NI to receive £33m from UK arts support package

Northern Ireland is to receive £33m as part of a UK government support package for arts venues.

The £1.57bn funding is aimed at the UK’s museums, galleries, theatres and music venues.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland said it was “delighted” with the “lifeline support”.

On Friday, some of Northern Ireland’s leading musicians said the industry needed urgent financial support to survive.

Arts leaders had warned that the sector faced ruinous losses due to widespread closures during the coronavirus pandemic.

Theatres, galleries and music venues across Northern Ireland have been closed since mid-March.

Many staff have been furloughed using the government’s job retention scheme.

However, many other artists, musicians, actors and freelancers who are self-employed have not been eligible for income support schemes established during the pandemic.

Venues are likely to face restrictions on capacity due to the need to maintain social distancing when they do reopen.

There are also fears that music concerts and festivals may not take place until 2021.

The Arts Council has previously said that 108 venues and organisations it funds would lose about £4m in income by the end of June.

The UK government said the arts funding “represents the biggest ever one-off investment in UK culture” and will help struggling institutions “stay afloat while their doors are closed”.

The support fund for cultural organisations in England is made up of £270m of loans and £880m of grants.

The UK government said the loans would be “issued on generous terms”.

Independent cinemas and heritage sites are also eligible for the emergency grants and loans.

Northern Ireland will receive £33m as part of funding to devolved administrations coming from the UK scheme.

However, it is not yet clear how the money will be spent, where it will be targeted and whether additional support will be available to individuals in the arts whose incomes have been affected by the loss of work.

The BBC’s arts editor Will Gompertz said the devil would be in the detail of the funding scheme.

“The government has not specified how the money will be divided between competing art forms or regions, nor how the application process will work,” he said.

“There will be winners and losers.”

The Arts Council welcomed Northern Ireland’s share of the funding.

“We are delighted that the arts and cultural sectors in Northern Ireland are to get lifeline support,” it said.

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“It signals just how important the arts are to our economy, to our society and to our mental health and wellbeing.

“We look forward to hearing the detail of this funding with anticipation.”

The chair of Westminster’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee Julian Knight said the funding was a welcome “first step” but more was needed to secure the future of many cultural venues.

“We know that one metre social distancing doesn’t work economically for most theatres and venues in the UK,” he said.

“We ultimately need to have a means by which these organisations can open safely and gain the confidence of the public.”

  • Performing arts
  • Coronavirus lockdown measures
  • Coronavirus pandemic
  • Culture
  • Music
  • Live music

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