Arts Council of Northern Ireland

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Arts Council announces funding of £67,000 for 14 talented artists from Northern Ireland

Saturday 9th November 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Dance , Drama , Literature , Visual Arts , Northern Ireland Music

Pictured (L-R) are ACES awardees, writer Scott McKendry, Dr Damian Smyth, Head of Literature, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and writer Dawn Watson. Image: Pictured (L-R) are ACES awardees, writer Scott McKendry, Dr Damian Smyth, Head of Literature, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and writer Dawn Watson.

14 artists from Northern Ireland have been announced as the latest recipients of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s ACES awards 2019-20, a National Lottery supported funding grant bestowed upon Northern Ireland’s most talented emerging artists to enable them to develop their professional, artistic careers through the creation of new work.

Awards under the Artists Career Enhancement Scheme (ACES) are made annually to professional artists working in music, visual arts, drama, dance, literature and participatory arts and are among the most prestigious awards bestowed by the Arts Council.  This year’s awardees includes five literature awardees, four musicians, two visual artists, one drama awardee and one dance awardee.

In addition to receiving a bursary of up to £5,000 each, many of the 14 artists have been partnered with a professional organisation or leading artist, at home or abroad, to help each of them to deliver new creative work.  Some of these partners include; Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University Belfast, Golden Thread Gallery, Dumbworld, international choreographer, Judith Camero, Champion Sound Music, Kabosh, Seamus Heaney HomePlace and Sonic Arts Research Centre.   

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“These 14 artists are already established and highly regarded in each of their fields. The ACES awards are given in recognition of their work to date and also to provide them with financial support to take their careers to that vital next level. The ACES programme has been running successfully now for ten years and addresses the need for on-going training and skills development within the arts sector.”

The 14 artists awarded ACES funding include:

Literature
Ashling Lindsay
Dawn Watson
Louise Kennedy
Mícheál McCann
Scott McKendry

Music
Bernadette Morris
James Thompson
Owen Lamont
Patrick Brennan
Niall Hanna

Visual Arts
Edy Fung
Paul Moore

Drama
Louise Parker

Dance
Maytee Segura

The Artists Career Enhancement Programme (ACES) forms part of the wider Support for the Individual Artist Programme (SIAP) which is administered by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland annually with funding from the National Lottery.  As part of its continuing commitment to supporting the development of individual artists, the Arts Council made 209 SIAP awards to individual artists in 2019/20 totalling £567K.  Visit www.artscouncil-ni.org/funding for information on all funding opportunities.

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Funding Alert! Funding for Musical Instruments Scheme set to open in November 2019

Saturday 2nd November 2019 at 9am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Funding Alert! Funding for Musical Instruments Scheme set to open in November 2019 Image: Funding Alert! Funding for Musical Instruments Scheme set to open in November 2019

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is set to open a number of funding opportunities in the coming month as part of a Musical Instruments Scheme. Thanks to capital investment from the Department for Communities, three funding programmes will be opened in early November 2019 with a procurement process to be completed by early March 2020.

The scheme will be good news for marching bands, non-professional and professional performing groups, community groups, professional musicians and schools that may be eligible to apply to purchase instruments and music-making equipment. The Musical Instruments scheme has been designed to increase the quality of music-making in Northern Ireland and to ensure as many groups and individuals as possible have an opportunity to purchase new instruments.

Programme one: Musical Instruments for Bands
This existing fund will be ring-fenced and grants of between £500 and £10,000 will be available. This funding is designed to help bands replace worn –out instruments and purchase new ones. It is open to bands based in Northern Ireland, which are constituted, including marching, accordion, brass, concert, flute, pipe and wind bands.

Programme two: Professional and Non-Professional Performing Groups
Grants of between £500 and £30,000 will be available. This strand is open to schools and to professional and non-professional performing groups in any genre of music, including community, youth and resource organisations. All organisations must be constituted and instruments applied for must be used for rehearsal, tuition and performance. Instruments must be owned by a constituted group which operates as not-for-profit, that is, a voluntary or charitable body with its own separate bank account.

Programme three: Individual Professional Performing Musicians
Grants of between £5,000 and £10,000 will be available. This strand is designed to provide support for highly-skilled performing musicians based in Northern Ireland, working at a professional level, who seek support for the purchase of high quality instruments that are central to their performing career.

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“With much appreciated capital investment from the Department of Communities, the Arts Council is delighted to announce the Musical Instruments Scheme. It will offer bands, musical groups, schools and professional musicians the opportunity to buy new instruments. 

We think there will be a high demand for these funding opportunities and we really want to alert organisations and artists to be ready to apply when the fund opens. Keep an eye open to the Arts Council’s website www.artscouncil-ni.org and get set! “

Please note the three funding programmes in the Musical Instruments Scheme are scheduled to open in week commencing November 4th 2019. Please visit www.artscouncil-ni.org for more information.

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Matt Curry, Artist and Film-maker

Friday 1st November 2019 at 1pm 0 Comments Dance , Drama , Film & TV

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The Arts Council has learned with sadness of the death of Armagh-born film maker, Matt Curry, who has died after a short illness with cancer. Matt enjoyed a background in drama and theatre and was widely known and respected in Northern Ireland media circles for his work in film and production with his Belfast-based company Bluebird Media. Several of his short films were screened at international film festivals and he worked on a series of television productions for the BBC, including Panorama and Spotlight.

Caoileann Curry-Thompson, Drama and Dance Officer at the Arts Council, paid tribute: 

“Our theatre and dance family is heartbroken by the passing of Matt Curry. Matt was a key member of our creative community, a sensitive artist and a kind and generous man. As a film maker he regularly worked in our live performance sector. We will feel his loss personally and professionally. Matt was the beloved husband of Emma Jordan, Artistic Director of Prime Cut Productions, and twin brother of Nicola Curry, Artistic Director of Maiden Voyage Dance. Our hearts go out to Matt’s family, Emma and their three girls, and Nicola. Our community has been devastated by loss in recent times, but we have strength in our compassion and togetherness, and we will once again come together to support each other, especially the Prime Cut and Maiden Voyage families, in this time of great sadness and loss.”

He will be laid to rest in his native Armagh this Saturday in St Patrick’s Cemetery, following Requiem Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral at 10am.

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F.E. McWilliam Gallery launch Linen Lab exhibition

Tuesday 15th October 2019 at 4pm 0 Comments Visual Arts

Linen Lab exhibition, F.E. McWilliam Gallery & Studio until Saturday 9th November 2019. Image: Linen Lab exhibition, F.E. McWilliam Gallery & Studio until Saturday 9th November 2019.

A new exhibition which explores the story of linen and its connection to the local area has opened at the F.E McWilliam Gallery & Studio in Banbridge. Developed by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council Linen Lab is the result of  a year-long creative collaboration between eight artists - Rachel Fitzpatrick, Deborah Malcomson, Lyndsey McDougall, Robert Peters, Jill Phillips, Heather Richardson, Archibald Godts and Theresa Bastek of Studio Plastique and 400 young people from 13 local schools.

Linen Lab, which runs at the Banbridge arts venue from 12 October to 9 November 2019, is part of a large-scale engagement programme called Connected, jointly funded by the Council and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Local Government Challenge Fund. This fund has offered local authorities the opportunity to increase investment in the arts by offering match funding of up to £1.5 million across Northern Ireland.

The Linen Lab exhibition documents the creative interactions between the artists and the young participants and presents new work developed during the project. Each artist’s distinct thematic and aesthetic concerns have emerged and developed to produce an exhibition that reveals the versatility of linen as a material, and reminds us of the significance of linen in our families, homes and industrial past.

The story of linen and Banbridge are intertwined, as it was once one of the main linen producing towns in Northern Ireland.  At the height of the linen industry, there were some twenty mills associated with different processes in the production of linen dotted along the Bann Valley from Katesbridge to Gilford.  Banbridge is the only town in Ireland that still produces Irish double-damask linen, under the auspices of Thomas Ferguson Irish Linen, which was established in 1854. Today, with a new focus on sustainability and biodegradable materials, linen and flax are once again in the spotlight and are being celebrated through the work of Linen Biennale NI.

The Linen Lab exhibition is a celebration of the many creative collaborations that took place over the course of the project and would not have been possible without the enthusiasm and curiosity of all the young people, artists and teachers who engaged in the project along with the support of the project partners: Thomas Ferguson Irish Linen, Banbridge and McConville’s Flax Mill, Dromore and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Community Arts Development Officer and project lead, Louise Rice, said,

“Collaboration and engagement is at the heart of the Linen Lab project.  We are all delighted to have had the opportunity to establish such positive working relationships and look forward to developing and widening further connections with the community in the future. The Local Government Challenge Fund has given three of our borough’s cultural venues a fantastic opportunity to develop innovative creative programmes that help sustain collaborative partnerships between artists and local residents.”

The Arts Council’s Local Government Challenge Fund is supported by the National Lottery, which this year celebrates its 25th birthday. Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“The Arts Council is pleased to have supported a local project like this which has brought professional artists and communities together to celebrate linen, one of the most important assets of our creative and industrial history. Since the National Lottery’s first draw took place in 1994, more than £40 billion has been raised for good causes in the areas of arts, sport, heritage and community, enabling projects like this to make a big difference in local communities.”

Linen Lab runs at the F.E. McWilliam Gallery & Studio until Saturday 9th November. Admission is free. For further information go to femcwilliam.com.

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Belfast teens create film to highlight dangers of online bullying

Tuesday 15th October 2019 at 1pm 0 Comments

A group of Belfast teenagers have been working on a short film looking at social media and the impact it can have on health and wellbeing. Image: A group of Belfast teenagers have been working on a short film looking at social media and the impact it can have on health and wellbeing.

A group of Belfast teenagers have been working on a short film looking at social media and the impact it can have on health and wellbeing. It examines mental health issues, particularly from the male perspective and looks at online bullying, self-image and suicide.  The film was shown for the first time at a special screening for World Mental Health Day on the 10th October.

The project has been developed by West Belfast based Suicide Awareness and Support Group and Arts organisation Kids in Control (KIC), and the makers hope it will help raise awareness, reduce stigma and build resilience among young people.  The group of participants, who were invited to take part through schools, youth clubs and community centres, decided on the film’s themes, created the script, and perform in the film.

The project received funding as part of ARTiculate, a three-year £600,000 programme funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery funds and the Public Health Agency (PHA), which uses artists and the arts to give a voice to issues affecting young people. Kids in Control delivers physical theatre outreach programmes in the community, exploring and devising material around issues that are relevant and important to participants.

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25,000 free books delivered to primary schools across Northern Ireland

Tuesday 15th October 2019 at 9am 0 Comments Literature

Damian Smyth, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, with Carryduff St Josephs pupils ,Muireann Quinn and Conal Caughey, at an announcement to distribute free books to every primary one child in Northern Ireland. Image: Damian Smyth, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, with Carryduff St Josephs pupils ,Muireann Quinn and Conal Caughey, at an announcement to distribute free books to every primary one child in Northern Ireland.

Every primary one child across Northern Ireland is set to receive a free Time to Read pack this Autumn. The delivery comes as BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity, commences the latest in its Arts Council of Northern Ireland school author tour series, this time with Marta Altés, author and illustrator of ‘Little Monkey’ starting from Monday 14th October.

The Time to Read packs which include a free copy of the book ‘Little Monkey’ and tips and advice for parents and carers, will be distributed to all 25,000 primary one children to take home and share with their families. With the help of The Education Authority Schools Library Service all schools will receive the packs at the beginning of the Autumn term.

To help celebrate the book distribution, the schools author tour supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland will see Marta visit four schools over the course of two days to run reading and craft workshops, designed to inspire, engage and help to create the authors and illustrators of the future. The school involved include - St Joseph’s Primary School Carryduff, Millennium Integrated Primary School, Saintfield, Moorfields Primary School, Ballymena and Parkhall Primary School, Antrim.

Marta Altés, author and illustrator of ‘Little Monkey’ said,

“One of my favourite parts about my work is getting to visit the children and watch their creativity grow! It’s incredible that my book will be in so many homes around Northern Ireland, and I hope that Little Monkey and her adventures in the jungle not only inspire a love of reading but also remind children that even when you're small you can do amazing things!”

Liz Canning, BookTrust Northern Ireland says

“We are delighted to be able to share ‘Little Monkey’ with children across Northern Ireland with the help of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and The Education Authority Schools Library Service. We really hope the children in the sessions are inspired to get reading and that every child receiving the packs shares a little bit of that magic.”

Marta Altés two day visit is the first in a series of author visits planned for this year, with more schools across Northern Ireland set to benefit from scheme over the coming months. The BookTrust programme is support through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s National Lottery funds, which this year celebrates its 25th anniversary since the first draw in 1994.

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“This wonderful initiative is all about inspiring a future generation of readers to enjoy reading from their earliest years, as they set off on their own journeys discovering new characters, places, stories and ideas. Access to books is something which we know supports all aspects of a child’s development and we are delighted to continue our funding for BookTrust’s author tours once again this year, with a copy of Marta Altés stunning book also going out to every primary one child in Northern Ireland.”

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The Arts Council is relocating

Friday 11th October 2019 at 12pm 0 Comments

Linen Hill House, Lisburn Image: Linen Hill House, Lisburn

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is relocating from The Sidings in Lisburn.

The new address will be:

Linen Hill House
23 Linenhall Street
Lisburn BT28 1FJ
Northern Ireland

To accommodate the office move, The Arts Council will be closed to the public from Thursday 17th October 2019 and will reopen on Wednesday 23rd October 2019 in Linen Hill House. 

Our main telephone line will be unavailable from 12 noon on Thursday 17th October and will reopen on Wednesday 23rd October 2019. We will also be unable to send or receive emails during this period.

The relocation is in keeping with the Department of Finance's Asset Management Strategy.

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World Mental Health Day 10th October 2019

Thursday 10th October 2019 at 9am 0 Comments ARTiculate Young People & Wellbeing Arts Programme

Pictured are Séamus Mullen (PHA), Lorraine Calderwood (Arts Council), Chris Deconink (Extern), artists Glenn Black and Ken Maze (Blaze FX), with some of the staff and young people involved in Extern’s arts project funded through the ARTiculate Programme Image: Pictured are Séamus Mullen (PHA), Lorraine Calderwood (Arts Council), Chris Deconink (Extern), artists Glenn Black and Ken Maze (Blaze FX), with some of the staff and young people involved in Extern’s arts project funded through the ARTiculate Programme

Today is World Mental Health Day and the theme set by World Federation of Mental Health is suicide prevention.

Three years ago the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, in partnership with the Public Health Agency, launched a new £600,000 programme to promote positive mental health and emotional well-being in young people through the arts.

So far the ARTiculate Programme has supported 47 projects across Northern Ireland, linking youth and community groups with professional artists and arts organisations.  Each project has engaged with vulnerable young people, targeting those at higher risk of suicide or self-harm.

The specific aims of the programme are:

  • Improve emotional, physical and social wellbeing of participants
  • Enable participants to express opinions or feeling using arts-based methods
  • Realise and improvement in wider services for young people with mental health issues
  • Empower communities to take a more pro-active role in promoting mental health and wellbeing
  • Reduce stigma associated with mental health and wellbeing through improved education; and
  • Support and promote help seeking behaviour amongst participants

Initial findings from an evaluation of the programme provides self-reported evidence from the young people of improvements in self-confidence and greater awareness of where to seek help and support. 

The ARTiculate programme is funded through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s National Lottery funds. Since the National Lottery’s first draw took place on 19 November 1994, more than £40 billion has been raised for good causes in the areas of arts, sport, heritage and community. People can discover the positive impact playing the National Lottery has had on their community over the past 25 years by using the 25th hashtag #NationalLottery25 .

Find out more about the projects supported so far through the ARTicualte Programme:


For more information on World Mental Health Day, advice on looking after your mental health and how to access support visit www.mentalhealth.org.uk

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Belfast to host First all-island Dance Conference

Wednesday 9th October 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Dance

Co-Motion Dance Conference, Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast on 25-26 October. Image: Co-Motion Dance Conference, Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast on 25-26 October.

The first ever all-Ireland dance conference will take place in Belfast this month in association with Belfast International Arts Festival.

Co-Motion is an initiative between Dance Ireland and Dance Resource Base and will be held at the Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast on 25-26 October.

Coming just a week before Brexit, its themes are both practical and political, as an essential platform for dancers, educators and policy makers to consider borders, connections and how to develop and promote practices for working together.

Conference curator, Dr Aoife McGrath of Queen’s University Belfast, a professional dancer and choreographer whose research interests include the interplay of dance and politics, said,

“The conference responds to a critical moment, both globally and on the island of Ireland, in which renewed hardening of international borders threatens division and stasis.  It gives us the opportunity to ask, how does dance function as a site of connection and movement?  At junctures of threatened division, how can dance question, confirm and strengthen ongoing currents of fluidity, support and co-motion?

“This conference will bring critical attention to complexities of interrelations in this time of precarity and flux.”

The Co-Motion conference takes place during Belfast International Arts Festival’s big weekend of dance which includes the show-stopping French arts collective (LA)HORDE, who will perform their energetic jumpstyle street dance phenomenon, To Da Bone, at the Grand Opera House; renowned choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh’s dance company performing Staging Schiele at The MAC; Pat Kinevane’s searing solo musical theatre inspired Before; and looking ahead to the Festival’s closing event, the UK and Ireland premiere of Lady Magma, choreographed by Belfast-born Oona Doherty, along with Prime Cut Productions.

Keynote speeches and workshops will be led by these international artists, as well as previous Festival alumnus, Fearghus O’ Conchuir (Butterflies and Bones 2016), as well as Juan Kruz Diaz de Garaio Esnaola and Luc Dunberry of Sasha Waltz.

Adam Knight, Chair, Dance Resource Base said,

“Dance Resource Base is thrilled to be partnering with our colleagues at Dance Ireland to bring to Belfast the first ever All-Island Dance Conference, and to collaborate with the Belfast International Arts Festival and Queen’s University to shine a spotlight on our world-class dance talent from across the island of Ireland. This has been a vision many years in planning. With a host of international dance talent gathering here, it has never been more important, both nationally and globally, to celebrate our creative excellence, and in uncertain times this provides a significant opportunity to explore how we can work together to transcend borders of any kind.”

Paul Johnson, Chief Executive Officer, Dance Ireland said,

“Strategic partnerships, creative collaborations, networking and citizen artists are at the heart of Co-Motion: Dance & Borders. At a time of many challenges for professional dance practice on the island; we are excited to come together and lead in partnership with Dance Resource Base on this momentous moment, shining a light on how critical and creative dance ideas contribute to a better understanding of the times we are living through.” 

Caoileann Curry-Thompson, Arts Development Officer for Drama and Dance, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“With the whirligig of political discourse around at the moment, the Co-motion Conference is a timely opportunity to turn focus on another dynamic, powerful form of discourse, power and engagement: dance. Participants will have the opportunity to reframe discourse around the body, movement and space, to dissect the eloquence and subtlety of the all too often overlooked language of the body. The rich mix of speakers promises to make this a riveting and unmissable event, and a perfect complement to the artistic vibrancy of the Belfast International Arts Festival.”

For more information visit: https://belfastinternationalartsfestival.com/event/co-motion/

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Countdown to seventh International Festival of Dance and Movement

Tuesday 8th October 2019 at 2pm 0 Comments Dance

This Time by Ockham's Razor Image: This Time by Ockham's Razor

Echo Echo Festival of Dance and Movement will return in November with a major series of performances and events in venues around Derry and beyond.

Now in its seventh year, this year’s edition features world-class circus theatre from England, contemporary dance from around Ireland, cutting edge physical theatre from Hungary and Austria, and acclaimed step dance from Ireland and the USA.

Fresh from stunning success at Edinburgh Festival and multiple five-star reviews, the brilliant Ockham’s Razor company return to the city with the Irish premiere of their new aerial theatre work This Time which will be shown in the spectacular setting of Derry’s Guildhall.

Acclaimed step dancer from Michigan, USA, Nic Gareiss will present unique site-specific performances in Derry city and county and in County Antrim.

Irish choreographers are well represented in this year’s programme with work by Ayesha Mailey, Oona Doherty, Eileen McClory, and Liam Ó Scanlaín; as well as a host of other opportunities for local people and visitors to move and be moved.

Echo Echo Festival of Dance and Movement is supported by Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Derry City and Strabane District Council.

Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor Michaela Boyle welcomed the Festival’s return:

“Derry City and Strabane District Council are proud to support Echo Echo’s International Festival of Dance and Movement through its headline events fund. Over the last seven years the festival has developed a reputation for the high standard of its performances and classes. Congratulations to Echo Echo and their partners on developing another exciting 12 day programme.”

Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Drama and Dance Officer, Caoileann Curry-Thompson, said:

“The Arts Council is delighted to support the seventh outing of the Echo Echo International Festival of Movement and Dance. We are very excited by the mixture of leading dance practitioners and innovators visiting Derry/Londonderry from across the world, such as the sublime Ferenc Fehér from Hungary, the singular Nic Gareiss from the USA, and the superb Ockham’s Razor from Great Britain. And then there is our superb home-grown talent: Ayesha Mailey, Oona Doherty and Eileen McClory. The Arts Council has been proud to support each of these local dance artists in the development of their practice, and we are thrilled that this festival gives them the platform to share their work and demonstrate how Northern Ireland punches above its weight in terms of the sheer quality and innovation of dance and movement that we produce. An event not to be missed.”

Tickets for Echo Echo Festival of Dance and Movement 2019 go on sale Friday 27th September. For more information visit www.echoechodance.com.

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Ciaran Carson (1948 – 2019)

Monday 7th October 2019 at 10am 0 Comments

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has learned with great sadness of the death of the highly-acclaimed Belfast poet, writer, musician, and former colleague at the Arts Council, Ciaran Carson, who has died after an illness on Sunday 6th October, aged 70.

Born in Belfast in 1948 and brought up bi-lingual, Ciaran Carson graduated from Queen’s University with a degree in English, before joining the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 1975, where, until 1998, he served as Traditional Music Officer, then Literature Officer. In 2003, he was appointed Professor or English and the Founding Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University. He retired from Queen’s in 2016, remaining Emeritus Professor of the School of Arts, English and Languages at Queen’s.

