Statement on behalf of the Arts Collaboration Network

We welcome the announcement today from the Executive of a £29million package aimed at the Arts, Culture and Heritage sector. This money comes from the £33m which was allocated to Northern Ireland in July. While we have not been allocated the entirety of that sum, we do acknowledge the work from Communities Minister Carál Ní Chuilín in bringing forward this package.

The Arts and Culture sector is mired in uncertainty as a result of the actions we have been asked to take in dealing with the pandemic. The doors of venues across the region closed over 6 months ago; festivals have been cancelled and our stages and galleries have been silent and empty. Freelancers who rely on shows, festivals and events lost their livelihoods overnight and we still do not have a date or plan for when theatres, music venues and community arts spaces across NI will all be able to reopen. Millions of pounds have been lost and thousands of jobs remain at risk as our community struggles to manage the devastation of this public health crisis. Hundreds of thousands of participants (including some of our most disadvantaged citizens), audience members, music lovers and gallery visitors have missed out on the creative engagement – the fun and joy of music, art and theatre - in these dark uncertain times.

Without financial support for our sector the arts here has faced oblivion. This welcome announcement has the capacity to offer a temporary reprieve for a sector that has been on the point of collapse for months. Now with this announcement we have a chance of survival.

We now look forward to working urgently with the Department for Communities, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and our colleagues across the whole sector to take forward the investment of this money to ensure it gets out of the system as quickly and efficiently as possible and is received by the people and organisations who need it so desperately.