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Arts Council Awards over £1.9m of National Lottery Funding to Support Arts Projects Across NI

Eighty-eight arts organisations are set to receive over £1.9 million of Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery funding to deliver a series of high-quality arts projects and events across the region.

The funding will be used to support the development and creation of year round arts activities and events through literature, drama, visual arts, music and community programming. Many of the projects planned for this year have been created in direct response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its negative impact on mental health and wellbeing.

Among those set to benefit from the fund for the first time are: Mid Armagh Community Network, Benedetti Foundation (delivering sessions in Antrim), Grow NI (North Belfast) and Jazz Life Alliance (delivering work in Draperstown, Enniskillen, Armagh). While Beam Creative Network (Mid-Ulster), Stendhal Festival (Limavady) and Newry Chamber Music are returning applicants to the scheme.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“Thanks to National Lottery players, £1.9 million of funding raised for good causes will directly benefit communities across Northern Ireland through quality arts programming. This vital source of funding will reach out to the hearts of towns and cities across Northern Ireland, providing arts experiences for all.

“In what has been a year like no other, many of us have missed the experiences of attending an arts event or taking part in a workshop or performance. This funding will go a long way to supporting arts and cultural experiences, some outdoors, some online and live, and all welcoming communities back to the arts safely.”

Mid Armagh Community Network, Music, Dance and Drama, £10,001
1st time Lottery Project Funding recipient

Mid Armagh Community Network (MACN) plan to create a community based project to teach music, dance and drama within an Ulster Scots context in a safe and central location. The funding from the Arts Council is to develop a program to offer to the community low cost music and dance lessons in Scottish traditional fiddle, Scottish Highland and theatre dance, drama, accordion and guitar/banjo and encourage participation in these traditional artforms.

Benedetti Foundation, Sessions, £10,001
1st time Lottery Project Funding recipient

Founded by the inspirational Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti in 2019, the Benedetti Foundation aims to inspire music-making from those with no skills & beginners right up to conservatoire level and their instrumental and class-teachers and ensure equal access to high-quality instrumental participation for all, targeting those who might otherwise be excluded. This project is in partnership with Education Authority and the EA Music Services reaching across the Antrim area and targeting under-represented groups including ethnic minority communities.

Grow NI, Dreamer’s Space, £10,001
1st time Lottery Project Funding recipient

This is the first time that Grow-NI has applied to the Arts Council for funding. This funding will help them to create an illustrated interactive art trail and play space. The project will take place outdoors in the Waterworks in North Belfast. Grow NI will work with vulnerable groups using garden spaces and arts activities as a way to communicate with participants from a range of backgrounds and circumstances.

Action for Children’s Arts (ACA), The Arts Backpack NI, £10,001
1st time Lottery Project Funding recipient

Working with Young at Art, Action for Children’s Art will deliver their successful Arts Backpack experience to Northern Ireland, a model which proved successful in countries across Europe. Working with schools, children will engage with 5 or more arts, cultural or heritages activities each year, collecting their experiences online in their virtual backpack. Among the aims of the project are to help children to develop an awareness and appreciation for creativity in their lives, help the recovery process arising from the trauma of Covid-19 and to remove barriers to accessing the arts from under-represented groups. It is estimated that 210 pupils and 30 teachers will be engaged in the project and that up to 60 artists will be involved

Creative and Cultural Industries Limited (Creative and Cultural Skills), Fair Access Sector Support Programme, £37,260
1st time Arts Council National Lottery Project Funding recipient

Creative and Cultural Skills are an experienced organisation working across all UK regions. With this funding support from the Arts Council they will develop and encourage employment in the creative and cultural sectors, and support a talent pipeline to meet the staffing demands of the creative sector. This will be done through seminars and one to one mentoring opportunities to develop inclusive recruitment policies to ensure that the cultural workforce is representative of the diversity of NI culture.

Jazzlife Alliance, £10,001
1st time Arts Council National Lottery Project Funding recipient

Jazzlife Alliance (JLA) was formed in 2018 to encourage and facilitate the artistic growth of jazz artists through live performance, collaboration, composition and film composition; its mission is to inspire, nurture and develop future performers of jazz; and bring jazz to small and underprivileged communities. Under the guidance of Artistic Director David Lyttle, Ireland’s only MOBO and UMA nominated artist, JLA aims will continue their mentoring support, offer jazz training to children and delivering activities in a number of locations including Drapersown, Enniskillen and Armagh.

