£29m in Covid-19 funding to support Northern Ireland’s arts sector has been approved by the Stormont Executive. It was signed off by ministers as part of a wider £165m financial package on Thursday. There have been devastating financial consequences for all working in and around the arts because of venue closures, the restrictions of social distancing placed on audiences and staff, and the massive loss of earned income since lock-down began.
Finance Minister Conor Murphy said he hoped the money would have the “greatest possible impact”.
“I’m sure the executive would like to see a broad spread of support for the arts, to ensure venues can open when they can but also support performers to provide that lifeline,” he told Stormont’s press briefing on Thursday.
On Friday 25th Sept. the Arts Council of Northern Ireland released a statement welcoming the allocation:
We are heartened to see that the majority of the funding announced today is aimed at helping our core arts and cultural organisations, as well as artists and creative practitioners, get through this crisis to year-end, in the hope we can press a reset button and open our venues, festivals and cultural activities safely to the public as quickly as possible.
However we must also consider how government funding can help renew our fragile arts ecosystem beyond this financial year, through a programme of strategic reinvestment.
It is our hope that future reinvestment by government will strengthen the resilience of this important sector over the next few years and provide our arts and cultural organisations with resources to develop innovative, creative ways to bring great arts to all, be that digitally, outdoors, in-person or through live performance.
We thank the Minister and her Department for their help in making the case to government that our arts and culture infrastructure is of value to Northern Ireland and is worth saving.
The Arts Council provided a carefully researched bid to the Department for Communities which evidenced the devastating impact of Covid-19 on the sector and offered expert advice on how to both mitigate against permanent damage to an arts and cultural sector that is of considerable value to our economy, and how to sustain and renew that sector beyond the pandemic.
We also recognise the campaigning efforts of the many arts organisations, artists and audience members, including MLA’s and many commercial and cultural business leaders, who took the time to speak up and convey the message of how important a strong arts and culture ecosystem is to our society in Northern Ireland.