Ciaran Carson published his first collection of poetry, The New Estate, in 1976. He would go on to publish fourteen collections of poems, five prose books and celebrated translations of the Dante’s Inferno (2002), for which he was awarded the Oxford Weidenfeld Translation Prize, and the Irish saga, Táin Bó Cúailnge (2007).

His award-winning poetry collections include The Irish for No (1987), winner of the Alice Hunt Bartlett Award, Belfast Confetti (1990), which won the Irish Times Irish Literature Prize for Poetry, First Language: Poems (1993), winner of the TS Eliot Prize, Breaking News (2003), which won the Forward Poetry Prize, For All We Know (2008), shortlisted for both the 2008 TS Eliot Prize and the Costa Poetry Award, and From Elsewhere (2015), shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best Collection. From There to Here (Selected Poems and Translations) was published on the occasion of his 70th birthday, in October 2018.

His prose books include The Star Factory (1997), a memoir of Belfast, Fishing for Amber (1999) and Shamrock Tea (2001), a novel longlisted for the Booker Prize. Last Night’s Fun: About Time, Food and Music (1996), a book about Irish traditional music, reflects the author’s life-long interest in, and high level of accomplishment as, a musician.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, paid tribute:

“Ciaran Carson was a poet of extraordinary breadth and depth, and one of the best and most respected of his generation. His work is steeped in the presence of Belfast, its history, its cityscape, its language and its music, all of which he lived and translated into words of rare insight and brilliance. Even in his later works, which had become more expansive in their scope, he remained an artist who was, to the end, made in Belfast.”

Ciaran Carson is survived by his wife, the acclaimed fiddle player Deirdre Shannon, and their three children, Manus, Gerard and Mary.

Ciaran Carson’s essay, A fusillade of question-marks; some reflections on the art of the Troubles, written for the Arts Council’s Troubles Art Archive in 2009, can be viewed at the Troubles Art Archive, www.troublesarchive.com.

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All Saints Youths turn movie-makers to promote positive mental health

Friday 4th October 2019 at 9am 0 Comments ARTiculate Young People & Wellbeing Arts Programme

Pictured are Jason Givens, Lindsay Armstrong, LJ Youth Media, Gerry McVeigh, Start 360, Jude Pollack, LJ Youth Media, Cate McCarte and Conall Gordon. Image: Pictured are Jason Givens, Lindsay Armstrong, LJ Youth Media, Gerry McVeigh, Start 360, Jude Pollack, LJ Youth Media, Cate McCarte and Conall Gordon.

A group of young people from All Saints Youth Club in Ballymena have got behind the camera to create short film to raise awareness of mental health issues among their peers.

The film , entitled ‘Ask, Don’t Assume’, shows the reality of living with mental health difficulties and how important it is for young people to support each other.

The project coordinated by Start 360 is one of 27 to have received funding as part of ARTiculate, a three-year £600,000 programme funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery funds and the Public Health Agency (PHA), which uses artists and the arts to give a voice to issues affecting young people.

Start360 working with several groups in Ballymena, including All Saints Youth Club. Gerry McVeigh from Start360 said,

“It has been a fantastic experience working with All Saints Youth Club on the Articulate programme. The young people have made a film which gives a real sense of what it is like to be struggling with mental health issues.”

As part of the programme Action Mental Health delivered a Mental Health Awareness Workshop with the young people. LJ Youth Media then worked with the young people to develop and produce the film.

Lindsey Armstrong, Director at LJ Youth Media commented,

"We are delighted to be working in partnership with Start360 and All Saints Youth Club. The heart of what we do at LJ is support young people to find their voice and create a short film about a subject that they feel passionate about. The young people at All Saints YC threw themselves into every aspect of our programme and have produced a really meaningful piece of film on mental health issues.”

Louisa Reed, Leader in Charge at All Saints Youth Club said,

“We were grateful to have been given this opportunity to work on such an important topic with Start360 and LJ Youth media in raising awareness on mental health. The young people wanted to create a piece that could have an impact in their community. After viewing the short film young people felt that this could encourage at least one person to speak out for themselves or for their peers. We will continue to support and promote Mental Health Awareness.”

Watch the film below.

 

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Belfast voices feature on new film and album by older people

Thursday 26th September 2019 at 11am 0 Comments Arts and Older People

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A new album, Voices of Belfast, featuring older people from East and West Belfast has been released on Tunecore and other streaming platforms, including Spotify. Recorded as part of a project led by musicians’ development charity Live Music Now, the eleven tracks were arranged and produced by musicians Peter McCauley and Owen Denvir, who worked with older people at Ballyowen Day Centre and Edgecumbe Assessment & Therapy Unit. A short film features participants at Edgecumbe, and captures the spirit of this unique project.

Over six months, the older participants shared their memories and sang favourites such as Lili Marlene, The Mountains of Mourne, Daisy Daisy, My Aunt Jane and I’ll tell me Ma. The result is a unique set of arrangements, featuring guitar, piano, viola and ukulele, bringing together voices from across the city in a blend of nostalgia and Belfast wit. The project was funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Belfast Health & Social Care Trust and the Utley Foundation.

Alice Lewis, Director of the Northern Irish branch of Live Music Now, said,

‘This film and album capture not just the actual voices of older people in Belfast, but their sense of humour and sheer joy in remembering and sharing songs. We hear a lot of laughter and jokes as well as some really poignant moments. Pete and Owen have created a beautiful and evocative sound world which sensitively showcases the talent of the participants and captures the spirit of Live Music Now, which is all about making life better through music.’

Many of the participants are living with dementia and expressed how vital music is to help them retain memories and to lift their mood.   There is growing evidence showing the impact of live music on people with dementia: it helps manage symptoms, has a calming effect, promotes social interaction and can reduce the need for medication.

Paula McHugh, Arts in Health Manager for Belfast Trust said

This project is a brilliant example of how people can ‘live well’ with dementia, continue to make a unique creative contribution to society and feel empowered in relation to their own wellbeing. ‘

Lorraine Calderwood, Community Development Officer at the Arts Council, commented,

"The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is proud to support this impressive project which brought professional musicians together with older people to improve their lives through the power of music.  We know that the arts can raise self-esteem, confidence and motivation, as well as helping to relieve stress, worries and pain. The Arts and Older People’s Programme creates opportunities for our older people to take part in the arts by funding a range of projects across the region. The arts have a vital role to play in helping older people to find a voice and express the issues which affect them on a day-to-day basis, adding to their sense of well-being as-well as promoting positive physical and mental health.”

Live Music Now Northern Ireland: Older people living with dementia from Live Music Now on Vimeo.

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Live classical music for little listeners at The Crescent Arts Centre

Wednesday 25th September 2019 at 3pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Pictured at the launch concert are Ciara Burnell and her baby Lucy Burnell-McAleavey, with musicians Kristine Donnan (piano) and Laura McFall (Voice). Image: Pictured at the launch concert are Ciara Burnell and her baby Lucy Burnell-McAleavey, with musicians Kristine Donnan (piano) and Laura McFall (Voice).

Belfast Music Society (BMS), promoter of live classical chamber music, has launched Chamber Cherubs, a new series of live classical music concerts for pre-school children, aged 1-3 years, in partnership with The Crescent Arts Centre, supported by National Lottery funding through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Chamber Cherubs follows on from a similar venture, Chamber Babies, established by BMS in 2014, designed to offer the best live classical music to the youngest listeners aged 0-18 months (and their parents too of course!). The new programme was launched at a concert at the Crescent Arts Centre on Friday 20th September featuring soprano, Laura McFall and pianist, Kristine Donnan. 

All Chamber Cherubs concerts are performed by professional classical musicians from Northern Ireland and present selections of short classical pieces that are carefully chosen to be suitable for young children and adults alike.   It’s very informal and children are welcome to walk, dance or just chill out to a careful selection of short classical pieces designed both to engage and enchant. 

Pam Smith, concerts Manager, Belfast Music Society, said,

“BMS is delighted to be introducing this new series at The Crescent Arts Centre. Chamber Cherubs was conceived in response to the huge interest we have had in our existing Chamber Babies concerts, and these new concerts are based on that popular model – relaxed, accessible performances with top local musicians in a really intimate setting – but with a touch more interaction and fun! Hopefully, we’ll be helping to nurture a life-long love of live music in the children – not forgetting their grownups, of course!”

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is the Principal Funder of Belfast Music Society and The Crescent Arts Centre, Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added:

The importance of introducing children to music and the arts at an early age cannot be overestimated.  Belfast Music Society continues to bring the best in classical chamber music and local classical artists to audiences in Belfast and we’re delighted to see the launch of the new Chamber Cherubs series which is sure to be a hit with families everywhere. Get your tickets now!”   

Visit www.belfastmusicsociety.org for details on all upcoming concerts.

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World famous conductor, Paul McCreesh, helps launch Sestina’s Master and Pupil programme

Wednesday 25th September 2019 at 2pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Sestina Singers Image: Sestina Singers

Sestina, the Belfast based early music ensemble, will be joined by their patron and world renowned conductor, Paul McCreesh, later this month for a special performance launching the Master and Pupil Programme for 2020.

Next year Sestina's Easter Mentoring Course in 2020 will feature a programme tracing the artistic influence and legacy of the roles of Master and Pupil following a thread of learning from Jean Mouton (c.1459-1522) to Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643) and his own assistants. The rehearsal week and concert tour will take place from 13-18th April 2020 across Belfast, Cork and Dublin, funded by Exitex, Arts Council of Ireland, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Foyle Foundation.

During the Easter tour, Sestina will record the programme, in an exciting new collaboration with the Resonus Classics label. This will be Sestina's first ever recording, and the first of a planned three discs with Resonus on the "Master and Pupil" theme.

On 26th September, Sestina will launch this new programme with a performance featuring Sestina singers, musicians and Musical Director Mark Chambers. Sestina patron Paul McCreesh, who is founder and Artistic Director of the renowned Gabrieli Consort, will join the evening.

Commenting on the launch, Mark Chambers, Sestina’s Musical Director, said; “

The Master and Pupil idea was born out of the ethos at the centre of Sestina's work, which is learning by collaboration and being exposed to excellence-whether that be players or guest professional singers.  Having taught singing in Ireland for many years, I have always been struck by the natural ear of the singers and musicians here and their ability to pick up subtle details of style and inflection very quickly.”

Master and Pupil follows a trail of composers and their pupils across a time span of 1400-1650 in Italy and Europe, proposing that each "great" composer had to learn from someone above them.  This is exactly how we learn with Sestina and this is now borne out by many of our singers singing as full time professionals, and now, they are set to become the "Masters" for a new generation of Irish singers.

The evening later this month is a perfect way to celebrate our Masters and Pupils and to have Paul McCreesh join us will make for a very special evening indeed,” Mark added.

On 27 September at the Ulster Museum, Sestina will play its autumn concert series Beyond the Veil: Revealing the secret music of Italy and the Concerto delle donne, funded by Exitex and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Sestina sopranos Fiona Flynn, Aisling Kenny and Charlotte Trepess, along with some of Europe’s finest early music instrumental specialists, including Steven Devine on keyboards, Paula Chateauneuf on theorbo/lute and Aileen Henry on harp, will bring rarely heard music of late Renaissance Ferrara to audiences.  The following evening, Sestina will play to audiences in St. Ann's Church, Dawson St., Dublin (28 September). For details of all concerts or how to get involved visit www.sestinamusic.com

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Duncairn welcomes GCSE art students to an exhibition featuring work from the Arts Council Collection

Tuesday 24th September 2019 at 2pm 0 Comments Visual Arts

Pictured (L_R) are Dominican College students, Caoimhe Rooney and Mollie Quinn. Image: Pictured (L_R) are Dominican College students, Caoimhe Rooney and Mollie Quinn.

The Duncairn Centre for Culture & Arts recently welcomed over 100 GCSE Art & Design students from schools in North Belfast to view an art exhibition featuring works from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland Collection, as part of the centre’s Creative Industries Week.

The exhibition has come about thanks to the Arts Council’s Art Lending Scheme, a free Art Lending Scheme offered to venues, curators, museums and galleries across Britain, Ireland and Europe that are interested in exhibiting works from its rich, contemporary art collection.

The Arts Council’s current collection holds around 500 works by established and emerging visual artists working in, or from, Northern Ireland.  The Loan Scheme provides an opportunity to make the collection available for the public to view and shine a light on the artistic talent that is inherent to Northern Ireland. 

Debbie Young, Outreach and Development Officer, Duncairn Centre for Culture & Arts, commented,

“We are absolutely thrilled to have part of the Arts Council Collection on display here.  This is an amazing opportunity to bring the work of artists from Northern Ireland to North Belfast to be enjoyed by the local community.  It has also formed part of our Creative industries Week where we’ve brought ten local secondary schools to the Duncairn to enjoy the exhibition and take part in a series of workshops with local working artists.”

Maeve Mulligan, Head of Art, Dominican College, Fortwilliam, added,

“I’m very passionate about art as an art teacher but also as a person from the local area.  The Duncairn makes it more accessible to us as a school to get involved in art activities.  A lot of our art students here today might not have had the opportunity to visit an art gallery before or meet artists and this exhibition is just great to have in our local area.  This whole experience will undoubtedly enthuse and inspire our young art students, as-well as encourage them to think about a potential career working in the creative industries.”

Dr Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said,

“Many of the artists represented in the Arts Council’s contemporary art collection have major national and international reputations, such as two-times Turner Prize nominee, Willie Doherty; Cara Murphy, whose work is included in the Downing Street Sliver Collection; and Colin Davidson, who painted the Queens’ portrait in 2016, Ian Cumberland, and Paul Seawright.

“By offering the Collection for public display, we are helping to showcase the work of our artists and to introduce the public to Northern Ireland’s wealth of creative talent. Curators can curate their own show or the Arts Council’s expert staff can help compile and theme an exhibition suitable for any space. We can provide works in all media, from painting, sculpture, crafts, print, photography and video through to digital art.”

The Art Lending Scheme is free and is open to organisations, venues and galleries, locally, nationally and internationally and covers loans of single art works up to full exhibitions.  It offers museums and galleries an opportunity to bring a new audience to contemporary works of art and to interpret the Collection material in new ways; potentially becoming a catalyst for education and outreach or bringing other aspects of a theme into play.

The exhibition at the Duncairn Centre continues until Thursday 26th September.  To view the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Collection visit www.artscouncil-ni.org/collection and for more information on the Arts Council’s Art Lending Scheme email: collection@artscouncil-ni.org

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Arts Council offers residencies for artists to travel to India

Monday 23rd September 2019 at 4pm 0 Comments

Visual artist Mairead McCormack and poet Emily S Cooper travelled to Sanskritti Cultural Centre in Delhi earlier this year as part of the Arts Council’s residency scheme. Image: Visual artist Mairead McCormack and poet Emily S Cooper travelled to Sanskritti Cultural Centre in Delhi earlier this year as part of the Arts Council’s residency scheme.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is offering four residency opportunities for artists to travel to India.

Working in partnership with the British Council, the Arts Council is inviting applications for up to two artists to go to the Sanskriti Foundation residencies in New Delhi and two at the Shruti Foundation Vedaaranya residency in Ramgarh Shekhawati, Rajasthan.

The Sanskriti Foundation in New Delhi has hosted over 600 artists, poets, scholars and writers as-well as 300 craft makers from across the world and is offering two six-week residencies for artists from Northern Ireland.  The Shruti Foundation Vedaaranya residency in Ramgarh Shekhawati, Rajasthan are offering one artist a serene, inspiring, stimulating and enabling environment to work, reflect and interact with other artists for a one month residency. The residencies are part of the Arts Council’s Support for Individual Artists programme.

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development at the Arts Council, commented:

“The Arts Council’s role is to invest in artistic excellence and ensure that quality work is presented to the widest possible audience.  These residencies will support the development of our artists as they pursue their creative ambitions, helping them to present new quality work that can be shared on an international platform, inspired by the rich culture of India.”

Closing date for applications is 4pm on Thursday 10th October. For more information visit artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/indian-residencies

Textile artist Mairead McCormack travelled to the Sanskriti Cultural Centre earlier this year. Read about her experience here

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Musicians Brigid O’Neill and Joshua Burnside arrive in Brussels for Culture Night Showcase

Wednesday 18th September 2019 at 2pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Local singer-songwriters Brigid O’Neill and Joshua Burnside Image: Local singer-songwriters Brigid O’Neill and Joshua Burnside

Local singer-songwriters Brigid O’Neill and Joshua Burnside will bring the spirit of Culture Night to Brussels on Friday for a special showcase performance, as part of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Brussels Platform.

Hosted by the Northern Ireland Executive Office in Brussels, Culture Night will attract an audience of officials from the EU Institutions, across the diplomatic community and beyond. The event will coincide with this weekend’s Culture Night Culture Day celebrations in Belfast, which showcases Northern Ireland’s arts and cultural scene.

On Friday night Brigid O’Neill will perform a selection of songs from her latest album ‘Touchstone' and previous EP release 'Arrivals and Departures’, as well as a number of as yet unrecorded new songs, including one from her 'Heritage in Song' Project , curated in association with the Ulster Architectural Heritage Society.  While award-winning alternative folk artist Joshua Burnside, who is currently on tour with dates across Ireland, the UK, America and beyond, will share some of his latest music, infused with Latin rhythms and world music.

Speaking about the Brussels Platform, Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:

“This is a fantastic opportunity to showcase some of the immense talent we have here in Northern Ireland.  Both Brigid O’Neill and Joshua Burnside are wonderful musical ambassadors for the arts here and the Arts Council is delighted to support this weekend’s showcase in Brussels for Culture Night.”

Andrew Elliott, Director of the Northern Ireland Executive office in Brussels said:

"This region produces far more than its fair share of talent and musical brilliance.  We will continue to showcase our home-grown talent on a European stage and to highlight Northern Ireland’s ever growing reputation as a centre of excellence in the arts. I look forward enormously to welcoming Brigid and Joshua to Brussels for Culture Night.”

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is involved in a range of international platforms including the Centre Culturel Irlandais in Paris and artist residencies in Indian, at Ramgarh Shekawati, Rajasthan and Sanskriti.

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25 years of National Lottery support marked at the Cathedral on Culture Night

Tuesday 17th September 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Image:

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland will present an evening of music and song to mark 25 years of National Lottery funding for the Arts in Northern Ireland, kicking off with Culture Night Belfast celebrations on Friday 20th September.  The stage will be set this Friday at St Anne’s Cathedral for two of Northern Ireland’s most impressive artists, pianist, Ruth McGinley and jazz vocalist, Katharine Timoney, as part of the wider 25th birthday celebrations of National Lottery funding in Northern Ireland later this autumn.  Catch both artists from 8pm following a performance by the Ulster Orchestra.  Since The National Lottery’s first draw took place on 19 November 1994 more than £40 billion has been raised for good causes in the areas of arts, sport, heritage and community.

Jazz vocalist, Katharine Timoney, from Holywood, County Down, is a current Young Musicians’ Platform Awardee, a joint initiative of the Arts Council and BBC Northern Ireland, which aims to showcase and support the development of exceptional young musicians.  The award provides individual National Lottery funding awards of £5,000 which enables the recipients to spend a sizeable amount of time learning from a master musician, mentor, teacher or composer either in Northern Ireland or abroad.

Concert pianist, Ruth McGinley, is a former recipient of the Arts Council ACES (Artist Career Enhancement Scheme) award, a National Lottery funding award worth up to £5,000, bestowed upon outstanding artists to allow them to develop their professional, artistic careers through the creation of new work.  With her ACES award Ruth produced her critically-acclaimed debut album, Reconnections, which tells the story of the artist’s reconnection with the music that resonated with her most over the years, having taken a break from the pressures of life as a concert pianist.

Sonya Whitefield, Arts Development Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented,

“Culture Night has firmly established itself as an exciting must-do experience in Belfast and we’re delighted to see it develop across two days this year moving into Saturday 21st September.  As part of the Culture Night celebrations on Friday 20th September, the Arts Council is extremely proud to present two exceptional artists, pianist Ruth McGinley and vocalist, Katharine Timoney, at St Anne’s Cathedral, who have both benefitted from National Lottery support.  Both performances promise an evening of exceptional, mesmerising, world-class music and I would encourage everyone to go along and enjoy.”

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland evening of music and song with Katharine Timoney and Ruth McGinley, will take place from 8pm on Friday 20th September at St Anne’s Cathedral Belfast.  Visit www.culturenightbelfast.com

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Micky Donnelly (1952 – 2019)

Monday 16th September 2019 at 3pm 0 Comments Visual Arts

Micky Donnelly, Lily Among the Hats (1987). Arts Council of Northern Ireland Collection (Gifted to National Museums Northern Ireland in 2013) Image: Micky Donnelly, Lily Among the Hats (1987). Arts Council of Northern Ireland Collection (Gifted to National Museums Northern Ireland in 2013)

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has learned with great sadness of the death of the acclaimed Belfast artist, Micky Donnelly.

Micky Donnelly was born in Belfast in 1952 and educated at the Christian Brothers Grammar School in west Belfast, before going on to study Mathematics and Computer Science at Queen’s University. After a period working as a social worker in west Belfast, he enrolled at the University of Ulster School of Art and Design, receiving a BA (1979) and an MA (1981) in Fine Art.

In the early 1980s Micky Donnelly was heavily involved in the Artists Collective and Queen Street Studios, and was a founder member of Circa magazine of contemporary art. He was exhibiting large-scale paintings and drawings at the Orchard Gallery in Derry City and was one of the first artists to exhibit at the newly-opened Fenderesky Gallery in Belfast. With interest growing from abroad in Northern Ireland’s visual arts, Donnelly was invited to participate in a series of large group exhibitions by Northern Irish artists which toured to England, Germany, USA and Canada.

In 1985 he was awarded an Arts Council of Northern Ireland Scholarship to the British School at Rome, an event which the artist has acknowledged as a turning point in his work. Italian Renaissance art became a major influence on how he used his painting to critique Irish culture and politics. The ‘Belfast Series’ of the early 1990s, with their street references and allusions to Belfast murals, show the influence of Italian fresco painting. By the end of the decade, the deliberate interpretive ambiguity he had always built into his work had developed into the ‘Reflex Series’, based on Rorschach inkblot tests, asking viewers to interpret his work from their own psychological viewpoints. The work would become still more poetic and opaque in the ‘Proposition Series’ of diptychs, which emerged around 2008.

