Arts Council funding available for rural arts projects, supported by National Lottery

5th May, 2023

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is welcoming applications to the second round of the Rural Engagement Arts Programme (REAP), a funding scheme, funded through The National Lottery, which aims to increase access and participation in the arts in rural areas of Northern Ireland. Grants from £500 - £10,000 are available and applications must be made online on the Arts Council’s website. Applications are open from Friday 5 May 2023 and will close at 12noon on 3 July 2023.

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.

REAP was established in 2022 by the Arts Council and seeks to provide an integrated, cohesive approach to the needs of local rural communities as they recover from the impacts of the global Covid-19 pandemic, recognising the specific and ongoing issues they face as a result. 

The overarching theme of the programme is to tackle isolation and loneliness and promote social inclusion and wellbeing through participation in the arts in rural areas.

Former REAP funding awardees Glenlough Community Choir

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented, “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 Chief Executive 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 health, confidence and integrated communities and I would encourage organisations to apply.”

The Rural Engagement Arts Programme (REAP) is one of the Arts Council’s core National Lottery programme areas. Some examples of previous projects supported by REAP include:

Glenlough Community Choir, based in rural North East Antrim, used REAP funding to bring together people of all abilities and ages to join their Pick-Me-Up Choirs, a singing project presented in partnership with the Northern Area Community Network, which aimed to address the social isolation and loneliness that can often be experienced by people living in rural areas. Over seven weeks separate choirs gathered in Carnlough, Glenarm, Ballygalley and Broughshane Fold, to learn music and sing together before meeting on 22nd April for a Big Sing event.

Another past recipient of REAP funding is Big Telly Theatre Company who used their funding to create The Dock - an interactive piece of hybrid street theatre, combining live action, a digital interface and smart technology. The Dock was transported from location to location to audiences in the Causeway and Coastal Glen areas.

Fermanagh Choral Society used their REAP funding to deliver a music project that used the power of opera and choral singing to enhance the wellbeing of younger and older people in rural Fermanagh. The project was delivered in partnership with Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, through their Culture and Wellbeing Service, and also Ulster Touring Opera (UTO). The project included a workshop series for schools in Fermanagh, as well as a concert for both young and older audiences at the Ardhowen Theatre in Enniskillen.

Ards and North Down Borough Council used their REAP funding towards a project entitled, Large Scale Puppetry Bringing Communities Together. The project engaged with the communities of Donaghadee, Portaferry, Comber, and Holywood through a series of intergenerational reminiscence, puppet sculpturing, puppeteering & movement workshops with professional arists.

The Rural Engagement Arts Programme is open to rural groups across the region for people of all ages. Please note that applications must be submitted online and are open from Friday 5 May 2023, closing at 12noon on 3 July 2023.

To view the eligibility information, guidance notes and to make an online application visit


Notes to Editors

About the Arts Council of Northern Ireland

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is the lead funding and development agency for the Arts providing support to arts projects throughout the region, through its Treasury and The National Lottery funds. Our funding enables artists and arts organisations to increase access to the arts across society and deliver great art that is within everyone’s reach.

Every week National Lottery players raise more than £30M for good causes.

More than £47 billion has now been raised by National Lottery players to support good causes since 1994.

More than 670,000 projects have been supported with National Lottery funding, the equivalent of around 240 lottery grants in every UK postcode district.