Funding, Organisations

Arts Council announces £500,000 funding to support 73 rurally-based arts projects

24th October, 2022

73 Community groups, arts organisations and local authorities in rurally-based communities across Northern Ireland are set to benefit from the Arts Council’s new Rural Engagement Arts Programme (REAP).

Dafydd Hall Williams, Ulster Touring Opera, David Robertson, Fermanagh Choral Society and Bryony May, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council standing outdoors with the Fermanagh lakes in the background.
Pictured (L-R) are previous REAP funding recipients Dafydd Hall Williams, Ulster Touring Opera, David Robertson, Fermanagh Choral Society and Bryony May, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, who used REAP funding to deliver a collaborative music project to enhance the wellbeing of people in rural Fermanagh.

The Rural Engagement Arts Programme, worth £500,000, aims to provide an integrated, cohesive approach to the needs of rural communities as they emerge 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 Rural Engagement Arts Programme is one of the Arts Council’s core National Lottery programme areas and to help develop and design the programme the Arts Council consulted with the Rural Deliberative Forum*and the 10 Local Authorities outside of Belfast.

Liam Hannaway, Chair, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented,

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to make this funding available to rural communities and we are grateful to the Rural Deliberative Forum for their input and advice when designing the programme.

We know that taking part in arts activities can raise self-esteem, boost confidence and motivation, as well as alleviate isolation and loneliness. The pandemic and the resulting lockdowns across the UK have taken a toll on individual lives, with mental health and well-being adversely effected as families and friends were separated for sustained periods of time, especially intergenerational. This has been particularly compounded in rural communities which are characterised by smaller and more dispersed populations.”

The Chair continued,

“Thanks to The National Lottery players, the Rural Engagement Arts Programme will increase opportunities for people living in rural communities 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 those rurally-based communities that have been offered REAP funding includes:

Fermanagh Choral Society - Fermanagh and Omagh
REAP amount offered: £10,000

Fermanagh Choral Society will use their REAP funding to deliver a music project that uses the power of opera and choral singing to enhance the wellbeing of younger and older people in rural Fermanagh. Fermanagh Choral Society will deliver the project in partnership with Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, through their Culture and Wellbeing Service, and also Ulster Touring Opera (UTO). The project will include a workshop series for schools in Fermanagh, as well as a concert for both young and older audiences. The workshops will reflect opera as a fusion of art forms and participants will perform a three minute scene based on a section of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville.

To target isolation and loneliness, this project will culminate with a concert at the Ardhowen Theatre in Enniskillen. South African baritone Njabulo Madlala and Northern Irish mezzo-soprano Sinéad O’Kelly will perform in the concert, accompanied by Keith McAlister which includes pieces by renowned composers such as Puccini, Verdi and Rossini, and by Northern Irish composers such as Hamilton Harty, Dorothy Park and Enniskillen-born Joan Trimble.

Big Telly Theatre Company - Causeway Coast and Glens
REAP amount offered: £9,908.20

Big Telly Theatre Company will use their funding to create The Dock - an interactive piece of hybrid street theatre, combining live action, a digital interface and smart technology. The Dock is a mobile structure which houses a screen, webcam and remote controlled coffee machine. Audiences interact with and influence characters and stories on screen, some of whom are present in the location and will meet the audience face-to-face, and some of whom will be in remote locations.

The Dock will be transported from location to location popping up in rural areas where it’s needed most and Big Telly will work closely with each rural community to develop and shape a model of connectivity that can best respond to the individual needs of each location. Big Telly will be working alongside their project partners, Aware and Inspire, to optimise the opportunity to address rural needs and start conversations to connect with isolated, vulnerable and underrepresented rurally-based groups.

Music Kin C.I.C – Derry and Strabane
REAP amount offered: £7,325

Music Kin C.I.C will deliver a series of multi-sensory, interactive reminiscence through song programmes. These programmes will be delivered in partnership with Templemoyle Nursing Home, Eglinton and Lettershandowney and District Development Group, reaching out to older people living rurally in Co.Derry, who may be experiencing isolation and loneliness as a result of rural living and the impacts of the pandemic. The programme will bring participants of all abilities together with professional musicians to tackle these issues through the power of group singing and the sharing of songs with personal memories.

Sessions will include, vocal warm-ups, breathing exercises, sing-along sessions with words, performances from musicians, use of visual stimuli such as pictures and videos of recording artists, all to evoke discussion and musical memory. The programme will also feature intergenerational sessions where family, friends and carers will be invited to join in. The programme will culminate in a unique multi-media performance to an audience of family, friends and carers.