In 1996 Micky Donnelly’s contribution to the arts was acknowledged when he was elected a member of Aosdána, one of the most prestigious positions in Irish arts. He exhibited nationally and internationally and his work is included in public and private collections throughout the world, including the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Ulster Museum, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland Collection, and the European Parliament.

Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, paid tribute:

“Micky Donnelly was a key figure in the development of the contemporary visual arts scene here in the 1980s and 1990s, and one of the major artists responsible for putting Northern Ireland’s visual arts on the international map. The body of work he leaves behind will ensure his lasting place amongst the front rank of Northern Irish painters.”

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Glass artist Andrea Spencer partners with Queen’s University’s Anatomy Department to create new work

Monday 16th September 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Visual Arts

Pictured (L-R) are Mr Ian K Walsh, Queen’s University Centre for Medical Education, artist, Andrea Spencer and Joanna Johnston, Arts Council. Image: Pictured (L-R) are Mr Ian K Walsh, Queen’s University Centre for Medical Education, artist, Andrea Spencer and Joanna Johnston, Arts Council.

Glass artist, Andrea Spencer, was recently supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, through the Artists’ Career Enhancement Scheme (ACES) , a fund which enables artists to take that all-important, vital, next step in their artistic careers by developing a new body of work.  Andrea used the award to learn new skills and create a new body of work through her partnership with Queen’s University Centre for Medical Education.

Artist, Andrea Spencer, commented,

“Through the ACES award I was able to develop new glass making skills by going on a casting course at Northlands Creative  and also being able to work with the scientific glass blowers at Queen’s University. Through my partnership with the university’s Anatomy Department I was able to have regular access into the department and to engage with the students whilst they were going through the process of cadaver dissection, which inspired this new body of work.  I also had the opportunity to work closely with medical students and use the arts to enhance their medical practice and education; an endeavor that was very well received by all.”  

Andrea worked alongside Mr Ian K Walsh on the, Human Beings Being Human Project, an initiative established by Queen’s University medical school which explores and fosters the humanistic aspects of medical education and practice. Their work together has been largely based around anatomical pursuits and visual art.  It involves getting groups of interested students together to discuss their interest in the arts and to see how that aligns with their medical practice.  From this students created representative artwork which looked at ECGs (electrocardiogram) of people who have had terminal events; they also considered aspects of medical care, suffering and humanity using artistic methods. 

Mr Ian K Walsh, Clinical Academic Urologist and Senior Lecturer, Queen’s University Centre for Medical Education, commented,

“There are probably about ten percent of students in any given year, at undergraduate level, that are artistically creative by nature and they feel that they have to give their artistic pursuits up to pursue a career in medicine.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  It’s exactly the type of thing that we want to foster and having the established artist, Andrea Spencer here within the department and at the school has been seminal in getting that idea across.  It’s been a very positive move for the medical school.”

Joanna Johnston, Visual Arts Development Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added,

“The Arts Council’s ACES programme supports serious career artists and gives them the ability to be more aspirational in their practice area through working alongside a partner organisation who gives them mentorship support over one year.   Through her partnership with Queen’s University anatomy Department, Andrea was introduced to a completely different approach of scientific glass blowing which she has been able to apply to create a new portfolio of work.  This will enable her to apply to some of the top craft galleries nationally and internationally which will be really beneficial for her future career development.”   

Keep up to date with Andrea Spencer’s work at www.andreaspencerglass.com

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Chinese links with Northern Ireland marked by cultural celebration

Thursday 5th September 2019 at 4pm 0 Comments

Pictured at the programme launch (L-R) Tim Losty, Mme Zhang and Roisin McDonough. Image: Pictured at the programme launch (L-R) Tim Losty, Mme Zhang and Roisin McDonough.

Chinese Consul General Mme Zhang Meifang and Danny Wong, Chairman of the Chinese Welfare Association, have launched the China Cultural Programme, a series of cultural events taking place in Northern Ireland throughout September 2019.

The programme, launched at The Ulster Hall in Belfast with key figures from Northern Ireland government, includes performances by renowned Chinese artists and aims to celebrate and share the best of Chinese culture with people across Northern Ireland. A performance on September 26th by internationally acclaimed Pipa (Chinese Lute) virtuoso Ms. Zhang Hongyan is a highlight of the programme and a significant coup for Northern Ireland as this is Ms. Zhang’s first performance anywhere in the UK.

The cultural events mark several significant anniversaries: The 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China and the 65th anniversary of diplomatic relations between China and the UK. It is also the 5th anniversary of the agreement to establish a Chinese Consulate General in Belfast and the 5th anniversary of the NI Bureau office in China. 

Mme Zhang Meifang, Consul General said,

“We have always welcomed the business links between China and Northern Ireland, but today we are looking forward to celebrating our culture together.  Chinese culture is one of the richest and oldest in the world, and these events in September will give many people here a flavour of its depth and diversity.

“I am delighted with the growing relationship between China and Northern Ireland and remain optimistic about the potential to develop our connections further. I appreciate greatly the enthusiasm and the welcome we have received from the people of Northern Ireland and from government officials; the Northern Ireland Civil Service, local government representatives and so many others working in the fields of academia, business and culture. We live in a closely connected world; we are committed to building a shared destiny, one of lasting peace, harmony, mutual development and prosperity.”

David Sterling, Head of the NI Civil Service said:

“This programme is a celebration of how well the links between China and Northern Ireland have developed over the years. But it is also an opportunity to look forward to the future, and see how we can continue to strengthen that relationship.”

“The Chinese community has enriched life here in Northern Ireland, and our regional and local links with China have underlined the spirit of partnership and prosperity that connects us.”

For further information on the China Cultural Gala Programme click here:

The Chinese Consulate Belfast: http://belfast.chineseconsulate.org/eng/
Chinese Consulate webchat account: chinaconsulatebfs@gmail.com
The Chinese Warfare Association:  https://www.cwa-ni.org/about-us

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Northern Ireland Opera presents Die Fledermaus

Monday 2nd September 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

L-R May McFettridge, Stephan Loges, Ben McAteer and Maria McGrann Image: L-R May McFettridge, Stephan Loges, Ben McAteer and Maria McGrann

Rehearsals with opera singers from across the world, a chorus of over 40 singers from Northern Ireland and the Ulster Orchestra are underway for the much anticipated Die Fledermaus.

This year is the 145th anniversary of the premiere of Die Fledermaus, having first been performed in Vienna in 1874. Die Fledermaus or The Bat, is the jewel in the crown of the real King of the Waltz, Johann Strauss. The tunes stay with you forever. The humour is wicked. The atmosphere indulgent. It is a farce about men taking liberties, women taking control, and the dangers of dressing up as a bat.

Die Fledermaus tells the story of Falke who wakes up on a bench with a killer hangover. Dressed as a bat.  His 'good friend' Eisenstein thought it would be hilarious to abandon him here after partying the night before, leaving him a long walk of shame.  It’s been a long time coming, but tonight’s the night for Falke to get his revenge at the most glamourous party of the season where there’ll be champagne. What could possibly go wrong?

Northern Ireland Opera’s two most recent productions - Rigoletto at the Grand Opera House and Sweeney Todd at the Lyric Theatre – resulted in sell-out performances and a season that has seen a further staggering 70% rise in their audience numbers. Founded in only 2010, Northern Ireland Opera has won international acclaim and awards for the quality of its work and been seen in the UK, Ireland and internationally.  From its inception, the company was determined to produce strongly imaginative, bold risk-taking work and to broaden the audience for opera in Northern Ireland.  Its new Artistic Director, Walter Sutcliffe, has already seen sold out shows and an increase in audiences of over 400% since his arrival. A graduate of the University of Cambridge and the Royal College of Music, London, Walter has directed over 35 critically-acclaimed productions which have been seen in the UK, United States, Germany, Austra, Czech Republic, Italy, France, Estonia, and most recently Chile.

Walter Sutcliffe commented:

“The shows have all been greeted with standing ovations which is a fitting tribute to the quality of the artists on the stage, musicians in the pit and technicians working behind them. Our new operating model has brought in more attendees than ever before, brought us the largest box office since the company began, and has inspired literally thousands of visitors new and old. Thank you to everyone who has helped us take this step.”

On their latest production, Walter commented:

“The Bat, in German Die Fledermaus, is the world’s best and most popular operetta. If you love pure luxurious feel good music there is little more uplifting and indulgent than its incredible array of Viennese waltzes that sparkle even more than the champagne its characters are powered by. And, there’s so much more. It’s a brilliant comedy of male paranoia, bringing out the absurdity of man’s ego mania and obsessions with sexual potency, conquests and status.  In a masterclass of irony, it simultaneously seduces and ridicules us. It may be 145 years old, but its relevance today is probably even clearer than when it was written. Or perhaps it just shows us how little has changed. And if you can’t laugh at yourself then what can you laugh at.”

May McFettridge will be making her operatic debut and will be joined by Northern Irish baritone Ben McAteer (Eisenstein), who trained at the National Opera Studio in London and on the Guildhall School of Music & Drama opera course. He is a former winner of Les Azuriales Opera prize, the Guildhall School's English song prize, NI Opera's inaugural Festival of Voice. Her most recent operatic engagements include the roles of Countess Ceprano Rigoletto, Madame Herz Der Schauspieldirektor , Cunegonde Candide (Opera in the Open), Musetta La Boheme, Zerlina Don Giovanni and Sandman & Dewfairy Hansel and Gretel (OITO). Dresden-born Stephan Loges, who will perform the role of Falke, has given recitals throughout the world, including regular appearances at Wigmore Hall, London as well as Carnegie Hall, New York, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Vienna Konzerthaus, Klavierfestival Ruhr, La Monnaie Brussels, Schleswig-Holstein Festival, Santiago de Compostela, BBC Radio 3 and the Musee d'Orsay, Paris.

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is immensely proud to be Principal Funder of  Northern Ireland Opera, through National Lottery and public funding.  The company excels at offering vital professional development opportunities for many of our brightest young singers to perform alongside world-class, critically acclaimed talent.  Die Fledermaus is one of the most loved operas and this performance promises an evening full of hilarity and stunning music.  Don’t miss out!”

A key priority of Northern Ireland Opera is to broaden the company’s work in outreach and education through extending the company’s engagements and its reach, lifting the curtain on opera by demystifying it through increased community participation and making the art form more accessible. They’ve provided an unprecedented level of access to stage and orchestral rehearsals to primary schools, post primary schools, young people with disabilities and learning difficulties, young people in care, diversity charities, LGBT charities, health charities, carers, choirs, cross-community groups and homeless shelter user groups. Their most recent dynamic outreach week involving over 40 organisations, proved NI Opera are out to show that opera is for everybody. Northern Ireland Opera will once again be providing open rehearsals to Die Fledermaus and opportunities for over 4000 of our most vulnerable people to see opera free of charge.

Tickets available from www.goh.co.uk/whats-on/die-fledermaus

 

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Luminous Soul celebrates a decade of dance with the ‘MeetShareDance’ festival

Wednesday 28th August 2019 at 8am 0 Comments Dance

Linda Fearon & Andy Paton from disability dance group Luminous Soul celebrate a decade of dance  with a free public performance at Cornmarket on Sat 7 Sept at 1pm. Image: Linda Fearon & Andy Paton from disability dance group Luminous Soul celebrate a decade of dance with a free public performance at Cornmarket on Sat 7 Sept at 1pm.

Open Arts, one of Northern Ireland’s most dynamic arts and disability organisations will be celebrating the 10th anniversary of its dance group Luminous Soul by hosting the inclusive dance festival MeetShareDance in Belfast from 5 - 7 September 2019.

Luminous Soul is the only contemporary dance development programme for disabled people in Northern Ireland and features members who have a range of disabilities: physical, sensory, learning disabilities and mental health illness.

Now in its eighth year, MeetShareDance is an international workshop dance festival which is based around the ideas of inclusivity and exchange.  It aims to raise the profile of integrated dance in artistic and everyday life. The festival has previously taken place in Porto, Madrid, Helsinki, Berlin, Lubjana and Dublin - this will be its first visit to Northern Ireland. 

Eileen Branagh, Chief Executive of Open Arts said:

“MeetShareDance embodies the ethos of what Luminous Soul as a disability dance group has been doing for the past 10 years.  We bring people of all abilities together to learn to dance, make new connections and share their talents with each other and the public.

Over a decade of dance, Luminous Soul members have worked with and been trained by some of the most well known inclusive choreographers in the UK and Ireland and some have even gone on to have their own successful careers in professional dance.  We’re really looking forward to celebrating the group’s achievements with dancers from all over Europe at MeetShareDance in Belfast in September.”

During the festival forty amateur and professional dancers from eight countries - Spain, Portugal, Germany, Ireland, Greece, Luxembourg, UK, Slovenia - will take part in three days of inclusive dance workshops at the Crescent Arts Centre. Participants in MeetShareDance will then showcase their skills to the public with a performance of a newly devised collaborative piece in Cornmarket at 1pm on Saturday 7 September.

Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts and Education, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is committed to providing opportunities for everyone to access and engage with the arts.  Congratulations to Open Arts on celebrating ten years of providing high-quality dance development opportunities, for people with disabilities, through the Luminous Soul programme and we look forward to the Meet Share Dance Festival coming to Belfast to mark the occasion this September.”

For further information on Luminous Soul and the MeetShareDance 2019 festival, visit http://openartsni.org/dance/

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Tributes are paid to Belfast actor, Julie Maxwell

Tuesday 27th August 2019 at 1pm 0 Comments

“A wonderful, engaging, instinctual presence”

Tributes have been paid to Julie Maxwell, the Belfast actor who appeared in the BBC Northern Ireland comedy Soft Border Patrol, who died suddenly on Saturday night (24th August).

Julie, a previous winner of the Kenneth Branagh Renaissance Award and an Arts Council of Northern Ireland Individual Artist Award, was a regular on the stage of the Lyric Theatre, appearing in many shows, including Joseph and His Technicolor Dreamcoat, Be My Baby, The Miser, The Crucible, Three Sisters and Ladykillers.

Caoileann Curry-Thompson, drama officer of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, paid tribute:

“We at the Arts Council are deeply shocked and saddened by the tragic news of Julie's passing. On stage Julie was a wonderful, engaging, instinctual presence; off stage she was one of the most generous, warm, funny and unassuming people you could ever meet. Her talents and flair extended beyond acting, receiving an award from the Arts Council for playwriting and assistant directing 'Shirley Valentine' at the Lyric at the time of her passing. Theatre in Northern Ireland is a close knit, familial sector, which survives by the brilliance and dedication of those who work in it. Our sector is devastated by Julie's death and the loss will be felt sorely by all and for a long time to come. Our thoughts are with her husband Rhodri

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Artist, Maurice Orr, tells of life-changing encounter with the Arts

Thursday 22nd August 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Visual Arts

Maurice Orr Image: Maurice Orr

Ballymoney-based painter Maurice Orr is an internationally-recognised artist whose paintings are exhibited and included in public and private collections around the world. He is also disabled, with an ‘invisible’ physical impairment, following illness and life-changing surgery. Today Thursday 22 August, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland published a new piece of research into the benefits of funding awards for deaf and disabled artists like Maurice who claims this award for him was life-changing.

In the case study Maurice shares his experiences in a candid interview with author Una Lynch (Sonrisa Solutions) and talks about the benefits of the Individual Disabled/Deaf Artists funding awards (iDA) managed by the University of Atypical. He discusses how his disability affects his day-to-day  life, the support he has received through the iDA Awards in building his career as an artist, and the transformative impact this support has had on improving his sense of health and wellbeing.

In 1994, following surgery, a heavy cocktail of medication and living with constant pain, Maurice could not return to work as a civil servant. All of this left him in a state of emotional anguish, with a lost sense of purpose in life and contemplating suicide.  A life-changing encounter with the arts came in 2002, in the form of an art bursary from the University of Atypical (formerly the Arts & Disability Forum), which he applied for under duress from his wife Jane, and which he now credits as having activated the artistic career that turned his life around. 

He said, “The University of Atypical has been so good to me. I wouldn’t have this career without them, and I try to encourage other people, ‘for goodness sake! Go and talk to people, get out there and do it’.”
The iDA Awards support disabled and deaf artists, writers, performers and musicians with grants of up-to £5,000 towards developing artistic careers. They offer the opportunity to gain new creative experiences through travel and access to professional mentoring.

Maurice identifies these elements as being at the crux of the scheme’s success. He interpreted the iDA award as a sign of other people’s confidence and belief in him, and found it to be hugely empowering. He was able to travel to Canada to develop his landscape painting then went on to become one of only 29 artists with disabilities to be commissioned by the 2012 Olympiad and Paralympic Games -  a highly successful career as a professional artist had begun. The iDA Award had marked the beginning of a major life enhancing experience for him.   Maurice said, “It gave me a second chance I never thought that I’d have”.

Graeme Stevenson, Researcher,  Arts Council of Northern Ireland said,

“Maurice hopes that by sharing his story he will encourage other aspiring disabled and deaf artists to take that first step and contact the University of Atypical and apply for an iDA Award and he’s a great ambassador.

“Funding the University of Atypical and the iDA Awards are two key ways in which the Arts Council is making a clear statement about its determination to improve access to, and participation in, the arts for people with a disability, and about its commitment to fulfilling the statutory obligations in compliance with Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act (1998) and Section 49A of the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. These are priorities of the Arts Council’s five year strategy for the development of the arts in Northern Ireland, 2019-2024.

“In fact the Arts Council is very keen to learn more about how people with disabilities feel about the arts. I’d like to encourage as many people as possible to check our draft Disability Action Plan which is currently out for public consultation and tell us what they think.”

The iDA Awards support disabled and deaf artists, writers, performers and musicians with grants of up-to £5,000 towards developing artistic careers. They offer the opportunity to gain new creative experiences through travel and access to professional mentoring.

To find out more about this case study, commissioned by the Arts Council and authored by Dr Una Lynch from Sonrisa Solutions ltd, plus the range of approaches that are currently being taken to promote positive attitudes and encourage greater participation in arts and culture by people with disabilities in Northern Ireland, visit the Arts Council website, www.artscouncil-ni.org

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Ulster Youth Orchestra set to perform showcase concerts in Derry and Belfast this August

Wednesday 21st August 2019 at 9am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Ulster Youth Orchestra Image: Ulster Youth Orchestra

Northern Ireland’s award winning and dynamic national youth orchestra set to perform showcase concerts in the Guildhall, Derry-Londonderry and the Ulster Hall, Belfast on 23rd and 24th August 2019.

The Ulster Youth Orchestra (UYO) is regarded as one of the jewels in the crown of the local arts scene with a reputation for excellence in all its performances. Established in 1993, the Ulster Youth Orchestra continues to flourish as the premier showcase youth orchestra in Northern Ireland. 

Following rigorous competitive auditions, 94 talented young musicians have been selected to attend the annual summer course in preparation for two public concerts in Derry-Londonderry and Belfast.  The young players will be coached by a team of highly experienced professional tutors during the intensive 10-day residential course at Greenmount Agricultural College, Antrim.

This year’s programme begins with Hindemith’s Symphonic Metamorphosis on themes by Weber – a crowd pleasing entertainer which will open the concerts with a punch!

Lowell Liebermann’s Concerto for Flute and Orchestra features Irish flautist Eimear McGeown (an alumna of UYO) who has steadily built a reputation as being one of the world's most versatile exponents of both the classical and Irish flute. Liebermann’s Concerto was commissioned by, dedicated to and first performed by UYO Patron Sir James Galway in 1992.

Arguably Tchaikovsky’s greatest work, Symphony No. 6 in B Minor, (Pathétique), concludes the evening with uninhibited expressions of longing which promises to stir the emotion of the hardest of hearts.

The UYO is thrilled to welcome British conductor Rumon Gamba to the podium for the first time. 

Rumon Gamba studied at the Royal Academy of Music winning the Lloyds Bank BBC Young Musicians Conductors Workshop in February 1998 before becoming Associate Conductor to the BBC Philharmonic, a post he held until 2002. Gamba has held the positions of Principal Conductor and Music Director of NorrlandsOperan and Chief Conductor of the Aalborg Symfoniorkester. He was also Chief Conductor and Music Director of Iceland Symphony Orchestra between 2002 and 2010.  As a champion of new music he recorded new works with BBC National Orchestra of Wales and returned to the BBC Proms in 2017 to conduct the Proms Youth Ensemble. The Royal Academy of Music recognised his contribution to music when they made him an Associate in 2002 and in 2017 he became a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music.

Public concerts will be given at the Guildhall, Derry-Londonderry on Friday 23 August and at the Ulster Hall, Belfast on Saturday 24 August.
The Ulster Youth Orchestra is grateful for the substantial funding it receives from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland to support its work.

Paula Klein, UYO General Manager, says:

“Excitement is building as we prepare for the annual summer residential course and concerts and we can’t wait to get immersed in this fantastic repertoire. We are thrilled to have someone of Rumon Gamba’s expertise and experience to inspire our young musicians to excel and look forward to producing high quality, sparkling performances!”

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“Congratulations to those talented young musicians who have won a coveted place at the Ulster Youth Orchestra summer residential course.  Working with internationally acclaimed conductors and tutors and performing to live audiences in both Belfast and Derry will develop their skills and confidence as orchestral musicians.  I wish them all success in what promises to be a fantastic experience!”

Tickets available from https://uyo.org.uk/exhibits/

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Job opportunity at the Arts Council

Tuesday 20th August 2019 at 12pm 0 Comments Visual Arts

Image:

The Arts Council is the lead development agency for the arts in Northern Ireland and now has the following temporary vacancy: Part Time Arts Development Officer

Temporary to June 2020 18.5 hours per week
Curatorial E grade  £30,149 to £31,760 per annum pro rata (Aug 17 rate)

The post holder will be responsible for the management of the Arts Council’s Arts Collection and be one of the principal professional advisers on all aspects of the Collection.

 


Closing date for applications is 4.00pm on Friday 30th August 2019.

The Completed application form and monitoring form should be returned in an envelope marked CONFIDENTIAL and must be addressed to:

The Human Resources Officer
Arts Council of Northern Ireland
1 The Sidings
Antrim Road
LISBURN
BT28 3AJ

We are an equal opportunities employer and we welcome applications from all suitably qualified persons.

