Funding, Artists

Leading NI artists honoured with Major Awards by Arts Council of Northern Ireland

26th October, 2022

Acclaimed artists, opera singer, Giselle Allen, composer, Greg Caffrey, poet and performer, Alice McCullough, dance maker, Eileen McClory and visual artist, Jennifer Trouton, have each been presented with Major Individual Awards (MIAs), worth £15,000 each. Supported by Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery funding, these awards are the highest value honour bestowed on artists in Northern Ireland each year.

Eileen McClory, dance maker, Jennifer Trouton, visual artist, Giselle Allen, opera singer, Alice McCullough, poet and performer and Grey Caffrey, composer together at the RUA Annual Exhibition at the Ulster Museum.
Pictured (L-R) Eileen McClory, dance maker, Jennifer Trouton, visual artist, Giselle Allen, opera singer, Alice McCullough, poet and performer and Grey Caffrey, composer

The prestigious awards are given in recognition of the contribution each of the artists has made to creative life in Northern Ireland, and makes it possible for them to undertake a substantial, ambitious project that will make a significant impact on the development of their artistic careers.

Each of the artists will now use the award to develop a series of new works:

Award-winning visual artist, Jennifer Trouton, has exhibited nationally and internationally in London, New York, Cuba, China and Paris, and she will use her MIA award to create work that explores art and activism. As a feminist response to the scale historically associated with male dominated political art, Jennifer will create her largest painting to date, a 10ft x 5ft diptych that will be displayed as part of an exhibition at the Ulster Museum. To create the works, the artist will deploy a range of innovative methods including designing bespoke wallpaper and fabric utilising symbolic imagery; subverting the traditionally female craft of embroidery in order to convey social and political issues. The new artworks will also feature in a forthcoming publication edited by Dr Mark Benson.

Poet and performer, Alice McCullough, will use her MIA award to develop opportunities in the USA to showcase and tour her work that focuses on disability rights activism and the poet’s perspectives on mental health and disability. Alice will collaborate with other disabled artists and leaders in the field of disability rights activism, including, among others, Andy Imparato and Senator Tom Harkin at The Harkin Institute. As well as continuing to bring her 'Earth to Alice' stage show and TV/film project to stage and screen, Alice will also be working with 1 in 5 Media to document her work and showcase the work of disabled artists.

Soprano, Giselle Allen, has represented Northern Ireland on the international opera stage, and will use her MIA award to take time out to study the challenging operatic roles of Kostelnička, Sieglinde and Brünnhilde. As part of this study, Giselle plans to work with mentors and renowned vocal coaches in Italy and London, including; voice teacher Sherman Lowe, an expert in Italian vocal techniques; Lada Valešová, a conductor at Guildhall, Royal Academy of Music and Royal Opera House; Rahel Wagner a German mezzo-soprano and language specialist, and also Dame Anne Evans, the Olivier award-winning British Wagnerian.

Composer, Greg Caffrey, has won major prizes for his work internationally, and will use his MIA award to make high-quality studio recordings of three of his works. The composer will also use the award to take the time out needed to create a second song cycle on local poetic texts, augmenting his two existing cycles. These cycles will form part of a larger body of vocal work, which includes the existing cycles on poems by Ciaran Carson and Seamus Heaney.

Dance maker, Eileen McClory, will use her MIA award to research an experimental, ambitious, new dance work that will explore topical and social dilemmas, and which will develop the artist’s distinctive choreographic voice. The work will also incorporate interactive technology with the aim of exploring active audience engagement and participation. The dance maker will collaborate with dancer, Ryan O’Neill, video artist, Conor McIvor, a computer technologist and dramaturg Hanna Slättne, to develop the new work that she hopes will premiere at the 2023 Belfast International Festival.

Liam Hannaway, Chair of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:

“Congratulations to Giselle Allen, Greg Caffrey, Eileen McClory, Alice McCullough and Jennifer Trouton, five immensely talented artists who have already made a significant contribution to the arts in Northern Ireland. Each will benefit greatly from being able to take time out to concentrate purely on these innovative new projects with the financial backing they need to produce work of lasting value. This award, made possible thanks to The National Lottery players, will help to cement their national and international reputations as artists, and strengthen the positive cultural profile of Northern Ireland, both home and abroad.”

The five join a distinguished list of artists who have previously benefited from the Major Individual Artist award, including writers; Susan McKay, Moyra Donaldson, Carol Moore, Rosemary Jenkinson, Malachi O’Doherty, Jimmy McAleavey, Anne Devlin, Carlo Gébler, Damian Gorman, Patricia Craig, Sinéad Morrissey, Glenn Patterson and Owen McCafferty; playwright Shannon Sickles (Yee), performance artist, Sinéad O’Donnell, visual artists, Mairéad McClean, Rita Duffy, Susan MacWilliam and Cara Murphy; composers, Deirdre Gribben, Ed Bennett, Piers Hellawell, Ian Wilson, Elaine Agnew, Conor Mitchell, Neil Martin and Deirdre McKay; musicians, Michael McHale and David Lyttle plus choreographer, Oona Doherty, among others.

Major Individual Artist awards form part of the wider Support for the Individual Artist Programme (SIAP) which is supported with funding from The National Lottery and administered by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland annually. Visit for information on all funding opportunities.