Northern Ireland allocates £29m ‘lifeline’ to culture

A new suite of funding schemes will provide support in the short and longer term
Covid-19 Funding
Jonathan Knott
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The Northern Ireland Executive has allocated £29m to the culture sector to help it recover from the Covid pandemic.

The money will be used to support “the arts, culture, heritage, languages and the wider creative industries”.

Communities minister Carál Ní Chuilín said officials were finalising proposals for a suite of funding schemes to support these sectors.

Ní Chuilín said: “I am thankful to my executive colleagues for allocating funding to these hard-hit sectors, especially when all departments are facing considerable additional pressures as a result of the ongoing challenge of Covid-19.

“This additional funding will provide a much-needed lifeline and significant boost to our culture, language, arts and heritage sectors which have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic.

“The £29m investment will support them in the short term and provide additional support for the future.

“I am acutely aware of the substantial contribution that these sectors make to our local economy, our quality of life, health and wellbeing, in the shaping of our standing as a place to live, work and visit, and they have a vital part to play in delivering social renewal for communities and people impacted by Covid-19.”

The funding will be delivered alongside the development of a new culture, arts and heritage strategy that will set out “how these sectors must adapt in the post-Covid landscape”.

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Northern Ireland received £33m through the UK Government’s £1.57bn support package for culture, announced in July, but only about £4m had been allocated until the executive’s announcement last week.

The new funding follows pressure from sector organisations, who wrote a letter to members of the NI Assembly this month saying Northern Ireland’s allocation needed to be spent “in full, and very soon”.

The announcement was welcomed by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI), which said the pandemic had led to “devastating financial consequences for all working in and around the arts”.

The ACNI said it was “heartened” that the majority of the funding was aimed at helping the arts and culture get through this immediate crisis to year-end, but said “we must also consider how government funding can help renew our fragile arts ecosystem beyond this financial year, through a programme of strategic reinvestment”.

Ní Chuilín said the Department for Communities was engaging with partners in government, arm’s length bodies and the sector “to ensure the funding is distributed quickly, fairly and to maximise its impact”.

She said she wanted to get the funding issued “at the earliest opportunity”.

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