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Tourism NI & the Arts Council join forces to launch spectacular arts programme at key tourism sites

Thursday 15th August 2019 at 5pm 0 Comments

Pictured (L-R) launching the programme are John McIlDuff, Dumbworld, Neil Martin, Snow Water, Dara Vallely and Anne Hart , Armagh Rhymers, with Paula McFetridge, Kabosh. Image: Pictured (L-R) launching the programme are John McIlDuff, Dumbworld, Neil Martin, Snow Water, Dara Vallely and Anne Hart , Armagh Rhymers, with Paula McFetridge, Kabosh.

'Embrace The Place', an exciting new partnership between Tourism NI and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, will animate four key tourism sites across the region by using the arts to tell the stories of that particular area, offering visitors something new and inspiring to enjoy.

Following an investment by Tourism NI of £150,000 and an open call, Dumbworld, Kabosh, The Armagh Pipers and Snow Water, were commissioned to present an original art work that reflects the heritage of some of the Northern Ireland most special locations including, Belfast's Maritime Mile, Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy, Navan Fort in Armagh and The Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh.

Tourism NI Director of Product Development, Rosemarie McHugh, said:  “We have a very vibrant arts sector here. We want this project to enable the best talent to create new innovative content to animate key tourism sites across Northern Ireland. Visitors want to engage with the authenticity of the destination and its people and the best way to get an emotional connection with place is through the arts. This creates memories and gives visitors even more compelling reasons to visit, return and encourage their friends and family to visit. 

“We have had a phenomenal response to this project from the arts sector and were overwhelmed by the quality of entries, given it was a new initiative. We are very excited to have supported the creation of the four projects and look forward to our visitors experiencing them over the coming weeks,” Rosemarie added.

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added, “The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is proud to partner with Tourism NI on this thrilling programme of arts and heritage events to be held at some of Northern Ireland’s most scenic  locations.  There is so much to look forward to and all four projects promise to be wonderful, immersive experiences for the thousands of visitors that will engage with them.”       

The multi award-winning, Dumbworld along with project partner, Titanic Foundation, will present, All The Things We Are, a striking piece of audio-visual contemporary art that uses three shipping containers to reflect the comings and goings of this unique coastal location.  The art work, which is located at the Titanic Slipways, is free to access and marks the beginning of a new multi-purpose art installation that will remain in place for six months, drawing local people and tourists to the Maritime Mile.

Kerrie Sweeney, Chief Executive of Titanic Foundation, who also funded the launch project, All The Things We Are, commended all the partners involved, “Embrace The Place is an innovative approach to location inspired art. For us, the initial investment from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Tourism NI was a much-needed catalyst to deliver a project of scale with Dumbworld, which we could never have achieved alone. Through unique collaborations, all the projects have delivered exciting new content, unlocking new partnerships and fresh ways of working.  We are delighted to be involved and look forward to building on this success in the future”.

Theatre company, Kabosh and Seamus Heaney HomePlace, will present, A Bellaghy Tale, across three weekends in September.  A Bellaghy Tale is a theatrical walking tour, beginning at HomePlace and linking key sites throughout the village of Bellaghy that are closely related to the life and works of Seamus Heaney.  Written by Vincent Higgins, the 60 minute experience consists of 6x7 minute long dramas featuring local songs brought to life by Jane Cassidy.   Inspired by the history of each location, these original short plays will give voice to the spirit of each site and how they impacted on the life of Seamus Heaney, ultimately inspiring his life’s work.  The dramas and music will be available to download from the HomePlace and Kabosh websites with the scripts made available in a number of different languages.

On 6-7 September, the Armagh Rhymers and Armagh Pipers Club will present Macha at Navan Fort, a spectacular multi-media performance featuring music by renowned composer, Niall Vallely.  Macha is a unique musical and dramatic celebration of the myths and mysteries of Eamhain Macha, the ancient seat of the rulers of Ulster. Commencing at the Navan Centre, the two evenings includes a dramatic performance by Armagh Rhymers, musicians from Armagh Pipers Club and audio-visual displays together with a promenade to the Fort itself.

Snow Water has created Live at the Folk Park, which takes visitors on a musical journey charting the stories of those who had to leave Ulster over the course of 300 years.  It involves some of Northern Ireland’s finest musicians and singers (including Gareth Dunlop, No Oil Paintings, Jack Warnock, ROE, Eilidh Patterson, Niall Hanna and Maurice Leyden) with Neil Martin as Musical Director and Joe Lindsay as Presenter.  Live performances filmed in locations throughout the Ulster American Folk Park include songs from home and songs written from afar about home; Scottish-influenced fiddle music and piping; Appalachian music; religious songs; fast, lively, energising dance music and slower, reflective pieces.  It will culminate in a new permanent online exhibition, a piece of vinyl, and an innovative app which will be used as a guided tour of the Park and as part of a treasure hunt. 

For tickets and more information on Embrace The Place events visit

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Belfast International Arts Festival 2019 Programme Launched

Thursday 15th August 2019 at 12pm 0 Comments Dance , Drama , Literature , Northern Ireland Music , Visual Arts

Terence Brannigan, Chair Tourism NI, Jonathan Stewart, Director British Council NI, La Dame Blanche, Dr Damian Smyth, Head of Drama and Literature at Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Richard Wakely, Artistic Director Belfast International Arts Festival, Image: Terence Brannigan, Chair Tourism NI, Jonathan Stewart, Director British Council NI, La Dame Blanche, Dr Damian Smyth, Head of Drama and Literature at Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Richard Wakely, Artistic Director Belfast International Arts Festival,

The programme for the 57th Belfast International Arts Festival has been launched, with a showcase performance by one of the Festival’s signature artists, Cuban-born Parisian musician, La Dame Blanche, who will perform at the Belfast Empire on Saturday 19th October.  (Real name) Yaite Ramos Rodriguez is the daughter of the Creative Director of the Buena Vista Social Club.  Reflecting the festival’s key themes of internationalism and artistic fusion, La Dame Blanche brought guests at the launch to their feet with her infectious and unique blend of hip-hop, cumbia and reggae.

Festival Artistic Director, Richard Wakely unveiled the programme, which will this year feature over 200 events from the world of music, dance, film, visual arts, literature and theatre.

He revealed that Belfast has been chosen to contribute to two major international cultural celebrations, Japan-UK Season of Culture and FranceDance UK.  He said, “The 2019 Belfast International Arts Festival will open on 15 October with the UK premiere of Median, a contemporary paring of choreography with digital projection and electronic sound from Japanese multi-disciplinary artist Hiroaki Umeda. Think of the most creative music videos by Radiohead and Aphex Twin, meets the stealth and intensity of The Matrix.  Also featuring in the programme will be ASUNA, a wonderful young artist from Tokyo with his quirky, immersive sound installation, 100 Keyboards. It is an honour to have been selected to host some of Japan’s finest artists.”

Richard went on to reveal another major arts first for the city.  He said, “Showcasing the best of international dance for Belfast audiences has always been one of my biggest goals for the Festival.  I am especially pleased to announce that on the weekend of 25th and 26th October, Belfast International Arts Festival will be co-hosting the first ever all-Ireland dance conference, Co-Motion, in partnership with Dance Ireland, Dance Resource Base and Queen’s University Belfast.

“That weekend’s Festival programme will include performances by Shobana Jeyasingh Dance performing an Irish premiere of Staging Schiele (the story of radical Austrian nude artist and self-portraitist, Egon Schiele) before it heads to Southbank’s Queen Elizabeth Hall for its London run; and acclaimed French company (LA)HORDE performing their high energy jumpstyle piece To Da Bone.  This is a captivating, contemporary rebel-call to the social media generation, both in its narrative and in the way that the cast was crowd-sourced from across Europe, through an open audition on the internet.  The work of (LA)HORDE will be recognisable from the multi-million-viewed music video for Christine and the Queens’ track Girlfriend.”

This year’s Embrace FREE public events programme will be headlined by a breathtaking UK and Irish premiere performance by French all-female circus-arts troupe led by Chloe Moglia, called La Spire, which will take place in Belfast’s Botanic Gardens on Saturday 19 and Sunday 20 October. This is a free, unticketed event, no booking required.

In a typically surprising sidestep for the Festival, Belfast architects Hall McKnight will showcase an immersive large-scale installation at Ulster University for three weeks, which was originally presented at the prestigious Venice Biennale International Architecture Exhibition.  Entitled Unique Instruments, Expectant Spaces, this critically acclaimed installation looks at the re-imagining of civic spaces – an interesting subject, as the Cathedral Quarter and University undergoes its own landscape re-imagining.

Meanwhile, the eclectic musical offering in this year’s programme will feature two shows in the Grand Opera House by Glen Hansard, which have all but sold-out on pre-release, County Down-born Two Door Cinema Club and Joshua Burnside, 70’s ska favourites, The Selecter and a host of classical performances including NI star pianist Ruth McGinley and violinist Darragh Morgan performing as a duo for the first time; and classical pianist Lucy Parham, joined by Juliet Stevenson and Tim McInnerny, performing Beloved Clara which brings to life the love triangle story between Robert Schumann, his wife Clara and Johannes Brahms.

In the field of theatre, and underscoring the continuing importance of cultural relations across the island, the Festival brings together some of Ireland’s finest, including Dublin-based Fishamble with Pat Kinevane’s searing solo choreography and theatre piece Before, which touchingly combines some of the best-loved songs from musical theatre with a family drama centred around the closing day in Dublin’s iconic Clery’s department store; and an edgy, of-the-moment piece by Chalk it Down Productions, Spliced, a study of mental health and male identity in the uber-masculine sports world of gaelic games.

On the lighter side, Forced Entertainment will bring its mesmerising and Beckett influenced hit play, Real Magic to the MAC; while Northern Ireland’s Big Telly Theatre Company will premiere The Worst Café in the World, a special for the Festival, in a make-believe pop-up café in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter.  Here, the diners will become flies on the wall as reality theatre unfolds around them through a histrionic chef, a menu of real-life pathos, comedy and drama, and waiting staff who just, well, wait.  With 8 performances from Wednesday 23 to Sunday 27 October this is chaos not to be missed and diners are advised to book a post-theatre meal elsewhere!

The literary and film sections of the programme are packed with highlights and big names, including author Michael Rosen (We’re Going on a Bear Hunt) and Booker longlisted authors Max Porter (Grief is a Thing with Feathers and Lanny) and Kevin Barry (Night Boat to Tangier), along with hotly tipped Kerry Hudson (Lowborn), Emilie Pine (Notes to Self), Meena Kandasamy (Exquisite Cadavers) the Octavia Poetry Collective and a special event on 30 October, the eve of Brexit, featuring journalist and author Gavin Esler talk about his latest book Brexit without the Bullsh*t.  Perfect timing!

Always seen as an important platform to profile some of Northern Ireland’s top artists, this year’s Festival season will close with a tour-de-force UK and Ireland premiere of Lady Magma by Belfast-born choreographer and dancer, Oona Doherty. In partnership with Prime Cut Productions, Oona will come, fresh from Edinburgh Festival, to perform this brand new ode to female strength and new femininity.

Richard Wakely gave heartfelt thanks to Festival supporters and funders, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Tourism Northern Ireland, the British Council, the Department for Communities, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, and Belfast City Council, without whose backing the Festival would not be possible.

Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said,

“This is a programme of art of a truly international quality, carefully curated from around the world, the likes of which we would not otherwise have the opportunity to enjoy.

“This is not just a boon for local audiences, but it raises Northern Ireland’s creative reputation at home and abroad and strengthens opportunities for cultural exchange between international artists and our homegrown talent.

“The Arts Council is very proud to be the principal funder of this strategically and artistically important festival. We support it with Public and National Lottery funds which allow Belfast International Arts Festival to continue to deliver a hugely ambitious and inspiring programme of artistic excellence.”

Visit belfastinternationalartsfestival.com to view the full programme.

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Kelly McCaughrain announced as the new Children’s Writing Fellow for NI by Arts Council and Queen’s

Thursday 15th August 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Literature

Kelly McCaughrain announced as the new Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland Image: Kelly McCaughrain announced as the new Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland

Award-winning writer Kelly McCaughrain has accepted the post as the new Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland at the Seamus Heaney Centre, Queen’s University Belfast.

The Fellowship was created as part of Queen’s University and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland's (ACNI) joint ten-year Seamus Heaney Legacy project supported by the Atlantic Philanthropies. Kelly follows on from the inaugural Children’s Writing Fellow Myra Zepf, who has held the post for the last two years. Kelly will be based at the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s for two years, working with students and engaged in outreach activities.

Speaking about the appointment, Kelly said:

"I feel so honoured to have been invited to be the next Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland. It’s a wonderful role and I applaud The Seamus Heaney Centre and the Arts Council for creating it. Reading offers so many benefits to children’s development, and therefore to our whole society. Children’s literature is something that should be valued and promoted, and I’m thrilled to see that happening in Northern Ireland.

“We have some truly inspiring organisations, teachers, librarians and writers already working hard to promote children’s literacy and reading for pleasure and I’m really looking forward to working with them and learning from them and I hope that I can use my fellowship to support them.

“This is an opportunity to do something really special and I think it’s going to be an adventure!"

Kelly McCaughrain is a Young Adult writer from Belfast. She studied Creative Writing at Queen’s and mentors young writers at Fighting Words. Her first novel, Flying Tips for Flightless Birds, published by Walker Books, was nominated for the Carnegie Medal and won the Children's Books Ireland Eilis Dillon Award, Children's Choice Award and Book of the Year Award 2019 and the Northern Ireland Book Award 2019.

Catherine Heaney, daughter of Seamus Heaney, commented:

As the first Children’s Writing Fellow at the Seamus Heaney Centre, Myra Zepf brought incredible energy and enthusiasm to the role, and set the bar in fostering a love of reading and writing among children and teenagers across Northern Ireland. I am delighted with the appointment of Kelly McCaughrain as her successor, and look forward to watching Kelly carry on that vital work over the coming two years.”

Professor Glenn Patterson, Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “We look forward to welcoming local writer, Kelly McCaughrain, to the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s and working with her over the next two years as the next Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland.

“Kelly is a wonderful writer and I know she will inspire many children and young people to take an interest in creative writing and reading more books.”

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama at the Arts Council for Northern Ireland, commented:

“We are delighted to announce Kelly’s appointment today as the new Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland. Working with primary and secondary schools, she will promote reading for pleasure, encouraging children of all ages to discover the joy of books, as well as embarking on their own story-telling adventures.

“We’d like to thank Myra for the incredible work she has done over the last two years, sharing her infectious love of books with hundreds of children across Northern Ireland, through interactive workshops, readings and school visits.”

Kelly McCaughrain will take up her post as the Children’s Writing Fellow for Northern Ireland in August 2019.

For more information on the Fellowship and the Fellows’ public programme, please visit www.qub.ac.uk/schools/seamus-heaney-centre/people/fellows

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Northern Ireland to shine at Edinburgh International Festival

Tuesday 6th August 2019 at 11am 0 Comments

Pictured (L-R) is actor, James Doran, playwright, Meghan Tyler, actor, Vincent Higgins and dancer, Sam Finnegan. Visit www.edfringe.com and www.eif.co.uk for tickets and further information. Image: Pictured (L-R) is actor, James Doran, playwright, Meghan Tyler, actor, Vincent Higgins and dancer, Sam Finnegan. Visit www.edfringe.com and www.eif.co.uk for tickets and further information.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland and British Council Northern Ireland are supporting three arts organisations from the region to perform at this year’s Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Kabosh will perform their play, ‘Green and Blue’, written by local writer, Laurence McKeown, PrimeCut Productions and Oona Doherty will perform’ Hard To Be Soft, A Belfast Prayer’ and The Lyric Theatre in partnership with the Traverse Theatre Edinburgh, will stage ‘Crocodile Fever’ a play written by Meghan Tyler.

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, said,

“It’s vital that our artists and arts organisations are given opportunities to show their work to audiences outside of Northern Ireland .  It’s incredibly exciting that hiqh quality work from here is performed at the Edinburgh International Festival and Edinburgh Festival Fringe.   These festivals are hugely popular and these works will be seen by thousands of people, helping to put Northern Ireland on the map for all the right reasons and opening up the potential for these works to be toured nationally and internationally.”

Kabosh’s ‘Green and Blue’ runs from 2 until 25 August at Summer Hall as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. 

Traverse Theatre/Lyric Theatre’s, ‘Crocodile Fever’ runs from 2-25 August at the Traverse Theatre as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and returns to the Lyric Theatre from 3-8 September.

Prime Cut and Oona Doherty’s ‘Hard to be Soft, A Belfast Prayer’ runs from 21-24 August at the Lyceum as part of the Edinburgh International Festival.

Visit www.edfringe.com and www.eif.co.uk for tickets and further information.

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Return of spectacular seven-screen film WITHOUT

Monday 29th July 2019 at 12pm 0 Comments Dance

WITHOUT - Bridge Street Image: WITHOUT - Bridge Street

Echo Echo Dance Theatre Company is delighted to announce the return of WITHOUT – the world class seven-screen film installation by Rosemary Lee and Echo Echo that was created for City of Culture 2013.

Without has been described as “a spectacular poem of the city” and “one of the greatest artworks I have ever seen” by audience members in 2013 and the work subsequently toured to Dublin Dance Festival and British Dance Edition in Cardiff to very wide popular and critical acclaim.

Director of Without, Rosemary Lee, is one of the UK’s leading choreographers. Reflecting on the process of making the work in Community Dance Magazine recently she said:

“Without seemed to produce a sense of seeing their city through fresh eyes for some of the general public who came to see it. One lovely piece of feedback from a man in his sixties made me feel that we had done the right thing. He said, ‘Thank you. You’ve helped me see my city through new eyes and see it at peace.’”

Around 500 people were involved in filming Without during April 2013 including cyclists, tea-dancers, skateboarders, dancers, and hundreds of local primary school children. Many thousands of people watched the work being filmed around the city from Bishop Street to the Guildhall, from Ebrington to Creggan.

Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor Michaela Boyle, said:

“I am delighted that this event has been included as part of the Council’s Walls 400 programme that sets out to showcase a wide range of local cultural and arts projects across the city and district. Good luck to everyone involved and I hope it is a huge success.”

Echo Echo’s principal funder, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, supported the initial creation of Without in 2013. Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, said,

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is proud to have supported the development of this powerful and moving work in 2013; a project that was hugely engaging for the local community that helped to create it. Following a successful tour in Ireland and the UK, we’re absolutely thrilled to see this special work return to the city where it was created to be enjoyed by many.”

The seven films of Without are shown concurrently, in-the-round, in a specially created installation accompanied by an original sound score by Graeme Miller. Each full cycle lasts 22 minutes and is shown on a continuous loop.

Without will return to the city for a month-long exhibition from Friday 23rd August 2019 at Echo Echo Studios in Magazine Street as part of the Walls400 programme of events. Visit www.echoechodance.com/whatson for opening hours and further information.

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Ulster Youth Choir celebrates its 20th anniversary with a tour to the Provençal Festival, France

Friday 26th July 2019 at 2pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Pictured (L-R) at rehearsals are Ulster Youth Choir singers,  Anthony Cowan, Victoria Thompson, Artistic Director, Andrew Nunn, Aiobh O’Neill and Jonathan Green. Image: Pictured (L-R) at rehearsals are Ulster Youth Choir singers, Anthony Cowan, Victoria Thompson, Artistic Director, Andrew Nunn, Aiobh O’Neill and Jonathan Green.

The Provençal Festival will welcome 40 of Northern Ireland’s most talented young singers, in concerts from 2-5 August, as part of the Ulster Youth Choir’s milestone 20th anniversary celebrations.  The tour, which is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, follows a spectacular performance  with 240 singers at Belfast’s Ulster Hall on Saturday 27 July, featuring current members of  the organisation’s three choirs plus many of their alumni who have gone on to carve out successful singing careers.

The Ulster Youth Choir is the leading youth music provider in quality choral tuition and performance opportunities for the finest young singers in Northern Ireland.   Over the last few years, the organisation has grown to three choirs, supporting young people, aged from 11 up to 24, to access high-quality music making and develop their talents, coached by a team of highly-experienced professional tutors.

Andrew Nunn, Artistic Director, Ulster Youth Choir, commented,

“This summer is a big celebration for Ulster Youth Choir as we mark our 20th anniversary.  All three of our choirs will be gathering together to perform in the magnificent surroundings of the Ulster Hall, alongside 30 of our alumni, which promises to be a very special moment.  Following this we will tour to France for a series of performances at the wonderful, Provençal Festival, an experience that will undoubtedly remain with the young people taking part for a long time.” 

Joanne Wright, Arts Development Officer for Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added:

“Congratulations to the Ulster Youth Choir on achieving 20 years as the foremost youth music provider in the training, development, and showcasing of our finest young singers in Northern Ireland.  The Arts Council is proud to be principal funder of this important organisation and is also delighted to have been able to support this tour to France to mark this special 20-year milestone.  I would encourage everyone to go along to their performance in the Ulster Hall which promises to be an evening of tremendous music.”

The 20th anniversary concert, conducted by Ulster Youth Choir’s Artistic Director, Andrew Nunn, takes place at the Ulster Hall on Saturday 27 July at 7:30pm.  Visit www.ulsterhall.co.uk/what-s-on/all-events/ulster-youth-choir for tickets.

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Celebrate Northern Ireland’s Local Creative Talent with August Craft Month 2019

Friday 19th July 2019 at 3pm 0 Comments Craft , Visual Arts

Northern Ireland is set for another incredible celebration of Craft as August Craft Month begins once again Image: Northern Ireland is set for another incredible celebration of Craft as August Craft Month begins once again

Northern Ireland is set for another incredible celebration of Craft as August Craft Month begins once again. Showcasing the growing number of exceptional creative talent on its doorstep, August Craft Month will shine a spotlight on our renowned regional craft known across the globe and the new hidden gems making waves in the local craft world.

With internationally-recognised makers, craft start-ups and increasingly popular hands-on craft activities, the vibrant craft sector is continually thriving in NI. August Craft Month is the perfect opportunity to celebrate the local talented artists, designers and makers across NI, each with their own personal story behind their unique craft.

There will be over 100 hands-on and intimate events this August including workshops, exhibitions featuring world-class Craft makers, fun festivals and insightful talks. The August Craft Month event listings guide and online calendar are the perfect way for people to find out what’s on, plan their travel and embark upon their own creative adventures.

