Mid Ulster District Council won a Challenge Fund grant towards a programme of activities at the new Seamus Heaney HomePlace literary centre in Bellaghy

Councils in NI offered chance to double their investment in the arts

Geraldine Kendall Adams, 28.09.2016
Arts council launches £1.5m scheme to incentivise funding for culture
The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has launched a fund that will provide grants of £150,000 each to 10 councils to invest in arts and cultural programming on the condition that they match the figure with an identical sum themselves.

The £1.5m Challenge Fund aims to create an incentive for councils to invest in culture, as well as increase access to the arts and overcome geographical barriers to participation. It is open to local authorities outside the metropolitan Belfast area, and all funding must be new and additional to current levels of arts investment by each local authority. 


Footage of the Challenge Fund launch event last week

The initiative aims to ensure that arts policy and programming is embedded in the development of community plans, after councils were granted new powers in this area by the Department for Communities. 

It will fund arts and cultural programming that supports community planning objectives such as economic regeneration and social cohesion.

Speaking at the launch of the scheme last week, the arts minister Paul Given said: “This is a new progressive way in which we’re trying to pull together the arts council [and] local government, and to provide more money to go into the arts. I think that this is a model that will be successful.”

The first grant has already been awarded to Mid Ulster District Council, where it will be used to deliver a programme of arts and cultural activities at the new Seamus Heaney HomePlace literary centre, which is opening this week in Bellaghy.
 
The investment will also support a number of rural cultural venues that have been unable to access funding for cultural activities up to now, said Anthony Tohill, the council’s chief executive.

The Challenge Fund will remain open to applications until 31 March 2017.

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