Stendhal Festival, August 2021 £34,570

Now in its 10th year, the award-winning Stendhal Festival is a highlight of the cultural calendar and takes place in rural Limavady every summer. Arts Council’s Lottery Project Funding will support Stendhal’s 2021 August Festival, which will this year be split over two separate weekends in response to Covid-19 restrictions and safety guidelines. Arts Council funding will specifically help support the cost of Northern Ireland musicians featured within this year’s line-up.

Stage Beyond, The Great Dictator, £25,000

Derry/Londonderry based Stage Beyond is a theatre company for adults with learning difficulties and the only company of its kind in Northern Ireland. The company host workshops on a weekly basis, throughout the year, as well as monthly masterclass workshop led by professional arts practitioners. National Lottery Project Funding will help support their production of ‘The Great Dictator’, under the direction of Kate Guelke and musician Ruth McGinley.

BEAM Creative Network, Beyond Limits, £10,001

BEAM Creative Network has been awarded National Lottery funding to support its Beyond Limits Programme in Mid-Ulster. The programme engages mixed abilities and combines, drama, music, dance and pre-production skills (set build/paint, costumes). The funding will help deliver a 12 week programme from January 2022 to end-March 2022.

Newry Chamber Music, 2021 Season, £30,000

Over the last 18 years, Newry Chamber has made a significant contribution to the arts and specifically chamber music making in the Newry and Mourne area of Northern Ireland. Arts Council National Lottery Project Funding will support Newry Chamber Music to deliver its 2021 programme of concerts and performances featuring an exciting range of players and composers.

The Arts

Arts Council Briefs Stormont Committee on Impact of Pandemic on the Arts

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland appeared in front of the Northern Ireland Assembly’s Communities Committee (Thursday 1 July 2021) to discuss the ongoing impact of COVID-19 on the arts sector here.

Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, was joined by other senior members of the Arts Council’s Executive to discuss the positive contribution the creative sector makes to the economy and society. Also under discussion was the pandemic’s impact, after over 14 months of lockdown,  on income and revenue generation, employment, and the need for continued investment in the arts sector, as well as additional emergency funding needed for organisations and individual artists.

During the pandemic, the Arts Council reported they awarded an additional 3,370 grants to artists and arts organisations, totalling £26million. Members of the committee heard how, thanks to funding from the Department of Communities, these vital funds had provided a critical lifeline to artists and organisations whose income and work were devastated as a result of the pandemic.

The Arts Council evidenced recent research, surveying the impact of the Emergency Funding on Artists and Organisations*. Highlighted within this evidence was the pressing need for ongoing additional funding for the sector if it is to survive the ongoing impacts of COVID.

Key findings from Emergency Funding for Artists and Organisations survey included:

  • 9 out of 10 artists said the grant they had received had protected their job in the creative industries
  • 85% of artists agreed or strongly agreed that their immediate financial stress had been relived
  • 69% of organisations said they used emergency funds to maintain engagement/keep in contact with audiences
  • 85% said their organisations scale would have reduced without funding
  • 55% organisations said that they were able to continue trading in 2021/22 but that “there is uncertainty about its longer term sustainability”
  • 95% organisations still need support to guarantee long-term financial sustainability

Communities Committee Vice Chair, Kellie Armstrong MLA, thanked the ACNI team on their excellent and detailed presentation and said the committee would be writing to the Minister seeking her proposed actions following the work of the Cultural Taskforce, as well as her plans for the distribution of £13m for the arts and culture sector from the Barnet Consequentials. 

Kellie Armstrong  also commented:

“I think it strikes me how much we have missed the arts and how much we will depend on the various pathways for the arts as we come out of COVID and how much they will help improve society’s mental health”.

Members Fra McCann and Pam Cameron, voiced their concern for the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of arts and cultural workers themselves affected by lockdown.

Following the meeting, Roisín McDonough, Arts Council Chief Executive commented:

“It was encouraging to be able to attend the Communities Committee today and to hear members voice their support for the arts sector and acknowledge the many benefits the arts bring to our lives.

“There was also great concern shown by members for the mental health and wellbeing of our artists and going forward we hope to work with a range of organisations to provide the additional help and support they need. 

