MAC reopens for the first time in 2021

Covid-19 has impacted all parts of society.

Some of us have been more affected than others. To those of you who have lost loved ones during lockdown, we offer you our heartfelt sympathy and sincere condolences.

We are acutely aware that the pandemic has exacerbated longstanding and systemic inequalities in our society. While Covid-19 has brought devastation, it has also presented us with an opportunity to reset how we live our lives as we reflect on our priorities and our purpose. The pandemic has plunged many families and individuals into crisis, especially those already marginalised. Artists have been among our hardest hit citizens.

As we begin to create a new normality, it will be these artists who will help us shape our future. The arts will continue to be the lens through which we tell stories of our past, our present and our future. Our culture and creativity will once again remind us what it means to be fully human - individually and collectively – and to have some fun along the way.

The MAC’s work will continue to be driven by our core belief that art has a critical role to play in making NI a better place for everyone who lives here.

It is due to the additional rescue funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Department for Communities as well as our funders in GB that the MAC can reopen in 2021. It will be with their continued backing that we will renew our plans to serve audiences, visitors and participants, to sustain and support artists, and to engage with our communities to enable our recovery from Covid-19.

And so, we are genuinely delighted to let you know that we will reopen the MAC today, Wednesday 26 May 2021. Our visual art galleries and Cafe Bar will now be open 10am - 4pm, Wednesday - Sunday.

We are excited to welcome you back with an outstanding new exhibition programme; Ambera Wellmann in the Upper Gallery, Maya Balcioglu in the Tall Gallery and Jaap Pieters in the Sunken Gallery. We hope you'll book your gallery ticket at and you’ll grab lunch or a coffee and bun (or all of the above?) while you’re here. We’ll be doing some things differently than before; others, such as the quality of our welcome, will be just the same.

We’ve made some changes over the past 14 months influenced by government regulations, but also based on the feedback that you, our customers have shared with us. Thank you for telling us that you have missed us as much as we have missed you! Your support, insights and feedback have been invaluable, and we hope that you continue with us on the journey to a full, safe reopening.

We are lucky that the design of our beautiful building means we can safely open many areas whilst adhering to Social Distancing requirements. We will continue to keep you updated across all our communication channels on what you can expect when coming to the MAC so that you will feel safe before, during and after your visit.

For now, sadly, our theatres must remain closed. We are pleased that the NI Executive has set an indicative opening date for later in the year and we will keep you posted as we move closer to a resumption of our theatre programme. We are currently working with some of NI’s most accomplished artists, creatives and designers to devise new socially distanced, live experiences by adapting our theatres for when it is safe to reopen.

Please rest assured that we'll resume our live theatre and physically present participatory programmes only when it is safe to do so; the safety of you, our audiences, customers, artists and staff is more important than anything.

So, what have we been doing whilst doors have been closed?

We’ve been talking to you, our customers, artists and friends, to find out how you feel about returning to our galleries and theatres as we emerge from this lockdown. Thank you so much for completing our surveys, in partnership with Indigo and Thrive.

Here are a few things we’ll continue to prioritise based on what you've told us:

  • Social distancing is important for both our audience and our staff: We have now implemented ways to safely manage audiences and visitors around the building, considering everything from capacity, ticketing, queuing, seating and movement around the space. We have a one-way system in place around the building from entrance to exit, adapted opening hours, hand sanitising stations and fully trained staff to help if you have any questions or queries.
  • Ticketing our galleries and flexible booking: We’ve ticketed our gallery spaces to ensure that you have the best possible experience. Our galleries are still free to visit - just select a visiting time slot (bookable online) so we know how many people we’ll have in our galleries at any one time. In terms of future live events, we’ll continue to be as flexible as possible. If an event has to be cancelled, we will automatically contact you with your refund options - we’ve developed a no-quibbles refund and exchange policy which will remain in place for 2021, giving you that extra assurance.
  • Staying true to our pricing promise: You told us you'd rather we didn't increase our ticket prices when we reopen theatres, so we won't. We'll keep our pricing promise and continue to reward early booking. Your donations are even more valued than before as they help bridge the gap for our financial recovery. A massive thanks to those of you who have already donated - you inspire us. Our galleries remain free to visit and we have your favourite coffee and treat options at the ready.

Despite the challenges and traumas caused by Covid-19, it is wonderful to have been so encouraged by those we work with, and by our vast network of supporters. Covid-19 has brought home to us how essential the MAC is to Belfast and to Northern Ireland. We are profoundly grateful for this groundswell of support and validation, and we are ready to respond by redoubling our contribution to the social, economic and cultural life of Northern Ireland in the years to come.

We can’t wait to welcome you back to your MAC.

Anne McReynolds

Chief Executive