The eclectic collection of ceramists, textile makers, glassblowers, jewellery makers and more includes a mix of August Craft Month favourites and new creative faces. Each have been selling their bespoke wares online, from home and in stores, and are now bringing their products to life for the people of NI to experience. With the fantastic opportunity to interact with, and become immersed in, local craft talent, August Craft Month can be found across all pockets of NI.

This year, there will also be a strong focus on mental health and wellbeing, demonstrating how craft can be a positive impact and open up meaningful conversations.

Katherine McDonald, Director, CRAFT NI said,

“We are delighted to be coordinating August Craft Month for another year. Celebrating its 13th year, the events are always an incredible opportunity to highlight the remarkable quality of craft across Northern Ireland. We would encourage visitors to engage with our makers, to enjoy the experiences and to learn more from some of our top talent, immersing yourself in the world of craft.”

August Craft Month is coordinated by CRAFT NI on behalf of the Craft Sector and is funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland through the National Lottery.

Patricia Lavery, Arts Development Officer, Visual Arts, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said,

“August Craft Month is back with another impressive programme across Northern Ireland. It is the ideal time for people to explore the world of craft as never before, with something new for everyone. The Arts Council is delighted to support this wonderful celebration of craft, which offers an important platform to showcase the talent of our local craft makers, bringing great art and craft to all.”
August Craft Month provides a platform for makers and the public to create, share and meet, and the immersive nature of a wide range of events ensures that it offers such variety to suit a multitude of interests, from children to craft fans alike.

Each event showcases the excellence and diversity of craft in NI. The month-long programme provides a fantastic opportunity for everyone to make, see, learn about and buy craft. Highlights of August Craft Month 2019 include:

  • Yarnfolk Festival of Wool returns to Whitehead for its third year, with artisan textiles, craft, workshops, demos and food market features in the village. Bring the whole family aboard a heritage steam train ride and enjoy a fantastic yarn and fibre-filled day.
  • Adam Frew will be opening his ceramics studio to visitors, including a four-day pottery course. Participants will work entirely in porcelain, throwing and turning pots. They will also benefit from Adam's unique and expressive approach to decoration through insightful demos.
  • Field is the annual group exhibition of contemporary craft and fine art curated by Sharon Adams and inspired by the local landscape. Works include glass, textiles, painting, sculpture and prints sitting among the old byre’s original agricultural features.
  • Benefield Spencer Glass is performing glassblowing demonstrations at its studio, with the opportunity to purchase beautiful, unique handblown glass.
  • Collectives of Craft makers are springing up and thriving across the land.  North Down Craft Collective present a special August Craft Month Market and pop-up café.  Members have been working in pairs over the last few months designing and making collaborative pieces.   South Down Craft Collective is celebrating its first birthday during August Craft Month. Browse through the unique, handmade products from a great line up of Craft makers and food producers at the Craft Market. There will be live food and craft demonstrations and you can also enjoy a delicious snack and a cuppa in the pop-up café.
  • Ceramicist Anna Smyth’s The Dinner Party installation focuses on aspects of contemporary living, exploring issues through hand thrown, porcelain plates as metaphors for the diners. Contributions by photographer Nathanael Smyth and silversmith Joel Smyth add to the setting.

For more information on the events across Northern Ireland, visit www.craftni.org/augustcraftmonth and share your own craft stories with #augcraft #craftni

To find out more about craft all year round visit www.craftni.org where you can subscribe for news, browse the Directory, an online listing of local Craft makers, or click on the interactive Craft Map that includes details of shops, galleries, venues and makers’ studios across Northern Ireland that are open to the public.

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1,700 young, aspiring performers take to the stage at Belfast’s Grand Opera House

Thursday 11th July 2019 at 2pm 0 Comments Dance , Drama

Pictured at rehearsals (L-R) are Nathan Johnston, Lara Mulgrew, Louis Fitzpatrick and Ian Wilson, Grand Opera House. Image: Pictured at rehearsals (L-R) are Nathan Johnston, Lara Mulgrew, Louis Fitzpatrick and Ian Wilson, Grand Opera House.

Over 1,700 young people have taken part in the Grand Opera House’s Summer Youth Project since it began in 2011.  This summer, for the first time, the Grand Opera House will present not one but two large-scale productions – Bugsy Malone, starring 150 local 10-18 year olds, and Miss Saigon® School Edition, with a cast of 80 talented young people aged 16-18, supported by Phoenix Natural Gas and National Lottery funding through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Now in its ninth year, the Grand Opera House Summer Youth Production gives young aspiring singers, actors, and dancers the opportunity to perform in front of thousands of people on the iconic Grand Opera House stage, following in the footsteps of stars including Laurel and Hardy, Luciano Pavarotti and Darcey Bussell.

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented,

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is committed to supporting opportunities for our young people to access and participate in high quality arts.  The Grand Opera House excels at offering such opportunities through their impressive, Summer Youth Programme and I would encourage everyone to go along and enjoy what promises to be two terrific performances.”  

Michael McKinstry, Phoenix Natural Gas, Chief Executive Officer said,

“We are delighted to partner with the Grand Opera House on the Summer Youth Productions and give young people from across Northern Ireland a valuable opportunity to develop their skills and take centre stage in a professional production.

“Last year more than 200 aspiring actors and young people got their break into the creative industry through the Summer Production programme and we’re proud to play our part in helping them access a platform where they can learn, perform and showcase their potential.”

Ian Wilson, Chief Executive of the Grand Opera House, added,

“Everyone at the Grand Opera House is extremely proud of the Summer Youth Productions. These shows give young people invaluable opportunities to work with a professional creative team and our vastly experienced technical crew, making new friends and having great fun at the same time.

“I am delighted that Phoenix Natural Gas is supporting the Summer Youth Productions once again this year. We look forward to staging the biggest and most ambitious productions ever in July and August.”

Catch the shows, Miss Saigon® School Edition, from 18-21 July, and Bugsy Malone, from 1-3 August.  For tickets visit www.goh.co.uk

 

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Arts Council awards almost £1.2million of National Lottery funding to local projects

Thursday 4th July 2019 at 2pm 0 Comments Community Arts , Craft , Dance , Drama , Literature , Northern Ireland Music , Visual Arts , Youth Arts

OBon on the Foyle have been awarded £25,000 under the latest round of Lottery Project funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Image: OBon on the Foyle have been awarded £25,000 under the latest round of Lottery Project funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Forty-seven (47) arts organisations across Northern Ireland are set to benefit from almost £1.2million of Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery funding, to bring a series of high-quality arts projects to people across the region.

The funding will be used by groups to support the development and creation of events, exhibitions, performances and workshops across all areas of the arts, including community arts, literature, visual arts, music and theatre.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, stated,

“I am delighted to announce we are awarding almost £1.2million of National Lottery funding to arts projects that will bring a high-quality, diverse programme  of activities to communities across Northern Ireland. National Lottery funding helps make extraordinary things happen and touches the lives of many individuals, families and communities; capturing the imagination of Northern Ireland through great arts activities.

Indeed with the National Lottery approaching its 25th birthday in November 2019, we can look back on an amazing arts legacy here in Northern Ireland. We have seen many fabulous projects come to fruition, for example, the Building Peace through the Arts Programme, replaced signs of sectarianism and racism with innovative public art, through to the successful capital programme that built arts centres and theatres at the heart of towns and cities across NI, as cultural anchors for regeneration and creativity.”

Over the last 25 years, National Lottery funding has contributed vastly to the socio-economic and cultural growth of Northern Ireland.  It is a vital source of funding that allows the Arts Council to support organisations that are bringing quality arts events and programming to all.

The relative decline in National Lottery funding over recent years has meant that, consequently, the demand for the annual National Lottery Project Fund exceeded the available resources – the Arts Council was simply unable to fund all eligible work.

This year the Arts Council received 61 applications requesting over £2.25M and unfortunately not all applicants could be funded.  Among the 47 successful applicants offered National Lottery Project Funding in 2018-19 were:

  • R-Space Gallery in Lisburn has been awarded £47,000 to support their annual visual arts programme and accessible learning activities.It will also support major commissions of artwork including a light installation by local artist, Robin Price, as part of the wider Festival of Light in Lisburn city this autumn-winter.
  • Obon On The Foyle has been awarded £25,000 to support an outreach programme of workshops in taiko drumming, manga art and Japanese dance in Derry, Claudy, Whitehead, Carrickfergus plus a collaboration project to bring internationally renowned taiko artist, Shogo Yoshii, and his performance group from Tokyo to Derry to work with local musicians and perform at the Obon On The Foyle festival.
  • The internationally acclaimed, Armagh Pipers, has been awarded £46,500 to support the 53rd year of their annual education & tuition programme.The Armagh Pipers play a core role in the traditional arts sector in Northern Ireland; promoting access to high quality music tuition, year round audience building and connecting the local piping fraternity with international musical networks of the highest calibre.
  • The 174 Trust, which manages the Duncairn Arts Centre in north Belfast, received £ 50,000 to support their annual programme of events and workshops plus a salaried post.The venue has delivered a high level of artistic growth since opening in 2014 and has firmly established itself as one of the most popular and successful arts centres in Belfast.

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JLF Belfast, a spectacular weekend celebrating literature, Indian culture and creativity

Wednesday 26th June 2019 at 7am 0 Comments Literature

Grand daughter of Mahatma Gandhi, Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, key note speaker at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy for a Northern Ireland edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival Image: Grand daughter of Mahatma Gandhi, Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, key note speaker at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy for a Northern Ireland edition of the Jaipur Literature Festival

The inaugural JLF Belfast, an international celebration of literature, creativity and music, brought together a wealth of distinguished speakers and cultural thinkers from across the world to packed audiences at the Lyric Theatre and Seamus Heaney HomePlace on 21-23 June.

Hosted in partnership with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, British Council Northern Ireland and producers, Teamwork Arts, JLF Belfast brought a true spirit of the original Jaipur Literature Festival, hailed as one of the greatest literary shows on earth, to Northern Ireland. Across the weekend audiences enjoyed 16 events including readings, fascinating  panel discussions and stimulating debates with acclaimed writers discussing themes of Borders, Food, Gender, Peace and Non-violence, Women and Freedom, Mythology and Artificial Intelligence.

Throughout the weekend audiences heard from some of the most inspiring, trailblazing authors and cultural commentators of our time from the UK, Ireland, India and beyond. 

Highlights included; special guest, Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, distinguished granddaughter of India’s founding father, Mahatma Gandhi, who gave an emotive and uplifting speech at Seamus Heaney Homeplace on Sunday where she spoke of her pilgrimage to “ the soil of south Derry which nourished Seamus Heaney”.  Tara emphasized the importance of non-violence and friendship on her visit to Northern Ireland urging young people here to look into their minds and “not to be nourished by hate”.

At the Lyric Theatre on Saturday, writer and historian, William Dalrymple, together with Navtej Sarna, discussed the intriguing story of the Kohinoor, the world’s most infamous diamond.  Mathematician, Marcus du Sautoy, explored creativity alongside advances in artificial intelligence and what this means for the future whilst celebrity chef and star of Netflix’s Chef’s Table, Asma Khan discussed her experiences of cooking, community and life.

The iconic and charismatic, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, joined Bee Rowlatt in discussing her life as a transgender rights activist and Brian Keenan talked about his experience of the trauma of incarceration and the will to survive. 

Cameroon-born writer, Eric Ngalle Charles joined Sudeep Sen, Francis Jones  and Ruth Padel to read their own work and also their most-loved poem by Seamus Heaney and Namita Gokhale joined Jan Carson and Vayu Naidu to discuss, myth, memory and culture.

Irish-American author, Michael Patrick MacDonald, discussed writing about conflict with fellow authors Malachi O’Doherty, Navdeep Suri and Glenn Patterson whilst Lucy Caldwell, discussed foremothers: women and freedom with Bee Rowlatt , Namita Gokhale and Vayu Naidu.      

Throughout the weekend, Indian and Irish musical traditions came together with musical performances from local Irish traditional musicians Jason O’Rourke and young people from the Glengormley School of Traditional Music, and Indian musicians, Harpreet and Vidya Shah, accompanied by Polish sitar player, Daniel Pers.  

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland,

“The Jaipur Literature Festival is the world’s largest festival of its kind and focuses firmly on topics that are both contemporary and also reflect the concerns that our society has.  We were thrilled to present the inaugural JLF Belfast with our partners, British Council and Teamwork Arts, an enriching manifestation of the original Jaipur Literature Festival in Northern Ireland.  The weekend brought together unbelievably brilliant speakers and people that are eminent in their field to be enjoyed by audiences from here and beyond.  We very much look ahead with anticipation to next year’s JLF Belfast.”

Sanjoy Roy, Director, TeamWork Arts, added,

“JLF Belfast is all about looking at shared experiences between different cultures, celebrating our common factors but also understanding the differences, and actually examining them both from a local, national and international perspective.  This weekend has been a tremendous success we very much look forward to presenting JLF Belfast in 2020.” 

Asma Khan, chef and restauranteur, commented,

“There is a place in India where two rivers meet and JLF Belfast reminds me of that; of cultures meeting and merging together.  All cultures have turned up this weekend to enjoy JLF Belfast and there’s a real sense of joy and of a new beginning of an exciting journey.”

JLF Belfast will return in 2020, keep up to date at www.artscouncil-ni.org and www.jlflitfest.org

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Celebrating creativity and diversity at this year’s EastSide Arts Festival

Tuesday 25th June 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Circus & Carnival Arts , Comedy , Craft , Dance , Drama , Literature , Northern Ireland Music , Visual Arts

Keith Lynch, Noel Harron, Gary Crossan from Baby Daddy and Katie Richardson from 80s Prom themed event The Beautiful Ones. Image: Keith Lynch, Noel Harron, Gary Crossan from Baby Daddy and Katie Richardson from 80s Prom themed event The Beautiful Ones.

From the 1st-11th August places and spaces across east Belfast will transform into hubs of creativity and diversity for the annual EastSide Arts Festival. Supported by Arts Council of Northern Ireland, this year’s  exciting programme is filled with glorious new experiences, amazing and inspiring activities which are open for everyone to enjoy.

With so much to do across music, comedy, film, theatre, talks, workshops, exhibitions, literature, events for the young and old, community events and heritage tours over the 11 days, here’s 11 ideas to capture your imagination:

1. The Big Top at C.S. Lewis Square is back. There’s cool stuff for families with The Irish Video Game Orchestra, Bollywood Baba and Pink and Blue. Music from Kitt Phillipa and Beauty Sleep, a day celebrating 50 years since The Pound opened in Belfast, culminating with a performance by Henry Cluney and Jim Reilly’s X-Stiff Little Fingers; circus cabaret with Tumble Circus and to finish the festival in style, a Dragtastic Wrap Party.

2. Visual Arts: Enjoy late night art events with ArtisAnn Gallery, The Vault and Creative Exchange or call into the fantastic new QSS Studios in the Wyse Byse building for their members’ exhibition.

3. Film: Classic films at  Strand Arts Centre include the 60th anniversary screening of Some Like It Hot and Sunday brunch and screening of When Harry Met Sally.

4. Tower Street Faculty Takeover: For one day only join Seedhead Arts as they take over the old Tower Street Campus and go back to school, but not as you know it – this school curriculum includes beginners’ axe throwing, ballroom dancing and a cocktail masterclass.

5. Workshops: If you are into all things dance check out Project Dance’s weekend of dance featuring leading names from the dance industry, or if creative writing takes your fancy, discover the history of the area and join east Belfast author Heather Richardson for her workshop, ’Stories of the Streets.’

6. Talks & Tours: From Van Morrison to George Best,  Yardmen to Gaelic Tours, Titanic Belfast to Belfast During the Blitz, Gourmet Greenway Foraging  to discovering the stories of people from the past in Dundonald Cemetery, there are dozens of tours to choose from.

7. Children and Families: Travel to Narnia with Mr Tumnus and Translink, listen to three beardy men play music just for babies in ‘Baby Daddy’, meet books and bears at Connswater Shopping Centre, join in all things creative at the FunKademy or check out Drag Queen Story Time at Holywood Arches Library.

6. Special Events include a tea dance at Knocknagoney Community Centre, a literary knittery with Emily DeDakis and Yoga in the Park with East Belfast Yoga and Vault Artist Studios.

9. Theatre and Comedy:  Enjoy A night in November, the award-winning play by east Belfast’s Marie Jones at Strand Arts Centre, a new play by Daniel Kelly about living with Dementia, A Thought for Your Pennies, back by popular demand the cult classic Murder She Got Wrote Off or take a sneak preview of a brand new play, Living the Dream, based on a true story featuring the ‘spirit’ of George Best and John Lennon.

10. Music and Words: Take you pick from an 80’s Prom with live band at The Vault, live music by The Ronnie Greer Almost Big Band with special guests Alice McCullough and Ken Haddock, Hex Hue at St. Martin’s Church, Boxcar Blues Brothers, Matt McGinn, poetry with Colin Dardis, storytelling with Tenx9 and ‘Reporting the Troubles’ with Deric Henderson and Ivan Little.

11. EastSide Festival Fayre and Parkfest: Enjoy A World of Rhythms with ArtsEkta, street dancing with JamzNI and an event showcasing new DJs with More Volume. Two days and two parks -  enjoy free family fun at C.S Lewis Square and Orangefield Park as part of EastSide Parkfest and look out for the live sessions stage featuring young talent from the annual Forestside singer/ songwriter competition at Orangefield Park.

Roisin McDonough, Chief  Executive of Arts Council of Northern Ireland said:

“It’s always a pleasure to welcome the annual EastSide Arts Festival with its packed programme of inspiring and entertaining arts and cultural  events for everyone to enjoy. The Arts Council, as a principal funder, is delighted to be able to support the EastSide Arts in their continued success as they go about delivering their vision for the creative transformation of east Belfast.”

Director of the EastSide Arts Festival, Rachel Kennedy:

“This year’s festival programme reflects and celebrates the growing diversity and creative that is making its presence felt in this part of the city.  It is with huge thanks to the support of Arts Council of Northern Ireland as well as all our funders and sponsors that we can continue to deliver our annual festival. The people and places of east Belfast provided the inspiration for our amazing 11 days of events. We warmly welcome everyone to come and join us and enjoy this year’s unique and exciting programme.”

For the full festival programme visit www.eastsidearts.net and follow the Festival on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram #ESAFest19.

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Gandhi’s granddaughter to open JLF Belfast’s celebratory weekend of literature and creativity

Friday 21st June 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Literature

Pictured are Damian Smyth, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Namita Gokhale, writer, publisher and Director of the Jaipur Literature Festival, Sanjoy K Roy, Managing Director Teamwork Art, Reba Som, historian and author, David Torrens, No Alibis Bookstore Image: Pictured are Damian Smyth, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Namita Gokhale, writer, publisher and Director of the Jaipur Literature Festival, Sanjoy K Roy, Managing Director Teamwork Art, Reba Som, historian and author, David Torrens, No Alibis Bookstore

Distinguished granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi, Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, who has devoted her life to working for public welfare, will open the two-day literature festival, JLF Belfast, at a launch event on Friday 21st June at the Belfast Harbour Commissioners Office.

Key JLF Belfast highlights

  • JLF Belfast 2019 takes place on Saturday 22 June 2019 at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast and Sunday 23 June 2019 at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy
  • This inaugural edition of JLF Belfast includes 16 sessions across 2 days featuring themes of Borders, Food, Gender, Peace and Non-violence, Women and Freedom, Mythology and Looking into the Future: Artificial Intelligence
  • Distinguished speakers include William Dalrymple, Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, Brian Keenan, star chef and writer, Asma Khan and Patrick Gale, among others

BELFAST, Friday 21 June 2019 – The spirit of the magnificent Jaipur Literature Festival in India comes to Northern Ireland for the first time this weekend, 21-23 June, with a packed programme of events at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast and Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy.  Hosted in partnership with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, British Council Northern Ireland and the Festival’s producer, Teamwork Arts, JLF Belfast will embody the true spirit of the original festival, hailed as one of the greatest literary shows on Earth.

JLF Belfast will welcome eminent authors and thinkers from India, Northern Ireland and across the globe to showcase India and South Asia’s literary heritage, multilingualism, oral traditions, performing arts, books, food and ideas in a packed weekend of readings, panel discussions and debates. Themes under discussion throughout the weekend will include Borders, Food, Gender, Peace and Non-violence, Women and Freedom, Mythology and Looking into the Future: Artificial Intelligence.  There will also be a pop-up shop hosted by No Alibis Bookstore where people can get their books signed by the authors in attendance. 

Namita Gokhale, Writer and Co-Director of the festival, commented:

“The newest edition of JLF Belfast takes our festival into the heart of an intense and passionate literary culture. In the last several years, the Jaipur Literature Festival in India has had the pleasure of welcoming writers of the stature of Anne Enright, Colm Toibin, David McWilliams, David Park, Glenn Patterson, Jan Carson, Jon Halliday, Joseph O’Neill, Patricia Forde, Paul McVeigh, Roddy Doyle and Roy Foster among others. We have been inspired by the literature, drama, and songs of Irish culture, as indeed the art of conversation and orality. Our international editions, now including JLF Belfast, are all rooted and local and yet deeply cosmopolitan. The long connections between Irish and Indian literature have helped us appreciate the resonances between them.”

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added,

“It is with great pleasure that we welcome JLF Belfast to the Lyric Theatre in Belfast and Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy, this weekend. This new, two-day arts event will celebrate our links with India and our shared love of conversation, literature and debate.”

“This tremendous festival will be a platform for creating, sharing and promoting the creative arts and will deepen our partnership with key Indian cultural institutions. We are delighted to welcome international writers and audiences to the festival this weekend and share our famous Northern Ireland hospitality.”

Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland, commented:

“British Council is honoured to be working with our colleagues at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Teamwork Arts, the producer of the  Jaipur Literature Festival to deepen the existing literature connections that we have with India, to welcome authors from India to Northern Ireland and share Indian writing and publishing with our audiences at the inaugural JLF Belfast.”

“Building inbound and outbound exchanges and opportunities between Northern Ireland and other countries including India is a key focus of the British Council’s work and the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival in India is already a key platform for Northern Ireland writers working internationally.” 

Maeve Walls, Director of Culture, Department for Communities, said,

“I am delighted to see JLF come to Northern Ireland. It presents a wonderful opportunity to further strengthen international relations whilst celebrating the richness and diversity of our literature and the wider creative arts sector. Congratulations to all involved in bringing this special event to Belfast.”