“Last year was an exceptional year, presenting greater challenges than any of us could have imagined and while there is hope for better days ahead there can be no doubt that our artists and cultural sector will need continued financial assistance in 2021 and beyond if they are to survive and be sustained. We remain hopeful that the Minister and her Department will continue to support the case to the NI Executive for the arts, given the value they bring to our society and to our economy, as they plan to reopen, make the most of outdoor spaces and welcome back audiences.”

*Please note, the Arts Council’s survey into the Impact of Emergency Funding For Artists and Organisations will be published later this summer. Key insights from the report are included in the infographic included here.

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The Arts

10 Arts & Culture Events Happening In The Cathedral Quarter This Month

Home to Belfast’s most innovative and cultural spaces, the Cathedral Quarter is host to a whole host of festivals, art exhibitions and cultural events.

With restrictions beginning to ease, now is the perfect time to explore this historic part of the city again.

Here are 10 arts and culture events happening in CQ this July::

1. Mediating Signals

Available until 10th July, you can visit ’Mediating Signals’, the offline exhibition in Flax Art Studios showcasing works of Belfast-related artists. Mediating Signals is in is a two-part instalment made up of: Tracing Algo-rhythm and Assigning Ambiguity.

To learn more about the event go to

2, 3, 4. Photography Exhibitions at Belfast Exposed

AEON by Marcel Rickly

Gallery 1 presents ‘AEON’, the solo exhibition by Swiss photographer Marcel Rickli represents how radioactive waste repositories will affect humanity for generations to come.

A Lightness of Touch

In Gallery 2, you can admire ‘A Lightness of Touch’ showcasing the work of MFA Photography graduates from Ulster University. Their art is far-reaching and diverse, with the overarching theme of capturing their subject with a lightness of touch.

Street View: Yan Wang Preston

Yan Wang Preston’s Street view offers visitors a chance to explore an instalment of the artist previous works He- River Together, Mother River and Forest.

To see all running events at Belfast Exposed, go to 

5. Belfast Print Workshop – Fibre: A New Online Exhibition

From the comfort of your own home, you can explore Fibre- The New Online Exhibition by Belfast Print Workshop. 

Fibre for printmakers is a subject matter transference, it is what ties their works together and gives the final piece its uniqueness. The instalment focuses on the relationship between fibre, the most fundamental elements of two-dimensional artmaking and print.

To find out more about the exhibition and Belfast Print Workshop, go to

6, 7, 8. Thought-provoking exhibits at The MAC

Ambera Wellmann – UnTurning

You can visit the first exhibition in the UK & Ireland by Canadian-born and New York-based painter Ambera Wellmann in the Upper Gallery. In ‘UnTurning’, Wellmann’s paintings negotiate the devastation of the present, one in which the cultural logic of heteronormativity and capitalism are naturalised in the human psyche. 

Jaap Pieters – The Eye of Amsterdam

In the Sunken Gallery, you can view Dutch filmmaker and artist Jaap Pieters’ The Eye of Amsterdam Exhibition. The exhibit features footage made by using minimal equipment and hardly any manipulations. Instead, he restricted himself to creating short, 3-minute reels and produced numerous films on the small-gauge “amateur” medium over four decades.

Maya Balcioglu

The Tall Gallery is home to Maya Balcioglu’s exhibit, which consists of large scale works on paper, latex and fabric completed over 15 years. It showcases drawings from between 2006-10, latex works from 2019-20, and her most recent fabric works.

For more information about the individual exhibits, visit 

9. Across and In-Between – Susan Lacy

Golden Thread Gallery presents you with ‘Across and In-Between’,  a creative collaboration between Suzanne Lacy and Cian Smyth with Helen Sharp and several communities.

This project amplifies the voices and experiences of border residents during Brexit negotiations through words, imagery, sound and performance, providing them with an opportunity to reclaim the landscape around them.

The exhibit is shown across the entirety of The Golden Thread Gallery.  For an in-depth review go

10. Paddy McCann – Friary 

Fenderesky Gallery is showing the works of Paddy McCann in the exhibit, titled ‘Friary’. The new paintings are available to view until the end of July by appointment.

For contact information and gallery opening hours, go to:

To find out more about what’s happening in Belfast Cathedral Quarter check out the Destination CQ website at

 By Alexandra Feher, Excalibur Press

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