Ards and North Down Borough Council - North Down and Ards
REAP amount offered: £10,000
Ards and North Down Borough Council will use their REAP funding towards a project entitled, Large Scale Puppetry Bringing Communities Together. The project will engage with the communities of Donaghadee, Portaferry, Comber, and Holywood through a series of intergenerational reminiscence, puppet sculpturing, puppeteering & movement workshops. Following discussions around the meaning of each place to community participants, large-scale puppets will be collectively created to visually represent the community’s memories, histories, and connection to place. Audio-recordings of the community’s spoken words, collected during reminiscence and puppet sculpturing workshops, will later be transcribed and crafted into a verbatim song by a professional songwriter, in creation of a character song for each puppet, inspired by and reflective of the characteristics of each place and the attached community’s ideas, experiences, memories and connections to it.

Subsequently, a puppeteer and choreographer will work with the community to develop a movement style and dance for their newly created puppet and its song. In the final week, the four participating communities, will come together at the Ards Puppet Festival to showcase their puppets, verbatim songs, and movement-based performance pieces.

BEAMA Education CIC - Antrim and Newtownabbey
REAP amount offered: £9,999

BEAMA is an organisation that offers opportunities for young people to get creative using the latest technologies. BEAMA will use their REAP funding to deliver a series of outreach workshops whereby participants will create a guided visualisation using multi-media arts to address the issues associated with loneliness & social isolation. 135 young people in Pomeroy, County Tyrone, will take part and will include young people who have a learning difficulty or learning disability. The workshops will be focused on using art to build connections, explore emotions and develop strategies to better manage mental health and wellbeing. The project will culminate with a launch party where local people will be invited to view the visualisation and celebrate the achievement of the group.

Loughshore Care Partnership (LCP) - Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon
REAP amount offered: £6,700

Culture and folk history are especially prevalent within rural areas, such as the southern shores of Lough Neagh, and Loughshore Care Partnerships’s REAP supported project will combine aspects of local folklore, willowing weaving, music and performance. The project aims to connect all members of the community whilst also preserving their local culture and heritage. The project will take place in five community halls where the local senior citizen groups meet weekly.

The project will encompass the rural stretch of South Lough Neagh, beginning with interactive storytelling workshops with a professional storyteller and traditional craft workshops using locally sourced willow to create some autumnal decorations. As the workshops evolve, storytelling will provide the pivotal focus for the creative engagement. At the end of the project there will be a celebratory event with an inter-generational workshop with local school children.

Poundbridge & District Community Association - Lisburn and Castlereagh
REAP amount offered: £9,900

Poundbridge & District Community Association will use their REAP funding towards their project, Making Music Together, a series of weekly music classes, for people aged 11 and older, in two rural locations. Instruments on offer will include the tin whistle, fifes, Bb flutes, and drums and classes will be delivered by professional tuturs in the Ballylesson Old Boys Hall and in Drumbo Orange Hall. The project will culminate in a celebratory concert.

Glenlough Community Choir - Mid and East Antrim
REAP amount offered: £9,999

Glenlough Community Choir will use their REAP funding toward their project entitled, Pick-Me-Up Community Chorus to build confidence and encourage isolated older members of their group to return to singing rehearsals following their departure during the pandemic. With support from REAP, Glenlough Community Choir will pilot four weekly, day-time 'Pick-Me-Up' regional choirs in Ballygalley, Broughshane and Carnlough, that are small in size and welcoming, to gently reintroduce participants back to society. They hope to work with 40 older people from a wide, rural geographical area.

Apex Music Centre - Mid Ulster
REAP amount offered: £4,852

Apex Music Centre will use their REAP funding towards their project, Developing an Engaged and Creative Community. The project is aimed at all ages and spans 12 months with 12 workshops that range across artforms to help members of the Mid-Ulster community develop the tools and practices to improve and manage their mental health and general wellbeing. Workshops will cover dance, dj’ing, samba youth, musical theatre, open stage, photography, Christmas crafts, creative writing, exercise and mindfulness in nature, still life drawing and street art. Apex Music Centre will also develop a ukulele choir and a Christmas showcase event.

Magnet Young Adult Centre - Newry, Mourne and Down
REAP amount offered: £9,000

Magnet Young Adult Centre will use their REAP funding towards The Bridge Project which aims to work alongside two groups of young people, aged 11-13 and 14-16, from rural areas in South Armagh and South Down, to address and overcome the barriers associated with social isolation and loneliness by participation in arts activities. This project will involve engaging with young people to enable them to express themselves creatively through combined arts culminating in a celebration event for the two groups to come together and showcase their projects to the wider community.

To view the full list of those offered funding visit