediate stress; however, 50% were less optimistic about their longer-term financial security.
  • 77% were able to create new artistic content for use in the future, thanks to their grant.
  • 83% used their grant to develop new skills that will help them adapt to the new operating environment.

Arts Organisations:

  • 74% confirmed that, without the Emergency funding, they would have had to remove their creative programming entirely; 85% would have had to reduce their scale of activity.
  • 80% reported that their grant had alleviated their immediate financial stress.
  • 58% used the funding to cover deficit or loss of income.
  • 67% have been able to protect jobs and retain skills through the pandemic, thanks to the funding.
  • Over two-thirds used their grant to maintain engagement with audiences; 48% enhanced their services online.
  • 94% stated that more support was still required to guarantee long-term financial stability, with only 31% confident their organisation would remain financially stable to the end of the 2020/21 financial year.

The Arts Council and the Department for Communities continue to provide support to the sector through these exceptional times, with the opening in September 2021 of a new £5 million recovery fund for individuals working in the arts and creative sectors.

Emergency Grant Programme: Survey of Individual Artists is available to download at:

Emergency Grant Programme: Survey of Organisations is available to download at:

The Art Council’s Strategic Development Department conducts a programme of research and evaluation to provide evidence and intelligence that supports arts and culture organisations to improve their practice and to demonstrate their impact. Designated as a producer of Official Statistics, we produce a range of annual and stand-alone reports to inform art and culture policy and demonstrate alignment to government’s key targets as set out in the Programme for Government. For further information, email:

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