Among those taking part this weekend are:

Asma Khan: Celebrity chef, restauranteur, epicure, author, founder of the charity, Second Daughter’s Fund, and star of Netflix’s ‘Chef’s Table’.

Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee: Distinguished granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi who has devoted her life to working for public welfare.

Namita Gokhale: Award-winning author, publisher, columnist and Jaipur Literature Festival Co-Director.

Marcus Du Sautoy: Author, renowned mathematician and the Oxford Simonyi Professor for Public Understanding of Science.

Laxmi Narayan Tripathi: Fierce activist, dancer, actress and leader of the movement which got India’s Supreme Court to recognise the third gender.

The above join a list of distinguished speakers including:  Patrick Gale, Brian Keenan, Ruth Padel and William Dalrymple, alongside a wealth of immense writing talent from Northern Ireland, David Park, Shannon Yee, Glenn Patterson, Jan Carson, Garrett Carr, Paul McVeigh, Malachi O’Doherty and Lucy Caldwell. 

View the full programme of events http://artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/news-documents/JLFBelfast2019-FullProgramme.pdf

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Newtownards couple win trip of a lifetime to India in celebration of the Jaipur Literature Festival

Saturday 15th June 2019 at 9am 0 Comments Literature

Pictured is winner Jacqueline Dickson with her husband Billy Dickson and Damian Smyth, Arts Council of Northern Ireland (middle). Image: Pictured is winner Jacqueline Dickson with her husband Billy Dickson and Damian Smyth, Arts Council of Northern Ireland (middle).

Jacqueline and Billy Dickson, from Newtownards, have won a trip to the Jaipur Literature Festival in India this January 2020, in celebration of the festival’s first visit to Northern Ireland on 22-23 June, with a packed weekend of events planned for the Lyric Theatre Belfast and Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy.

Hosted in partnership with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, British Council Northern Ireland and the Festival’s producers, Teamwork Arts, JLF Belfast will bring a true spirit of the original festival, hailed as one of the greatest literary shows on earth.

Commenting on the win Jacqueline Dickson said,

“India is somewhere I’ve always wanted to go and it’s coming up to our 30th wedding anniversary so to win this prize is absolutely amazing.”
Damian Smyth, Head of Literature, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, “I can’t imagine a better prize, a week in India, in palatial surroundings, at the biggest literature festival on earth; that’s just about as good as it gets!”

The two-day festival in Belfast and Bellaghy will feature readings, panel discussions and debates with acclaimed writers and cultural thinkers from India, Ireland and the UK, gathered to share each other’s stories in a celebration of books, poems, creativity, ideas, food and music. Themes under discussion throughout the weekend will include Borders, Food, Gender, Peace and Non-violence, Women and Freedom, Mythology and Looking into the Future: Artificial Intelligence.

Among those confirmed for the exciting weekend are: 

Asma Khan: celebrity chef, restauranteur, epicure, author, founder of charity Second Daughter’s Fund and star of Netflix’s Chef’s Table.

Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee: distinguished granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi who has devoted her life to working for public welfare.

Namita Gokhale: Award-winning author, publisher, columnist and Festival Co-Ordinator of the Jaipur Literature Festival.

Marcus Du Sautoy: author, renowned mathematician and the Oxford Simonyi Professor for Public Understanding of Science.

Laxmi Narayan Tripathi: outspoken activist, dancer, actress and leader of the movement which got India’s Supreme Court to recognize the third gender.

Other distinguished speakers at the festival include Patrick Gale, Brian Keenan, Ruth Padel and William Dalrymple, alongside a wealth of immense writing talent from Northern Ireland, David Park, Shannon Yee, Glenn Patterson, Jan Carson, Garrett Carr, Paul McVeigh, Malachi O’Doherty and Lucy Caldwell.

View the full programme of events at http://artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/news-documents/JLFBelfast2019-FullProgramme.pdf and visit www.lyrictheatre.com or www.seamusheaneyhome.com for tickets.

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Preparations underway for JLF Belfast

Monday 10th June 2019 at 11am 0 Comments Literature

Barbara Wickham, British Council Director for India, is pictured with Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland Image: Barbara Wickham, British Council Director for India, is pictured with Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland

Barbara Wickham, British Council Director for India, is pictured with Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, at the Lyric Theatre, where preparations are underway for the JLF Belfast.

JLF Belfast will recreate the magnificent spirit, colour, energy and atmosphere of the original Jaipur Literature Festival in India, with a packed weekend of events celebrating books, creativity, ideas and culture.

Hosted in partnership with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the British Council Northern Ireland and the Festival's producers Teamwork Arts, events will take place on Saturday June 22nd and Sunday June 23rd, at the Lyric Theatre Belfast and Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy.

Among those already confirmed for the two day line-up are: Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee, who has devoted her work to continuing the work of her grandfather Mahatma Gandhi; esteemed writers William Dalrymple and Patrick Gale; award-winning poet Ruth Padel; transgender rights activist, actor and dancer, Laxmi Narayan Tripathi, Asma Khan, one of the UK’s most prominent female chefs and star of Netflix’s Chef’s Table.

Visit www.jlflitfest.org/belfast for details.

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The only month-long festival in Ireland is open for business

Friday 7th June 2019 at 9am 0 Comments Comedy , Drama , Film & TV , Literature , Northern Ireland Music , Visual Arts

Launching the programme for the 7th Open House Festival in Bangor Image: Launching the programme for the 7th Open House Festival in Bangor

King of the chat show sofa, Sir Michael Parkinson, leading forensic psychologist Kerry Daynes, and BBC Radio 6 Music’s poet-in-residence Murray Lachlan Young are among the multitude of artists and performers joining The Specials, Villagers and The Staves at this year’s Open House Festival Bangor in August.

The 2019 programme for the only month-long festival in Ireland, which was launched today, features 163 events in 46 venues over the 31 days of August, with over 600 performers, participants and producers taking part. 

This will be the 7th annual Bangor Festival, which has more than tripled in size since 2013 and continues to re-establish Bangor as a thriving seaside town. It has become known for combining headline national and international artists with local musicians, writers, chefs and other creatives, and for curating bespoke events such as Folk on a Boat, Island Picnic and the Bangor Rocks Musical Bus Tour – a 90-minute trip that takes in the birth places and stomping grounds of some of Bangor’s most famous musical offspring, including Snow Patrol, Foy Vance and Two Door Cinema Club.

Northern Irish participants this year include three Bangor playwrights, including Carol Moore who is one of this year’s Arts Council Major Individual Artist recipients, DJs Bobby Analog and Mark Blair, Ronnie Greer with his Blues Band, and author and former Newcastle United player, author Paul Ferris. Another event with a Bangor connection concerns internationally acclaimed artist and video maker Charlie Whisker who was born in the town. His former partner, Dublin author Julia Kelly, will be talking about her book, Matchstick Man, which details Charlie’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

“As well as being our biggest, this year’s festival is probably our most eclectic yet,” said Festival Director, Kieran Gilmore. “Aside from welcoming such household names as Sir Michael Parkinson and Alan Johnson, and ska legends The Specials, it is a true celebration of Northern Ireland’s rich cultural heritage and particularly embraces Bangor’s vibrant creative scene. Alongside multiple music, literary and theatre events we have Irish whiskey tastings, lots of quirky food events showcasing local produce, a local brewery Taproom takeover and tasting events in Donaghadee’s brand new Copeland Distillery.”

Around 45,000 people are expected to visit the festival throughout August. Tickets start at just £5 and more than one third of the 163 events are free.

Stephen Reid, Chief Executive, Ards and North Down Borough Council, said:

“If you thought last year’s Open House Festival was good, this year is going to be even better! Since the first Open House Festival in 2013, it has continued to grow year on year, bringing an exciting mix of international artists, home-grown talent and household names to our Borough. Local businesses, visitor attractions and accommodation providers all reap the benefits. Last year’s Open House Festival injected an estimated £2.1m into our local economy – a figure that I’m confident will grow even larger in 2019. I hope all of our residents and visitors to the Borough enjoy the many events on offer and to all those involved, I’d like to wish you a splendid seventh Festival!”

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“Open House Festival, now in its 7th year, has firmly established itself as an annual summer highlight in Bangor attracting high-quality, world-class international acts and visitors to the town. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to support this terrific festival which demonstrates the power of the arts in bringing people and communities closer together as well as being a tool for economic regeneration.”

Tourism NI’s Chairman Terence Brannigan said:

“Tourism NI is pleased to support the Open House Festival as it enters its seventh year. August will bring a whole month of music, theatre, comedy, film and more to Bangor, with headline performances from an eclectic range of local and international acts. Over 160 events are lined up across the 40 venues, drawing thousands of local and international visitors to North Down for this home-grown festival which works with local businesses to provide a distinctive Northern Ireland experience. Events such as the Open House Festival are valuable in generating significant economic benefit and helping to boost the profile of tourism in Northern Ireland. My best wishes for another successful year go to the organising team, their sponsors and all the participants and attendees.”

For full details of the 2019 programme, go to: www.openhousefestival.com

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UK and Ireland first as interactive Jump Trump installation opens in Belfast

Thursday 6th June 2019 at 3pm 0 Comments Visual Arts

Image © Erik Kessels, Unseen Amsterdam, 2017 Image: Image © Erik Kessels, Unseen Amsterdam, 2017

Jump Trump, the interactive visual art installation by Dutch artists Erik Kessels and Thomas Mailaender, has gone on display for the first time in the UK and Ireland as part of the 2019 Belfast Photo Festival.

It coincides with the US President’s arrival in Ireland following an official UK state visit.

The photography festival, which presents some of the finest national and international contemporary photography, runs from Thursday 6 – Sunday 30 June.

Under the theme of “Truth and Lies”, the festival will look at how photography can be used to influence opinion; from carefully choreographed photoshoots to image manipulation and misrepresentation.

The festival’s Director, Michael Weir, said: “Belfast Photo Festival works to make visual art engaging and interactive, so when we discovered the work by Erik Kessels and Thomas Mailaender it was a very strong fit with our organisational aim to make visual art engaging, but also with the theme of this year’s festival.

He continued: “The fake news phenomenon is something many people closely associate with Donald Trump, both as a perpetrator and an individual who has made accusations about being subjected to it.”

Exhibited at the Golden Thread Gallery, the Jump Trump installation sees the gallery space dominated by a one-metre deep inflated crash mat emblazoned with an image of the 45th President of the United States.

Complete with a raised platform for daring visitors to jump onto the mat, it challenges audiences to get up close to the politician and express their feelings toward the influential and often controversial figure. It was produced by the artists for Unseen Amsterdam and premiered at the festival in 2017.

Michael continued: “It is an installation that challenges audiences. The jump, whether one chooses to make the leap or not, is based on that person’s own interpretation of the piece.

“There will be visitors who choose to jump and those who won’t, but that’s a very important part of the story of this installation. It reflects how the man and his politics can be divisive and how those views, both for and against, are played out in people’s decision whether or not to engage with the artwork.”

He added: “It’s important for visual art to encourage debate and contribute to the dialogue around wider issues. Visual art can challenge audiences in ways other artforms can’t.”

Jump Trump forms part of a larger exhibition, Do Governments Lie?, at the gallery. Other works include Philippe Chancel’s Kim Happiness, a series of photographs taken in North Korea exploring the management of happiness by the country’s government, and Marc Lee’s video installation which trawls social media in real time and seamlessly weaves tweets, Instagram posts and YouTube uploads by political parties and their election candidates into a dystopian live television show.

Jump Trump is at the Golden Thread Gallery until Saturday, June 29. The accompanying exhibitions by Philippe Chancel and Marc Lee will remain on display until Saturday, July 27.

For more information on this year’s festival, visit belfastphotofestival.com and keep up-to-date on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Stage is set for 13th Belfast Mela Festival at Botanic Gardens

Wednesday 5th June 2019 at 1pm 0 Comments Dance , Northern Ireland Music

Mexican dancers Mayte Segura and Denise Navarrete with hosts U105’s Carolyn Stewart and UTV’s Julian Simmons and Nisha Tandon, Executive Director of ArtsEkta and founder of the Belfast Mela in Mela’s stunning Chinese Dragon Boat at Botanic Gardens. Image: Mexican dancers Mayte Segura and Denise Navarrete with hosts U105’s Carolyn Stewart and UTV’s Julian Simmons and Nisha Tandon, Executive Director of ArtsEkta and founder of the Belfast Mela in Mela’s stunning Chinese Dragon Boat at Botanic Gardens.

Northern Ireland’s largest celebration of cultural diversity, the Belfast Mela returns to Botanic Gardens on Sunday 25th August from 12 noon until 6pm for its biggest festival ever with principal sponsor Sensata Technologies.

Pictured as the Belfast Mela website goes live online for tickets are:  Mexican dancers Mayte Segura and Denise Navarrete with U105’s Carolyn Stewart, UTV’s Julian Simmons and Nisha Tandon, Executive  Director of ArtsEkta and founder of the Belfast Mela in Mela’s stunning Chinese Dragon Boat at Botanic Gardens.

Organised by ArtsEkta, one of Belfast’s leading arts and cultural organisations, this year’s Belfast Mela is set to provide a wonderful family day out to celebrate increasing cultural diversity with music, dance, food and much more from around the world. UTV’s Paul Reilly and U105’s Carolyn Stewart will host the Belfast Mela on stage with UTV’s Julian Simmons taking charge in Mela’s cookery theatre where local chefs and producers will give cookery demonstrations with global flavours.

Nisha Tandon, Executive Director, ArtsEkta says:

“This is the 13th year of the Belfast Mela and each year the festival continues to go from strength to strength. Once again we will transform Botanic Gardens into an exotic magical garden with many new sights, sounds and aromas from a wealth of nations planned this year.  With up to 30,000 people expected to attend Belfast Mela, our website is now live for ticket bookings, so get online now to ensure you don’t miss out.”  

Tickets are £7 for adults; £6 concession and a family ticket costs £15, covering entry for 2 adults and 2 children under 16. For more information go to www.belfastmela.org.uk

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Asma Khan, Star of Netflix’s Chef’s Table, launches programme for Jaipur Literature Festival Belfast

Thursday 30th May 2019 at 2pm 0 Comments Literature

Pictured is celebrity chef and author, Asma Khan Image: Pictured is celebrity chef and author, Asma Khan

Star of Netflix’s Chef’s Table, founder of charity, Second Daughters Fund, and owner of Darjeeling Express restaurant, Asma Khan, visited Belfast on Wednesday 29th May to launch the JLF Belfast programme of events.

JLF Belfast will aim to recreate the magnificent atmosphere of the legendary Jaipur Literature Festival in India when it comes to the region for the first time on 21-23 June, with a packed weekend of events at the Lyric Theatre Belfast and the Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy. 

Hosted in partnership with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, British Council Northern Ireland and the Festival’s producers, Teamwork Arts, JLF Belfast will bring a true spirit of the original festival, hailed as one of the greatest literary shows on earth. It features readings, panel discussions and debates with acclaimed writers and cultural thinkers from India, Ireland and the UK, gathered to share each other’s stories in a celebration of books, poems, creativity, ideas, food and  music. Themes under discussion throughout the weekend will include Borders, Food, Gender, Peace and Non-violence, Women and Freedom, Mythology and Looking into the Future: Artificial Intelligence.

Among those confirmed for the 2019 JLF Belfast line-up are: 

Asma Khan: celebrity chef, restauranteur, epicure, author, founder of charity Second Daughter’s Fund and star of Netflix’s Chef’s Table.

Tara Gandhi Bhattacharjee: distinguished granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi who has devoted her life to working for public welfare.
Shashi Tharoor: dynamic Indian politician, acclaimed author, witty raconteur and former diplomat and UN office-bearer.

Namita Gokhale: Award-winning author, publisher, columnist and Festival Co-Ordinator of the Jaipur Literature Festival.

Marcus Du Sautoy: author, renowned mathematician and the Oxford Simonyi Professor for Public Understanding of Science.

Laxmi Narayan Tripathi: outspoken activist, dancer, actress and leader of the movement which got India’s Supreme Court to recognize the third gender.

The above join the list of distinguished speakers already announced including:  Patrick Gale, Brian Keenan, Ruth Padel and William Dalrymple, alongside a wealth of immense writing talent from Northern Ireland, David Park, Shannon Yee, Glenn Patterson, Jan Carson, Garrett Carr, Paul McVeigh, Malachi O’Doherty and Lucy Caldwell.

Paul McVeigh, Writer and Programmer JLF Belfast, commented:

“Never been to India? Well, a little of Jaipur is coming here to us. We are delighted to reveal today the final details of our June programme and there is much to look forward to. The festival will be a wonderful, immersive experience. If you love listening to and engaging with writers and thinkers from around the world then you'll love JLF Belfast.”

Namita Gokhale, Writer and co-Director of the festival, commented:

“The newest edition of JLF Belfast takes our festival into the heart of an intense and passionate literary culture. In the last several years, the Jaipur Literature Festival has had the pleasure of welcoming writers of the stature of Anne Enright, Colm Toibin, David McWilliams, David Park, Glenn Patterson, Jan Carson, Jon Halliday, Joseph O’Neill, Patricia Forde, Paul McVeigh, Roddy Doyle and Roy Foster among others. We have been inspired by the literature, drama, and songs of Irish culture, as indeed the art of conversation and orality. Our international editions, now including JLF Belfast are all rooted and local and yet deeply cosmopolitan. The long connections between Irish and Indian literature have helped us appreciate the resonances between them.”

 

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Young jazz musicians invited to apply for Jazzlife Alliance mentorship programme

Thursday 23rd May 2019 at 4pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Jazz Musician David Lyttle with fellow musicians Image: Jazz Musician David Lyttle with fellow musicians

Jazzlife Alliance is offering young jazz musicians the opportunity to apply for its second round of mentorships with its artistic director, MOBO Award-nominated jazz musician, David Lyttle.

Following the success of its first mentorship programme, which included a rural tour and masterclasses from jazz icons, David Kikoski and Jesse van Ruller, Jazzlife Alliance is now welcoming applications for two mentorship opportunities.  The first mentorship opportunity is for a jazz musician and the second is for a young musician/music promoter, both under 25. 

Also included in the ambitious mentorship opportunities are ‘International Mentors’ as a follow up to mentoring received from David Lyttle.  Last year’s participants, Donegal saxophonist, Micheal Murray, will study with U.S. saxophone star, Jaleel Shaw, whilst participant and Derry guitarist Joseph Leighton, will study with Dutch guitar icon, Jesse van Ruller.

As part of his mentorship, Micheal toured with David in Scotland and took part in his first creative retreat on Rathlin Island with his twin brother Conor, who received last year's Jazzlife Alliance young promoter award and recently toured with David in Russia. Micheal and Conor will also perform 30 dates around Ireland with David in June. Joseph Leighton has performed around 50 dates with David, bringing jazz to new audiences on Jazzlife Alliance's two rural tours.

Jazzlife Alliance will also programme three performances commencing in July at Bennigans Bar, Derry/Londonderry, featuring David Lyttle alongside leading jazz musicians from around the world. David’s recent performances of this kind included Kurt Rosenwinkel and Seamus Blake.   Jazzlife Alliance will also present a masterclass with jazz legend Jean Toussaint in Derry in July.

David Lyttle says, 

“Jazzlife Alliance is an exciting new organisation which is about encouraging artistic growth, inspiring and developing future jazz artists and looking differently at how jazz music is presented and taught. I feel very privileged to be in the position of artistic director and very grateful for the generous support of the Arts Council.”

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added, 

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is committed to providing valuable, meaningful opportunities for young people to develop their musical careers.  We are delighted to support these important new initiatives from Jazzlife Alliance which offers young people the opportunity to be mentored by some of the finest jazz musicians working in Northern Ireland as well as developing new audiences for jazz – terrific! “

Applications are now open for Jazzlife Alliance mentorships and will close on June 15th.  For more information visit www.jazzlifealliance.org

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Sarah McIntyre gets school kids bubbling with creativity

Tuesday 21st May 2019 at 11am 0 Comments Literature

Children’s illustrator and writer Sarah McIntyre inspires children to get creative in primary schools across Northern Ireland Image: Children’s illustrator and writer Sarah McIntyre inspires children to get creative in primary schools across Northern Ireland

From spider teachers to lion astronauts and beetle spies, children’s illustrator and writer Sarah McIntyre inspires children to get creative in primary schools across Northern Ireland

Over three-hundred students from five Northern Ireland primary schools have had a chance to meet world renowned children’s illustrator and writer Sarah McIntryre in interactive book sessions arranged by the UK’s largest reading charity, BookTrust.

Sarah McIntyre, well known for her comic ‘Vern and Lettuce’ and picture books ‘There's a Shark in the Bath’ and ‘Dinosaur Police’ hosted sessions on May 7th and 8th with students from Portavogie Primary (Newtownards), Portaferry Integrated Primary School (Newtownards), Belmont Primary School (Belfast), St Joseph’s Primary School (Belfast) and Orangefield Primary School (Belfast).

Students were eager to whip out their pencils, paper and books ready for an interactive session of reading and fun with Sarah. She helped students to think creatively to come up with ideas for their own books by thinking of animals and different jobs they could do, from spider teachers, lion astronauts and beetle spies! Sarah talked about how she made her books and taught the pupils to draw Dipsy the Diplodocus from Dinosaur Firefighters.
  
Children’s author Sarah McIntyre said:

“Meeting students is one of my favourite parts of being an author. Of course, writing books is always great fun but seeing the kids enjoying the books and watching how it inspires them is always so rewarding. It is even more wonderful that every single child gets a copy of the book to take home, it always puts a huge smile on their faces!”

Liz Canning, Head of BookTrust Northern Ireland commented:

“Hosting these sessions is a great way to engage children with reading and books. As children read more often in school they can lose touch with the creativity and fun in books. There are so many benefits to children reading for pleasure and it’s so important to remind and inspire them.”

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:

“Artist visits like this are a fantastic opportunity for pupils to meet a successful writer or illustrator and gain an insight into their creative process.  These workshops with Sarah McIntyre have been a great success - inspiring the children to start thinking about developing their own stories. The Arts Council is pleased to support Booktrust NI in promoting the value of reading to young people across Northern Ireland.”

