Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey has established a Culture, Arts & Heritage Recovery Taskforce to consider measures to support re-opening and recovery in the short-term as they emerge from the pandemic and to pave the way for a longer term strategy for the culture, arts and heritage sectors.
Speaking after her first meeting with the Taskforce’s chair, the Minister said: “The Executive made some important decisions last week that will be very much welcomed by those who make their living through culture, arts and heritage; those who volunteer and devote their spare time and energy in community and amateur activity and by the rest of us, whose quality of life is enhanced by the work the others do.
“There are important steps in the pipeline that start to allow cultural activity to restart in person and allow many of our venues to plan for re-opening to the public. And while we must celebrate that, we also have to recognise that there will still need to be restrictions in place that mean support beyond the additional £38m allocated last year will be required to encourage the return to activity and to support those individuals and organisations who will continue to face challenges for some time yet.”
The Minister continued: “The people in these sectors make a substantial contribution to our local economy, quality of life, health and wellbeing, in the shaping of our standing as a place to live, work and visit. They offer the potential to alleviate the isolation and mental health crisis facing us, to help us all interpret and absorb the implications of the pandemic, and to deliver immediate and longer term outcomes for our people, our economy and our future.
“I have established this Taskforce to consider the challenges still to be faced and to make recommendations on practical steps that will provide the support the people working in these areas require and deserve if their endeavour is to survive and thrive as we move through the pandemic.”
Wealth of Talent
Also speaking after the meeting, the Taskforce’s chair Rotha Johnston added: “I was delighted to accept the Minister’s invitation to chair this Taskforce, drawn as it is from the wealth of talent that is found across our culture, arts and heritage sectors. We have a challenging agenda but a shared appreciation of the fundamental importance of the work the people in these sectors do; the contribution they make to so many facets of our lives and the vital need to support them through closure and to encourage a successful process of re-opening and recovery.”
The Taskforce comprises of 25 members.
Issues the Taskforce will consider include:
- to support the re-opening of heritage sites, theatres, performance venues and relevant public gathering places in line with the Executive’s Pathway Out of Restrictions;
- to stimulate culture, arts and heritage activity, re-start the cultural economy and enable the sector to play a central role in rebuilding social and economic life here;
- to explore outdoor performance/activity including at youth, amateur and community level across the summer, autumn and into the longer term, as a means of encouraging participation and building audience confidence as the opening of indoor and outdoor facilities and activities rolls out;
- to advise on any short-term actions to support existing skills retention and provide opportunity for potential new-entrants embarking on a career in the sectors.
The Executive has provided more than £38m in financial support to the culture, arts and heritage sectors to mitigate the impact of the pandemic.
Spectacular Ogham Grove Opens Tonight In Cathedral Quarter
Cathedral Quarters Writers’ Square will tonight (September 17) be transformed into a spectacular installation from the creative team for CNB21 Presents: The Ogham Grove.
From 6pm tonight through until Sunday evening visitors can experience an interactive celebration of the ancient druidic language, with massive representations of trees, sounds and lighting weaving a path of learning about the language and the chance to win prizes.
Ogham Grove replaces the previous city centre based programme of street based activity and pop-up events.
Although the plans for this year are monumental in size, Culture Night Belfast and CQ Trust director Susan Picken said visitors should not expect the same on-street celebration as years gone by.
Prior to the pandemic, Culture Night had been one of Belfast’s largest free events, a cultural celebration that attracted almost 90,000 local, national and international visitors to the Cathedral Quarter and Belfast city centre. The impact of COVID has led to a major review of the event however.
Susan said: “Culture Night 2021 will be much smaller in scale and scope and will take the form of an on-site installation that people can drop into and enjoy over the course of the weekend – this different format will allow us to focus on safety as well as making sure everyone has a great time.”
The brains behind the concept include creative lead Gawain Morrison, artist and prop designer Dylan McCaughtry, designer Neil Beattie, lighting designer Tomás FitzGerald and drum loop producer Damian Mills.
Gawain Morrison said that the concept of The Ogham Grove “draws inspiration from the ancient Celtic Ogham Tree alphabet which dives deep into the era where nature and myths intertwined”.
