Arts Council announces £400,326 for 63 rural arts projects

4th September, 2023

National Lottery funding supports a range of arts interventions to improve mental health, wellbeing, and cultural skills.

A man in a living room dusting curtains at a window looking over at a woman who is on the phone smiling.
Pictured (L-R) at The Living Room installation are actors Michael Johnston and Christina Nelson.

Sixty-three community groups and arts organisations in rural-based communities across Northern Ireland are set to benefit from the third round of the Arts Council’s National Lottery Rural Engagement Arts Programme (REAP).

The National Lottery Rural Engagement Arts Programme, worth £400,326, was established in 2022 with the aim of providing an integrated, cohesive approach to the needs of rural communities as they emerged from the global Covid-19 pandemic. The overarching theme of the programme is to tackle isolation and loneliness and promote social inclusion and wellbeing through participation in the arts.

The National Lottery Rural Engagement Arts Programme is one of the Arts Council’s core National Lottery programme areas.

Gilly Campbell, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented, 

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to make this funding available to rural communities. We know that taking part in arts activities can raise self-esteem, boost confidence and motivation, as well as alleviate isolation and loneliness.
“Thanks to The National Lottery players, the National Lottery Rural Engagement Arts Programme has supported 135 arts projects in rural areas with total National Lottery funding of £898,780 since its establishment in 2022. The programme has been making positive impacts in these rural communities by increasing opportunities for people to engage and participate in meaningful arts activities, enriching their lives for the better. The Arts Council believes that arts, and coming together as communities, can all make a vital contribution to building wellbeing, confidence, and healthy, integrated communities.”

REAP funding has been offered to organisations located in Local Authority Areas across Northern Ireland, with particular focus in some of Northern Ireland’s most rural areas, for example Fermanagh and Omagh, Mid Ulster, and Newry, Mourne and Down. Some of the community and arts organisations that have been offered REAP funding include:

Dylan Quinn Dance Theatre Company - Fermanagh and Omagh

REAP amount offered: £9,000

Dylan Quinn Dance Theatre Company will use their REAP funding to undertake a project called, Living Apart Dancing Together. This project will take place across rural Fermanagh, offering a diverse programme of dance workshops over a forty-day period. The project will bring people of all ages together to create a sense of community, togetherness and belonging through shared creative and social dance activities. The workshops will culminate in short performances by children and adults with learning difficulties, presented as part of a Day of Dance, ‘social dance’ event. The day will conclude with a celebratory, lively, uplifting Irish and Scottish Ceilidh with live music.

Connecting Minds Project – Lisburn and Castlereagh

REAP amount offered: £7,628

The Connecting Minds Project will use their REAP funding to address the social isolation, language learning, and integration needs of refugees that are living in rural areas of Northern Ireland. Their project will be delivered over four weeks in partnership with Beyond Skin and the project will use music, composition and performance to help refugees improve their English language skills. Workshops will take place in Causeway Coast & Glens, Antrim & Newtownabbey, Newry, Mourne & Down and the Lisburn Castlereagh areas.

The primary objective of this language course is to empower participants with essential grammar and vocabulary skills whilst developing, the confidence and skills to express their identity through music. Once participants have completed the four-week course they will have the opportunity to apply their learning through a collaborative music project, creating written songs that will be recorded and shared as educational resources to support language learning and integration efforts.

Action Mental Health – North Down and Ards

REAP amount offered: £5,480

Action Mental Health (AMH) will use their REAP funding for a project called Home is Where the ‘ART is! The project will work with twenty people who attend Action Mental Health’s Southern New Horizons projects, which supports people in their recovery journey. Under the direction of two experienced community artists, participants will produce an exhibition of mixed artforms including arts, craft and sculpture, with the freedom to create art that represents their perspective of rural life and mental health. AMH will tour the exhibition across the Southern area with a range of mental health literature detailing helpful ways to remain healthy and how to seek support when necessary, underpinned by the public health initiative; The 5 Ways to Wellbeing.

Conductology C.I.C – Derry & Strabane

REAP amount offered: £8,290

*Conductology is a universal gesture system for use in real-time music-making in a range of music environments for, and by, people with intellectual disabilities. Support from the previous round of REAP funding enabled Conductology C.I.C. to launch a project called CREAM (Conductology Rural Engagement and Access to Music), the first-ever Conductology* Orchestra. The Orchestra, started with eight musicians from rural locations aged between 16-21, who were socially isolated and had additional needs.

Conductology C.I.C will use this current REAP funding grant to progress the development of the Orchestra and to expand their rural audience. The new element of the project will involve a series of workshops using the scientifically proven and extensively researched Conductology technology in a range of music environments. Dr Denise White will plan and prepare a repertoire which the musicians will then develop and perform through the use of the Conductology gesture system. A further 4-6 individuals will be selected to participate, and the project will finish with an interactive concert for families, friends, local schools and rural communities in Limavady.

Mid-Armagh Community Network – Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon

REAP amount offered: £9,721

Mid-Armagh Community Network (MACN) will use their REAP funding to develop a community-based project to teach music, dance and drama within an Ulster-Scots context. The project aims to encourage participation in Ulster Scots traditional art forms by offering low-cost lessons in Scottish traditional fiddle, Scottish theatre, dance, drama and accordion. The project will also develop a community choir. Students can also participate in music exams. The project aims to engage 150 - 160 participants and lesson fees will be kept as low as possible to encourage participation from those who are more financially disadvantaged in the community.

Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann Craobh Boirche – Newry, Mourne and Down

REAP amount offered: £5,640

Comhaltas is the primary Irish organisation dedicated to the promotion of the music, song, dance and the language of Ireland. Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann’s REAP-supported project aims to focus on the promotion of traditional Irish music classes in the Mournes area, Co. Down. This project aims to increase membership and offer classes in Moneydarragh Community Hub, in the rural settlement of Longstone, Annalong, Co.Down. Participants of ages can take lessons in bodhran, tin whistle, and guitar. Alongside weekly tutoring classes, the project will deliver a tutoring programme in association with the SEN (Special Education Needs) units within the local Mourne area primary and secondary schools.

Glenlough Community Choir – Mid and East Antrim

REAP amount offered: £8,800

Glenlough Community Choir will use their REAP funding towards their project, the Pick-Me-Up Chorus and Larks and Crows Festival of Inclusive Community Singing. The project will build upon

on the success of the choir’s four regional Pick-Me-Up Choirs which was supported with REAP funding previously. Singers will be brought together, over six months, for thirty-one regional rehearsals in Ballygally, Broughshane and Carnlough/Glenarm, culminating in two public performances. The project will also develop a Larks and Crows Festival of Inclusive Community Singing at the Braid Centre in Ballymena. Through this Free Mini-Festival, organisers will spotlight rurally based community choirs, encouraging the grass-roots work already happening in rural County Antrim. Watch the video taken with Glenlough Community Choir at their last REAP-supported project below.

Glór Uachtar Tíre (GUT) – Castlewellan

REAP amount offered: £7,000

GUT will use their REAP funding to support a facilitator on Raidió Uidhilín - Castlewellan's Irish language Community Radio Station. Glór Uachtar Tíre has been training fifteen local people in radio production and podcasting skills over the last six months. The facilitator will work with the trainees to coordinate a weekly output of material that supports the local music and arts scene in Co. Down and generate a greater interest in the Irish language.

An example of recently REAP-supported project is Big Telly Theatre Company who took their live, interactive installation project, The Living Room, to rural communities in Ballymoney, Garvagh, Maghera, Larne and Ballymena as well as to online audiences through their platform, Brick Moon. Watch the video below to find out more.

To view the full list of those offered funding visit