All pupils received a copy of Dinosaur Firefighters after visit and each school also received a selection of Sarah’s books for their school library.

 

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New Creative Learning Fund will support fresh approach in the classroom

Friday 17th May 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Visual Arts , Northern Ireland Music , Dance , Drama , Literature , Craft , Film & TV

Year 10 students, Odhrán McCart, Francine Faloon and Alliemarie Conway are pictured with teacher Gilah McCarroll, Marie O’Donoghue from the Education Authority, Jennifer McAlorum from Nerve Belfast. Image: Year 10 students, Odhrán McCart, Francine Faloon and Alliemarie Conway are pictured with teacher Gilah McCarroll, Marie O’Donoghue from the Education Authority, Jennifer McAlorum from Nerve Belfast.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Education Authority and the Urban Villages Initiative are backing a new three-year programme to inject more creativity into the classroom, in a bid to improve educational outcomes for students.

Today’s announcement follows a successful pilot scheme rolled out last year in 10 post-primary schools serving communities supported by the Urban Villages Initiative – a good relations headline action of government’s Together: Building a United Community (T:BUC) strategy. 

The Creative Schools Partnership programme is based on research which indicates that access to quality arts experiences in school can benefit all aspects of learning. These include better engagement and attendance levels, improving results in other school subjects, increasing confidence and self-motivation, and promoting positive mental health and wellbeing.

Eleven schools serving Urban Village areas have so far been awarded funding from the £300,000 scheme to take part in the first phase of the new programme. They are:  Belfast Boys’ Model School, St Joseph’s Boy’s School, Blessed Trinity College, Ashfield Girls’ High School, St Cecilia’s College, St Genevieve’s High School, Mercy College Belfast, St Vincent’s Centre, Belfast Model School for Girls, Malone Integrated College, and St Colm’s High School.

The schools will be working with artists on a range of creative projects including, music production, journalism, photography, film making, animation, and ceramics.

The Arts Council is investing £150,000 from its National Lottery funds to support the scheme. Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“We were overwhelmed with the positive feedback we had from the schools who took part in last year’s pilot programme and are delighted to be working with the Education Authority and the Urban Villages Initiative once again to create a new three year programme which will benefit many more children. 

“While each of the projects will be different, what they each have in common is that they will help the young people involved develop new skills, build confidence and self-belief, as well as supporting their learning and development in all aspects of school life.”

Linsey Farrell, Programme Director, Urban Villages Initiative, commented:

“It is evident from last year’s programme that young people have learned new skills and improved their self-confidence through a wide range of exciting and creative projects. The programme has also had very good results in promoting positive mental health and well-being, which is a key issue for communities in Urban Village areas. Schools serving these places across Belfast and Derry~Londonderry play a key role in fostering positive community identities and we aim to share good practice and strengthen partnership working with local communities”.

EA Chairperson Sharon O’Connor said:

“The Creative Schools Programme is making a valuable contribution to our schools. It is placing high quality arts engagement and at the heart of young people’s lives. It focuses on creating collaborative opportunities for schools, teachers, artists and communities. The programme enables our young people to bring about real change in how they see and value themselves, as well as understanding how they can make a positive impact in their own community.”

 

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Festival tackles role of photography in the era of fake news

Thursday 16th May 2019 at 3pm 0 Comments Visual Arts

Pictured (L-R) launching the 2019 Belfast Photo Festival are Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland; Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Deirdre Hargey and Michael Weir, Belfast Photo Festival Director. Image: Pictured (L-R) launching the 2019 Belfast Photo Festival are Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland; Belfast Lord Mayor, Councillor Deirdre Hargey and Michael Weir, Belfast Photo Festival Director.

Northern Ireland’s premier month-long visual arts festival, the Belfast Photo Festival, will take over art galleries and dominate outdoors spaces throughout Belfast this June with experiential and engaging exhibitions exploring the role of photography in the era of post-truth, alternative facts and fake news.

The photography festival, which presents some of the finest national and international contemporary photography, runs from Thursday 6 – Sunday 30 June.

Under the theme of “Truth and Lies”, the festival will look at how photography can be used to influence opinion; from carefully choreographed photoshoots to image manipulation and misrepresentation.

“The camera never lies,” the age-old saying goes, but increasingly consumers are having to be ever-more diligent in distinguishing fact from fiction – and photography has a crucial role to play in the era where billions of new images are captured daily and content is consumed at a staggering rate.

Among this year’s highlights is Jump Trump, the interactive exhibition by Dutch photographers Thomas Mailaender and Erik Kessels, which will be on display for the first time in the UK and Ireland. Exhibited at the Golden Thread Gallery, the installation sees the gallery space dominated by a one-metre deep inflated crash mat emblazoned with an image of the 45th President of the United States. Complete with a raised platform for daring visitors to jump onto the mat, it challenges audiences to get up close to the politician’s face and express their feelings toward the influential and often controversial figure.

Jump Trump forms part of a larger exhibition, Do Governments Lie?, at the gallery. Other works include Philippe Chancel’s Kim Happiness, a series of photographs taken in North Korea exploring the management of happiness by the country’s government, and Marc Lee’s video installation which trawls social media in real time and seamlessly weaves tweets, Instagram posts and YouTube uploads by political parties and their election candidates into a dystopian live television show.

Controlled Perspectives at the Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich presents works by Korean artists Seung Woo Back, Heesung Chung and Yeondoo Jung as they demonstrate how photography can be used to control perspective using constructed environments.

ICONS, by artists Jojakim Cortis and Adrian Sonderegger, displayed on the lawn at Belfast City Hall, shows images of meticulous three-dimensional models constructed to create astonishingly realistic reconstructions of some of the most recognisable images in history, including Tank Man, the striking image of the unknown protestor who stood in front of a convoy of Chinese military tanks on Tiananmen Square, Robert Capa’s The Falling Soldier, The Hindenburg Disaster and more.

Italian photographer Oliviero Toscani, who rose to international acclaim as the photographer behind fashion brand Benetton’s controversial advertising campaigns that pushed the limits of the industry, will host a talk and Q&A at the Ulster Museum on June 13.

At Belfast Exposed, Margins of Excess by Max Pinckers, who is listed among the ranks of Magnum Photos, presents a body of work looking at the role of mass media in communicating idiosyncratic versions of six individuals’ own reality who momentarily were subject to nationwide media attention and scrutiny in the US.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland-backed festival works to make visual art more accessible, explains Festival Director Michael Weir.

“We’re introducing it to public spaces and expanding our outdoor presence while making the artform interactive and engaging. Among the exhibitions that will take over these spaces, as well as those hosted in our partner galleries and venues, are significant bodies of work hand-picked for Belfast Photo Festival by representatives from global institutions such as Tate Modern, the New York-based Aperture Magazine and Magnum Photos; the agency behind some of the most striking and influential photographs of 20th century.”

Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added: “

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland proudly supports the Belfast Photo Festival which celebrates some of the finest local, national and international photography around.  It’s extensive, impressive programme encourages active engagement with this popular art form whether that’s through attending exhibitions, taking part in workshops or through public displays and I would encourage everyone to get involved.”

As well as its extensive programme showcasing globally renowned names, including multi-national media and broadcasting company VICE, the festival will exhibit works from lesser-known artists through its Open Submission programme which attracted almost 32,000 entries from 83 countries.

Michael said: “Our Open Submission proved hugely successful this year and demonstrates just influential and well-recognised Belfast Photo Festival is on the international stage; established and challenger artists are eager to exhibit on our shores.”

The winner of the 2019 Belfast Photo Festival Open Submission will be revealed in June at the opening ceremony on Thursday 6th June.

For more information on this year’s festival, visit belfastphotofestival.com and keep up-to-date on social media via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Lyric Theatre announces six writers to take part in prestigious New Playwrights Programme

Tuesday 14th May 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Drama , Literature

Pictured (L-R) are the 2019 programme participants (L-R)Clare McMahon, Sarah Gordon, Damian Smyth, Arts Council, Ross Wylie, Rebecca Mairs, Lyric Theatre, Clare Monnelly, Rían Smith, Annie Keegan and Jimmy Fay, Lyric Theatre. Image: Pictured (L-R) are the 2019 programme participants (L-R)Clare McMahon, Sarah Gordon, Damian Smyth, Arts Council, Ross Wylie, Rebecca Mairs, Lyric Theatre, Clare Monnelly, Rían Smith, Annie Keegan and Jimmy Fay, Lyric Theatre.

The Lyric Theatre and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland are delighted to announce the recipients of the 2019 New Playwrights Programme, a six-month writing development programme, aimed at emerging playwrights to create new work.  This year, following a high level of interest, six writers were awarded a place on the programme; Annie Keegan, Clare McMahon, Clare Monnelly, Rian Smith, Ross Wylie and Sarah Gordon.

As part of the programme, the six writers will now develop their ideas over the next six months with the Lyric’s Literary Manager, Rebecca Mairs.  The new works will be brought to life by on stage at the Lyric Theatre in autumn 2019 by professional actors and directors.

Rebecca Mairs, Literary Manager, Lyric Theatre, commented:

“We are delighted to welcome six new writers for the third year of our New Playwrights Programme.  New writing is the lifeblood of any producing house theatre, and it is essential that we provide a platform for an emerging generation of playwrights to present contemporary issues in new and powerful ways.  Through this programme, the Lyric creates an inviting, dynamic, and inspiring space where new artists can thrive, offering them the support they need to create bold and vibrant new work. It is great to be part of such an exciting journey.”

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added:

“It’s critical that the Arts Council is involved in supporting writers at all stages of their careers and we are proud to partner with the Lyric Theatre in this important programme which ensures that six writers get dedicated, bespoke mentorship support over a six-month period to create new work.  We warmly congratulate all six new playwrights and look forward to seeing their work on the Lyric stage later this year.”

For further details on the Lyric’s new writing work, please see www.lyrictheatre.co.uk/new-writing-lyric

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Belfast to be transformed into a hub of traditional music, gigs and workshops for one week in 2019

Tuesday 7th May 2019 at 1pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Musicians Lisa Robinson and Caitlin Scott with Joanne Wright, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Armagh Rhymers at the launch of Belfast’s Trad Fest Image: Musicians Lisa Robinson and Caitlin Scott with Joanne Wright, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Armagh Rhymers at the launch of Belfast’s Trad Fest

Traditional music fans are in for a treat as Belfast’s Trad Fest returns for its third incarnation this summer across all four corners of the city. A launch event at Bullitt Hotel, which brought together performers, music lovers and key sponsors, revealed a week-long series of events, sessions and masterclasses. The festival will be the only one of its kind in the North and brings together both the Irish and the Ulster-Scots musical traditions, in a shared celebration of culture and heritage.

Descending upon the city – in a series of concerts, masterclasses, workshops, talks and sessions – will be a host of world-renowned traditional musicians, including BBC Radio 2 Folk Award winner Jarlath Henderson, Scottish piping legend Finlay McDonald, six former winners of the prestigious TG4 Gradam Ceoil awards - Harry Bradley, Edel Fox, John Carty, Mary Bergin, Michelle Mulcahy & Conor Connolly alongside Niamh Dunne & Eamon Murray of Beoga (who recently co-wrote Ed Sheeran's massive hit 'Galway Girl'), Kevin Crawford of Lúnasa, Ulster Lambeg & Fife legend Willie Drennan, John Joe Kelly of Flook, Oisín MacDiarmada of Téada & Ríoghnach Connolly of the Afro Celt Sound System, amongst many others.

After two hugely successful years, Belfast Summer School of Traditional Music is re-branding as Belfast Trad Fest and will incorporate the summer school into its packed programme of events this year. In addition, this year Belfast Trad Fest will hold a very special opening concert on Saturday 27th July when three of the hottest acoustic acts in the Trad scene play Belfast for one night only.

In what will surely kick the festival off in style, Lúnasa, Ulaid & Ríoghnach Connolly will come together for what promises to be a spectacular night of traditional music and song in one of the most beautiful theatres in Ireland - The Lyric Theatre, Belfast.

The Arts Council wishes the Belfast Trad Fest another very successful event as it brings this highly accessible, upbeat and positive addition to the creative and cultural life of the city.

Joanne Wright, Traditional Arts Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is proud to support Belfast Trad Fest through our National Lottery funds. Belfast Trad Fest creates the opportunity for many more people to experience and enjoy traditional music, and it has turned Belfast into a hub for the best musicians from across these islands to come together to perform, to teach, and to encourage the emergence of the next generation of young musicians.”

For five days, hundreds of budding traditional musicians, of all ages, will get the chance to learn from traditional music royalty at the Ulster University, York Street, in a series of masterclasses across 18 instruments. In addition, the school will bring jigs and reels to all four corners of Belfast with concerts, demos and talks taking place at The Strand Arts Centre in East Belfast, Cultúrlann McAdam Ó Fiaich in West Belfast, The Duncairn Centre in North Belfast and An Droichead in South Belfast- with the heart of the summer school and a packed programme of free sessions and events located in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter. The program includes:

  • Master-Classes in 17 different musical Instruments, Traditional Singing & Set Dancing
  • 7 Concerts
  • 36 Afternoon events including Talks, Walks, Lectures, Demonstrations
  • 28 Free Traditional Music Sessions
  • 3 CD launches
  • 3 Ceilís

Speaking at the launch event, Bill Wolsey, Managing Director, Beannchor, said:

“As a key sponsor of Belfast Trad Fest we are thrilled to be a part of the festival again, promoting the arts, our local music scene and emerging talents. We are delighted that our venues, including The Dirty Onion, The Cloth Ear, and Bullitt, will play host to some great sessions, providing the perfect backdrop for the festival.”

A full program of events and further details can be found via www.belfasttraditionalmusic.com, or connect with Trad Fest on Facebook and Twitter @BelfastTradF, using the hashtag, #BelfastTradF.

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First list of speakers announced as ‘the greatest literary show on Earth’ comes to Northern Ireland

Friday 3rd May 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Literature

JLF Belfast embodies the magnificent spirit of Jaipur’s annual literary carnival bringing its inclusive and infectious camaraderie to the vibrant capital of Northern Ireland with a heady mix of writers, thinkers, poets, balladeers and raconteurs. Image: JLF Belfast embodies the magnificent spirit of Jaipur’s annual literary carnival bringing its inclusive and infectious camaraderie to the vibrant capital of Northern Ireland with a heady mix of writers, thinkers, poets, balladeers and raconteurs.

Preparations are well underway, as one of the biggest, most spectacular literature festivals in the world gets set to come to Northern Ireland for the first time this June. JLF Belfast will recreate the magnificent spirit, colour, energy and atmosphere of the original Jaipur Literature Festival in India, with a packed weekend of events celebrating books, creativity, ideas and culture.

Among those already confirmed for the two day line-up are: Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Indian diplomat and grandson of Mahatma Gandhi; esteemed writers Brian Keenan and Patrick Gale and award-winning poet Ruth Padel. Hosted in partnership with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the British Council Northern Ireland and the Festival’s producers Teamwork Arts, events will take place on Saturday June 22nd and Sunday June 23rd, at the Lyric Theatre Belfast and Seamus Heaney HomePlace, Bellaghy.

In the true spirit of the original festival, JLF Belfast will feature readings, panel discussions and debates with acclaimed writers and cultural thinkers from India, Ireland, the UK and more, for a unique literature festival celebrating a joint love of books, creativity, music, and sharing each other’s stories. Themes under discussion will include Borders, Gender, Peace and Non-violence, Tagore, Women and Freedom, Mythology and Looking into the Future: Artificial Intelligence. Early-bird tickets are available to buy now, with day passes from £25/£14 concession and children’s workshops from £5.  Full programme details will be announced later in May.

Paul McVeigh, Writer and Programmer JLF Belfast, commented:

“Never been to India? Well, a little of Jaipur is coming here to us. We are delighted to reveal today the first details of our June programme and there is much to look forward to. The festival will be a wonderful, immersive experience. If you love listening to and engaging with writers and thinkers from around the world then you'll love JLF Belfast.”

Namita Gokhale, Writer and co-Director of the festival, commented:

“The newest edition of JLF Belfast takes our festival into the heart of an intense and passionate literary culture. In the last several years, the Jaipur Literature Festival has had the pleasure of welcoming writers of the stature of Anne Enright, Colm Toibin, David McWilliams, David Park, Glenn Patterson, Jan Carson, Jon Halliday, Joseph O’Neill, Patricia Forde, Paul McVeigh, Roddy Doyle and Roy Foster among others. We have been inspired by the literature, drama, and songs of Irish culture, as indeed the art of conversation and orality. Our international editions, now including JLF Belfast are all rooted and local and yet deeply cosmopolitan. The long connections between Irish and Indian literature have helped us appreciate the resonances between them.”

Brian Keenan went to Beirut in 1985 for a change of scene from his native Belfast. He became headline news when he was kidnapped by fundamentalist Shi'ite militiamen and held in the suburbs of Beirut for the next four and a half years. For much of that time he was shut off from all news and contact with anyone other than his jailers and, later, his fellow hostages, amongst them John McCarthy. He has written and published a number of books including Evil Cradling (1991), and Turlough (1996).

Gopalkrishna Gandhi read English Literature and History at Delhi University. A monthly columnist for The Hindustan Times (New Delhi), The Telegraph (Kolkata), Nai Dunia(Indore) and Scroll , he writes for The Hindu (Chennai) as well. He is currently Distinguished Professor of History and Politics at Ashoka University.

Patrick Gale was born on the Isle of Wight in 1962. In addition to his latest, Take Nothing With You, which was his fourth Sunday Times bestseller, his novels include Little Bits of Baby (1989), The Cat Sanctuary (1990), The Facts of Life (1995), Tree Surgery for Beginners (1998), Rough Music (2000), A Sweet Obscurity (2003), Friendly Fire, Notes From an Exhibition (2007), The Whole Day Through (2009), A Perfectly Good Man (2012) andA Place Called Winter (2015). There are also two collections of short stories, Dangerous Pleasures (1996) and Gentleman’s Relish (2009).

In 2017 his Man in an Orange Shirt was screened by BBC2 as part of the Gay Britannia season, which also featured the documentary All Families Have Secrets – the Narrative Art of Patrick Gale. Continuing to be broadcast regularly around the world, it won an International Emmy for best miniseries. He is currently working on a feature film adaptation of a Rose Tremain short story, a television adaptation of A Place Called Winter and two of early 20th century classics.

Ruth Padel is an award-winning poet and conservationist, Professor of Poetry at King’s College London and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and Zoological Society of London. Her works include The Mara Crossing on migration, Emerald for green in a dark time, and Tigers in Red Weather, a prose memoir of tiger conservation.

William Dalrymple is a bestselling author of In Xanadu, City of Djinns, From the Holy Mountain, White Mughals, The Last Mughal, Nine Lives, and Return of a King: An Indian Army in Afghanistan. He has won the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award, the Sunday Times Young British Writer of the Year Award, the French Prix d’Astrolabe, the Wolfson Prize for History, the Scottish Book of the Year Award, the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize, the Asia House Award for Asian Literature, the Vodafone/Crossword Award for nonfiction, and has, prior to the shortlisting of Return of a King, been longlisted three times for the Samuel Johnson Prize. In September 2016, a Hindustani translation of The Last Mughal was released as Aakhri Mughal. His latest book is Kohinoor, co-written with Anita Anand and he is currently working on the upcoming The Anarchy, scheduled to release in autumn this year. Dalrymple is one of the founders and a co-director of the Jaipur Literature Festival. 

Tickets
Prices for JLF Belfast start from £25 for a day pass/ £14 Concession
To book your ticket visit lyrictheatre.co.uk/jlf-belfast or www.seamusheaneyhome.com

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Ulster Orchestra rolls out the red carpet for five exceptional young musicians

Friday 3rd May 2019 at 9am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Pictured (L-R) are recipients, clarinettist, William Curran, jazz singer, Katharine Timoney, conductor, Stephen Bell, flautist, Andrew Douglas, folk and traditional musician, Martha Guiney and baritone, Brian McAlea with the Ulster Orchestra members. Image: Pictured (L-R) are recipients, clarinettist, William Curran, jazz singer, Katharine Timoney, conductor, Stephen Bell, flautist, Andrew Douglas, folk and traditional musician, Martha Guiney and baritone, Brian McAlea with the Ulster Orchestra members.

Five exceptionally talented young musicians from Northern Ireland recently performed as soloists with the Ulster Orchestra.  The performance forms part of their Young Musicians’ Platform Award, bestowed by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and BBC Northern Ireland.

The biennial awards which are run by the Arts Council in collaboration with BBC NI, aim to showcase and support the development of young musicians from the region by providing individual funding awards of £5,000. This funding enables the recipients to spend a sizeable amount of time learning from a master musician, mentor, teacher or composer either in Northern Ireland or abroad.  For the second time, the awards have been extended beyond the classical music arena, reaching out to musicians from traditional folk and jazz backgrounds.

As well as this training opportunity, the awardees receive two professional radio broadcast engagements, including one with the Ulster Orchestra.  Performances at this level raise not only the professional profile of the young musicians but also give a boost to their performance experience.

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, at the Arts Council, commented:

“The Arts Council is committed to providing valuable, meaningful development for our artists.  Congratulations to all five musicians on receiving this award which offers a unique opportunity for outstanding musicians to develop their musical skills, learn from the best and perform live with a professional orchestra.  All of the previous recipients of this award have gone on to have successful careers in music and I’ve every confidence that the new recipients will benefit greatly from this experience.”

Emma Dunseith, Executive Editor Arts, Music and Learning, BBC Northern Ireland, says:

“At BBC Radio Ulster we are dedicated to providing our listeners with the best in specialist music and nurturing new talent is something we are extremely passionate about. We are delighted to be involved in finding new classical, jazz and traditional artists and to be able to have our listeners engage in their journey as they grow and develop with some help from John, Lynette and Linley, each of whom are extremely talented musicians with a deep love of music.”

Previous recipients of the Young Musicians’ Platform Award include acclaimed classical pianist, Michael McHale, soprano, Laura Sheerin, harpist, Richard Allen, violinist, Michael Trainor, folk artists, Conor Mallon and Niall Hanna and jazz drummer, Ed Dunlop, among others.

John Toal presents a special edition of the concert on BBC Radio Ulster’s Classical Connections on Sunday 19th May featuring the 2018/19 classical winners of the BBC NI and Arts Council Northern Ireland Young Musicians' Platform Award with the Ulster Orchestra.