This year, as well as experiencing The Ogham Grove itself, visitors will be able to take part in an accompanying interactive experience that will lead them through the Cathedral Quarter, and also take them on a journey of personal discovery.
According to Gawain the immersive nature inspired trail and competition will mean visitors can take something special away from the experience.
“For somebody who will be coming to this, the several points of access means it is going to be a very experiential and sensory experience,” he explained.
“I hope that as visitors walk around whether it’s in the day or night, that they will take something away from it.”
Across the Cathedral Quarter area, there will be five zones each representing one of the five families of the Ogham alphabet.
To be eligible to win a prize, participants must find and scan a QR code found on one of the trail’s bespoke wooden plaques and take note of the lines of poetry displayed.
Prizes to be won include vouchers for restaurants, gift tokens to purchase your own pieces of art and tickets to shows coming up in the Cathedral Quarter and will be announced at the end of the Culture Night weekend.
This year’s Culture Night Belfast is supported by Belfast City Council, Arts Council for Northern Ireland, Tourism NI, Belfast Harbour Commissioners and Translink.
To keep up to date with all the CNB Presents The Ogham Grove updates go to culturenightbelfast.com or follow #CNB21 on social media
Issued by Excalibur Press on behalf of CNB Presents: The Ogham Grove
£5m Fund to Retain Skills in the Creative Sector
A £5million fund to prevent the loss of the talent and expertise of individuals and freelancers working in the creative sector has been launched by Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey.
The Creative Individuals Recovery Programme, which opens at noon today, will provide a grant of up to £2,000 per individual eligible application including DJs, artists, performers, sound and lighting technicians, writers, events managers and many other professionals who have been impacted as a result of the public health restrictions on the creative sector.
There is evidence that the creative sectors rely heavily on self-employed and freelance individuals and that many have already left the sectors because of the pandemic, with those remaining facing jobs vulnerability and unaffordable costs relating to re-establishing their creative practice.
Minister Hargey said: “I have listened to the recommendations of the Culture, Arts and Heritage Recovery Taskforce, and I have also engaged with the sector. As a result I am today launching a support scheme to provide grants to individuals to encourage them to remain in the creative arts sector.
“The culture, languages, arts and heritage sectors have been disproportionately impacted by Covid-19 restrictions as they rely heavily on people’s ability to get together which is why the Executive has provided £13million in 2021/2022 to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic.
“There is a risk that self-employed and freelance individuals may be forced to leave the creative sectors as a result of the pandemic. As the sectors rely heavily on individuals, this could destabilise the sector and the benefits it delivers including social, economic and wellbeing. This new £5m funding scheme aims to prevent loss of sectoral skills for self-employed and freelance individuals and safeguard the sector for the future.
“This fund will help with costs of reactivating, maintaining and enhancing their creative trade, vocation or profession. It is designed to prevent individuals, and their talent and expertise, from leaving the creative economy; and help them re-establish their contribution to the important benefits these sectors deliver.”
Welcoming the funding, chair of the Culture, Arts and Heritage Recovery Taskforce Rotha Johnston said: “Freelancers and the self-employed are critical to the recovery and sustainability of the creative and cultural sectors as a result of the impacts of Covid-19. Many have been deprived the opportunity to use their skills, perform or practice their art in the last 18 months. The Taskforce is of the unanimous view that support for individuals is essential to protect the viability of the sectors going forward. The Taskforce’s findings and recommendations have been developed following extensive engagement with people from across the sectors and our conclusion is that this public investment in culture, arts and heritage will deliver significant benefits to individuals, society and the economy in the short, medium and long term”.
The fund, co-designed by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) with the Department for Communities, will be delivered by the Arts Council. For information on how to apply including eligibility criteria please visit http://artscouncil-ni.org/funding/for-individuals
D/deaf and disabled artists will be supported via a separate award via ACNI to the University of Atypical who regularly support this particular cohort, to ensure that artists with particular needs are appropriately supported through the application process.
The scheme is open until 12 noon, 6 October, 2021.