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239 year old violin is presented to Ulster Youth Orchestra Leader, Samuel Kane, by the Arts Council

Thursday 2nd May 2019 at 9am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Samuel Kane, from Loughgall in County Armagh has been announced as the new Leader of the Ulster Youth Orchestra, and has been presented by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland with the exquisite 239 year old, Milton Violin Image: Samuel Kane, from Loughgall in County Armagh has been announced as the new Leader of the Ulster Youth Orchestra, and has been presented by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland with the exquisite 239 year old, Milton Violin

Exceptional violinist, Samuel Kane, from Loughgall in County Armagh, has been announced as the new Leader of the Ulster Youth Orchestra (UYO), and has been presented by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland with the Milton Violin, an exquisite instrument made by renowned Neapolitan violin maker, Joseph Gagliano, to be played throughout his tenure as leader.

The precious violin, which is 239 years old, was generously donated to the Arts Council by Professor Alan Milton in 1980 and in the past has been used by the Leader and principal players of the Ulster Orchestra.  In 2013 the Arts Council decided to loan the precious instrument to the Ulster Youth Orchestra to be used by exceptionally gifted musicians in their role as Leader. 

Samuel, who is in his first year at the Royal Northern College of Music studying with James Clark, faced a rigorous audition to become leader of the UYO.  Established in 1993, The UYO is the National Youth Orchestra of Northern Ireland and is supported by public funding and National Lottery funding through the Arts Council and offers the highest level of orchestral training in the region.  Through its annual summer residential courses and concerts and outreach projects, it provides young gifted musicians with the opportunity to develop their musical skills further. 

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said,

“Congratulations to Samuel in becoming Leader of the Ulster Youth Orchestra.  The Orchestra has become a vibrant and creative force in the musical life of Northern Ireland, bringing top quality orchestral playing to a wide audience, and providing gifted young musicians with access to the very best professional players, tutors and conductors.  Thanks to the generosity of Professor Milton, we are able to provide this exceptional instrument to generations of our best young violinists.  We are delighted by the appointment of Samuel and have no doubt he will put this very special opportunity to great use.”

Paula Klein, General Manager of the Ulster Youth Orchestra said,

“We are delighted that Sam has been awarded the position of leader in 2019.  We heard Sam recently playing one of his own pieces on the Milton Violin and both the delicacy and the power of this beautiful instrument will be such a great help to him in his developing career. The directors of the Ulster Youth Orchestra are extremely grateful to the Arts Council for providing the leader of the Ulster Youth Orchestra with the opportunity of playing such a fine instrument.”

Membership to the Ulster Youth Orchestra is gained through a highly competitive audition process. All members value the opportunity to come together to perform with the very best young musicians from all over Northern Ireland.  Its members work together harmoniously in the pursuit of artistic excellence.  The Orchestra’s artistic programmes encourage individuals to develop practical and social skills, boost their confidence, enhance their well-being and empower them to achieve excellence.

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Career development awards for eleven artists with disabilities from Northern Ireland

Wednesday 24th April 2019 at 11am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music , Visual Arts , Dance

Pictured (L-R) are 2019 iDA recipients, Katerina Fanouraki, Fiona Stewart. Chris Ledger, University of Atypical, Gary Shaw, Suzanne Mackenzie, Kristofer Marsden, Gilly Campbell, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Emma Whitehead (centre) Image: Pictured (L-R) are 2019 iDA recipients, Katerina Fanouraki, Fiona Stewart. Chris Ledger, University of Atypical, Gary Shaw, Suzanne Mackenzie, Kristofer Marsden, Gilly Campbell, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Emma Whitehead (centre)

Eleven artists with disabilities from Northern Ireland have been announced as recipients of the University of Atypical’s Individual Disabled Artist (iDA) Award, funding grants supported by National Lottery funding through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

The iDA funding programme is a dedicated annual arts development programme, delivered through the University of ATypical, to enable deaf and disabled artists who are working in a range of art forms to develop their professional artistic careers.

The bursaries provide valuable opportunities for each artist to produce a new high-quality creative work, receive training or professional mentoring.  The artists have impairments ranging from physical disability, visual impairment, mental illness and learning difficulties.

Chris Ledger, Chief Executive of University of Atypical, said the iDA Awards Scheme is invaluable in supporting disabled and deaf artists to produce exciting new work. 

She added: “The grant scheme supports proposals from artists with all types of impairment or disability including unseen conditions such as diabetes, dyslexia and epilepsy. This is a developmental scheme so we welcome applications from emerging talent as well as from more established artists but decisions are made on artistic merit, talent and ambition.”

Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts & Education, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added: “Congratulations to all eleven artists.  These grants are given in recognition of the artists’ work to date and to provide them with the necessary support to take their careers to the next level.  The Arts Council is pleased to support this important programme, which encourages the creation of new, high-quality artistic work and addresses the need for disabled and Deaf artists to have on-going training and skills development within the sector.”

Through the University of Atypical’s support, deaf and disabled artists have developed unique artwork of extremely high artistic quality, some progressing to a level where they have received international recognition. The iDA scheme’s purpose is to identify, encourage and nurture individual talent amongst disabled practitioners.

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Joshua Burnside and Ryan McMullan among the latest 21 artists to receive support from PRS Foundation

Thursday 18th April 2019 at 1pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Joshua Burnside, And So I Watch You From Afar and Ryan McMullan Image: Joshua Burnside, And So I Watch You From Afar and Ryan McMullan

PRS Foundation, the UK’s leading charitable funder of new music and talent development, together with PPL, Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Wales, Welsh Government, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Invest NI and Spotify reveal the next 12 artists who will receive support from the pioneering Momentum Music Fund.  

The artists, who have been selected by a network of industry experts, are:

And So I Watch You From Afar – Audio visual and live show development
C Duncan – Touring
Eyesore & The Jinx – Touring
FUR – Touring
Grace Savage – Marketing and promotion
Holding Absence – Recording
Joshua Burnside – Touring
Kid Kapichi – Marketing
Kidsmoke – Recording and marketing
Kobi Onyame – Recording
Man of Moon – Recording
Martha Ffion – Recording
Miink – Recording
NOVA TWINS – Marketing and promotion for singles and touring
Oscar #Worldpeace – Marketing
Petrol Girls – Marketing
RED RUM CLUB – Touring
Ryan McMullan – Recording, mixing and mastering
Siobhan Wilson – Marketing
Sub Blue – Recording and releasing
Zilo – Recording and marketing

Momentum supported Nova Twins said, “Without this grant we wouldn’t be able to give our music the proper release support that it deserves”

This latest round includes the first artists to be supported through the new Momentum Accelerator initiative. Grants of up to £5,000, plus advice and support are available for talented Liverpool based artists and their growing teams to help them reach a crucial tipping point and become more investment-ready in the future.  The first two Liverpool based artists to benefit from this first round of Momentum Accelerator are, Eyesore & The Jinx and Sub Blue.

Vanessa Reed, CEO at PRS Foundation said,

“Huge congratulations to the talented artists that have been supported in this latest round of our pioneering Momentum Music Fund which includes the results of a new partnership with Liverpool City Council. By supporting our first two Momentum Accelerator artists, we’re extending our Momentum support to more emerging artists outside of London where we’ll be investing in local infrastructure and earlier stage talent. I’m looking forward to extending this Momentum support to other UK cities and following the next steps of all artists selected in this latest round.”

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music at Arts Council of Northern Ireland said,

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is committed to providing valuable, meaningful opportunities for our artists and the Momentum Music Fund does that by enabling artists to take that vital next step in the development of their professional musical careers.  We are proud to partner with PRS Foundation and Invest NI in this important initiative and congratulate And So I Watch You From Afar, Joshua Burnside, Ryan McMullan and all the artists taking part in this exciting opportunity.”

Managed by PRS Foundation, the Momentum Music fund awards grants of £5,000-£15,000 using funds from PRS Foundation, PPL, Creative Scotland, Arts Council of Wales, Welsh Government, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Invest NI. Spotify, the official digital partner on the fund, contributes additional funding and a reward package containing exciting promotional opportunities and a close working relationship between Momentum artists and the Spotify team. Liverpool City Council’s partnership for the Momentum Music Fund, called Momentum Accelerator, ensures that at least £20,000 of grant support will be offered to talented Liverpool based artists.

The Momentum Music 5 year impact report, which was launched at the Great Escape in May this year, showed that since 2013 the fund has supported over 200 artists, over 90 new albums and more than 100 UK tours totaling over 650 UK live dates. The 2016 impact report analysing the first three years of the fund revealed that Momentum has generated £13million for the UK music industry.  PRS Foundation and Arts Council England initiated The Momentum Music Fund in 2013.   Arts Council England originally established the need for this specific fund and supported the programme from 2013-18.

For a full rundown of all the artists supported so far see prsfoundation.com/funding/momentum-music-fund/momentum-artists. The next deadline for applications to the Momentum Music Fund is 28th May 2019 via the PRS Foundation website. We are particularly interested in receiving more applications from outside of London prsfoundation.com/funding/momentum-music-fund

Listen to the latest Momentum supported artists on the Spotify Momentum playlist here.

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Arts Council launches pioneering programme to bring great art to schools across Northern Ireland

Tuesday 9th April 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Visual Arts

Pictured (L-R) are pupils Evie Close and Kenadie Butler with Suzanne Lyle, Arts Council, Maeve Walls, Department For Communities, teacher, Robin Cahoon and artist, Brendan Jamison with his sugar cube sculpture, Henry Tate’s Mausoleum. Image: Pictured (L-R) are pupils Evie Close and Kenadie Butler with Suzanne Lyle, Arts Council, Maeve Walls, Department For Communities, teacher, Robin Cahoon and artist, Brendan Jamison with his sugar cube sculpture, Henry Tate’s Mausoleum.

World-renowned sculptor, Brendan Jamison, has officially launched the Art Lending Scheme for Schools, a new visual arts initiative from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.  The scheme offers schools the opportunity to exhibit works from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Contemporary Art Collection and aims to increase opportunities for young people to be inspired by and engage with high-quality visual arts.

With support from the Department for Communities (DfC), the Arts Council’s Art Lending Scheme for Schools is a free programme which enables all schools to choose and exhibit works from the Collection, which currently holds over 500 artworks, by established and emerging visual artists working in Northern Ireland. 

The scheme was officially launched at Belfast Model School for Girls in North Belfast, one of four schools who are among the first to take up the scheme.  Other schools that are taking part include; St Cecilia’s College, Derry-Londonderry, Malone Integrated College and Mercy College, both in Belfast.  The Arts Council is keen to hear from schools that are interested in taking part in the scheme and are also on hand to help advise and curate an exhibition for each school if required. 

Artist, Brendan Jamison, commented,

"The aim is to inspire the next generation of creative thinkers at a pivotal point in their education, helping to expand the minds of young people and encourage teenagers to dream of ambitious futures where they can bring creative magic to all aspects of society".

Mr Robin Cahoon, Acting Leader of Learning Art and Design, Belfast Model School for Girls, said

“As an art teacher I always encourage pupils to go, view and experience artwork in galleries and museums.  To have the gallery come to our school will hopefully give all pupils a taste of what it is like to view and enjoy art.  More importantly it is fantastic that the artwork is by artists that work in Northern Ireland. It is my hope that as pupils see these art pieces every day it will ignite a spark to further explore their creative side.  My vision is that the girls will become ambassadors for the school and will be able to give their interpretation of the artwork to visitors at the Girls Model.”

Maeve Walls, Director of Culture, DfC said:

“The Department for Communities is delighted to be able to support the Art Lending Scheme for Schools by the Arts Council.  It is a wonderful opportunity for young people to view, interpret and be inspired by ‘real’ works of art in the classroom while allowing local emerging artists an opportunity to showcase their work”.

Dr Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added,

“Many of the artists represented in the Arts Council’s contemporary art collection have major national and international reputations, such as two-times Turner Prize nominee, Willie Doherty; Cara Murphy, whose work is included in the Downing Street Sliver Collection; and Colin Davidson, who painted the Queens’ portrait in 2016, Brendan Jamison, Ian Cumberland, and Paul Seawright.

“By offering the Collection for public display in schools, we are helping to showcase the work of our artists and to introduce the public to Northern Ireland’s wealth of creative talent. Schools are welcome to curate their own show or the Arts Council’s expert staff can help compile and theme an exhibition suitable for any space. We can provide works in all media, from painting, sculpture, crafts, print, photography and video through to digital art.”

Interested schools should visit www.artscouncil-ni.org/collection for further information or call 028 9262 3555.

 

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Ebrington Primary School and Thornhill College win BBC Northern Ireland School Choir Of The Year

Sunday 7th April 2019 at 5pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Ebrington Primary School, Junior winners of BBC Northern Ireland School Choir Of The Year Image: Ebrington Primary School, Junior winners of BBC Northern Ireland School Choir Of The Year

Thornhill College and Ebrington Primary School, Londonderry have been named as Northern Ireland’s top senior and junior school choirs in the live final of BBC Northern Ireland School Choir Of The Year.

Presented by John Toal and Kerry McLean, the final was broadcast from the Ulster Hall, Belfast, on BBC Radio Ulster earlier today (Sunday 7 April), and recorded for a special highlights programme for BBC NI television to be shown on BBC One Northern Ireland, Sunday 14 April at 5.30pm.

Sixty-two choirs battled it out over the course of the past eight weeks and six schools from across Northern Ireland took part in the live final, with three competing respectively in the junior and senior categories.

The awards to the two schools were presented by guest judge Carrie Grant, vocal coach, singer and television presenter.

The rest of the judging panel was made up of Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, Arts Council for Northern Ireland; Richard Yarr, Senior Producer Classical Music, BBC Radio Ulster, and Andrew Nunn, Musical Director with the Ulster Youth Choir.

Each choir was invited to perform two songs and the judges decided which two choirs from the junior and senior categories would go head to head to pick up the two titles.

The choirs taking part in the Junior category final were: Pond Park Primary School, Lisburn; Ebrington Primary School, Londonderry, and Macosquin Primary School, Coleraine.

In the Senior category competing in the final were: Carrickfergus Grammar School; Thornhill College, Derry and Dalriada School, Ballymoney.

Thornhill College performed The Seal Lullaby and De Angelis, while Ebrington Primary School performed I Am A Small Part Of The World and Get On Board.

In the junior category Macosquin Primary from Coleraine and Pond Park Primary School, Lisburn were runners-up, and it was Dalriada School and Carrickfergus Grammar who were runners-up in the senior category.

The two-hour live radio programme also included a performance from the Ulster Youth Chamber Choir, followed by flautist Andrew Douglas, one of the recipients of the BBC NI/ACNI Young Musicians’ Platform Awards, accompanied by Ruth McGinley.

BBC Northern Ireland School Choir of the Year is produced in association with the Ulster Youth Choir, and supported by the Arts Council for Northern Ireland (ACNI).

The winning choirs will feature across a range of programming and events during this year.

If you missed the radio programme, catch it again via the BBC Sounds app. And for additional content check out Twitter #SCOTY and pictures go to bbc.co.uk/scoty

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The Arts Council announces Annual Funding of £12.8 million for 97 key arts organisations

Thursday 4th April 2019 at 12pm 0 Comments Youth Arts , Visual Arts , Northern Ireland Music , Literature , Community Arts , Craft , Dance , Drama , Circus & Carnival Arts

Pictured are dancer, Vasiliki Stasinaki, Gilly Campbell, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Emma McEvoy and Ciara Lyttle Image: Pictured are dancer, Vasiliki Stasinaki, Gilly Campbell, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Emma McEvoy and Ciara Lyttle

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) today (4 April 2019) announced annual funding of £12.8 million for 97 key arts organisations from its exchequer and National Lottery resources. Government funds of £8.4million will maintain the core costs of 97 arts organisations while £4.3 million of National Lottery funding will support their programming costs. The Arts Council’s Annual Funding Programme (AFP) is the most significant allocation of public funding for the arts in Northern Ireland each year.

The Arts Council is relieved to have received standstill funding on its budget from the Department for Communities as 4% reductions had been anticipated; we are grateful for this acknowledgement of the fragile state of the arts sector. However, the National lottery income to the Arts Council which supports programming costs for AFP has been declining, resulting in that element of the AFP budget reducing by 4.5% compared to 2018/19. Consequently, ACNI’s Board had to again make difficult strategic funding decisions this year to protect the balance of art forms across Northern Ireland and the number of arts organisations supported by AFP in 2019/20 was reduced from 102 to 97.

The Arts Council Chair, John Edmund, commented,

“Today I announced that the Arts Council is able to award £12.8 million of annual arts funding to support the valuable work of our artists and arts organisations, all of whom are delivering great art for the benefit of everyone in Northern Ireland.”

“However, within the context of reducing public funding, this year in particular from the National Lottery, the Board had to make the difficult decision to reduce the number of annually funded organisations while protecting the balance of arts forms for the year ahead. It is with regret that we had to refuse AFP 2019 funding to 5 current AFP clients. All of these organisations are eligible to apply to other Arts Council programmes in the future.

“The vast majority of applications received for Annual Funding this year were eligible, but there simply weren’t the resources to fund all that was asked for. Thirty-four organisations were offered standstill funding, five were offered strategic uplifts, while the remainder received cuts, in the majority of cases, cuts of 5% to programming costs.

“The five AFP organisations rejected from this year’s programme will be given 3 months funding to help them transition out of AFP funding while they consider other grant application streams.  I would like to take the opportunity to commend all those who were successful in their applications and I look forward to seeing the inspirational range of arts activities in the coming year.”


Annual Funding Programme Case Studies:

All Set Project
The All Set Project, based in Portadown, delivers high-quality cross-cultural programmes of traditional music and tuition in schools throughout Northern Ireland.  These programmes are unique to All Set and have been running in primary schools since 1996.  The All Set Project received a strategic uplift of £8,576 towards a new part-time administration role and artists costs.  This uplift will enable All Set to successfully deliver an increased programme for 2019/20.  

Maiden Voyage and DU Dance
Dance companies Maiden Voyage and DU Dance also received strategic funding uplifts of £6,229 and £5,218 respectively, to support the costs of an essential relocation to the Crescent Arts Centre in South Belfast where they will be based alongside Dance Resource Base, thus protecting the future of a dance hub within Belfast and ensuring that they meet the employer’s duty of care to provide safe working conditions for dancers as set out in the Equity/Dance UK’s Fit to Dance Space Charter.

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Gear up for the first ever JLF Belfast

Tuesday 2nd April 2019 at 4pm 0 Comments Literature

Pictured is Noirin McKinney, Arts Council for Northern Ireland, Sanjoy Roy, Festival Producer for the Jaipur Literature Festival, and Colette Norwood British Council Northern Ireland with members of Arts Ekta and Sitar player, Daniel Perswick Image: Pictured is Noirin McKinney, Arts Council for Northern Ireland, Sanjoy Roy, Festival Producer for the Jaipur Literature Festival, and Colette Norwood British Council Northern Ireland with members of Arts Ekta and Sitar player, Daniel Perswick

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, in partnership with the British Council and the producers of the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival in India, have unveiled plans for a landmark event in June, set to bring in the magnificent energy and atmosphere of one of the world’s biggest and most spectacular literary festivals to Belfast.

For the first time ever, the Jaipur Literature Festival comes to Belfast from 21-23 June 2019 at select iconic venues in the city to celebrate literature and the rich diversity in thought that it inspires.

Since 2014, Teamwork Arts, the producers of the Festival, have expanded its global reach with editions in London, New York, Boulder, Houston, Adelaide, Toronto and now Belfast, recreating the spirit and magic of the original festival across the world.

The Festival in Northern Ireland follows close on the heels of the sixth edition of ZEE JLF The British Library, which runs 14-16 June 2019.

JLF Belfast will feature readings, panel discussions and debates with acclaimed writers and cultural thinkers from India, Ireland, the UK and more for a unique literature festival celebrating a joint love of books, creativity, music, and of sharing each other’s stories. Themes under discussion will include Borders, Gender, Poetry and Migration.

The Festival will host events at at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast on Saturday June 22nd and at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace on Sunday June 23rd 2019.

The event was announced on Tuesday at a special event in Belfast.

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development at the Arts Council, commented:

“It is with great pleasure that we can announce today that the prestigious Jaipur Literature Festival is coming to Belfast. This is a new arts event for Northern Ireland which will celebrate our links with India and our shared love of conversation, literature and debate. Already confirmed for the programme are writers Pico Iyer, Navtej Sarna, David Park, Paul McVeigh, Namita Gokhale and William Dalrymple.”

“Working with our partners at the Lyric Theatre and Seamus Heaney HomePlace in Bellaghy, this fantastic new three-day festival will be a platform for creating, sharing and promoting the creative arts and will deepen our partnership with key Indian cultural institutions. We very much look forward to welcoming international writers and audiences to the Festival here this summer and sharing our famous Northern Ireland hospitality.”

Sanjoy K. Roy, Managing Director Teamwork Arts, Producers of the Festival, said,

“JLF at Belfast will explore our common legacy of post-conflict literature, cultural and political impact.  The Festival will showcase ideas and voices outside of the ‘Anglo-centric’ cultural expectations and will be a celebration of poetry, music and the written word.”

Jonathan Stewart, British Council, Director Northern Ireland, commented:

“British Council is honoured to be working with our colleagues at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival to deepen the existing literature connections that we have with India, to welcome authors from India to Northern Ireland and share Indian writing and publishing with our audiences at the inaugural JLF at Belfast in June 2019.”

“Building inbound and outbound exchanges and opportunities between Northern Ireland and other countries including India is a key focus of the British Council’s work and the ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival is already a key platform for Northern Ireland writers working internationally.” 

The ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival takes place in India annually and has been described as ‘the greatest literary show on Earth’. Over the last twelve years, its size and reputation have grown exponentially and it is now considered one of the most important events of its kind across the globe, bringing together a diverse mix of the world’s greatest writers, thinkers, humanitarians, politicians, business leaders, sports-persons and entertainers on one stage to engage in thoughtful dialogue and debate.

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Grand Opera House to undergo major restoration programme to mark 125th anniversary

Tuesday 2nd April 2019 at 11am 0 Comments

Belfast’s Grand Opera House Image: Belfast’s Grand Opera House

Work to restore the Grand Opera House, one of Northern Ireland’s most iconic buildings, will begin in the New Year as the Theatre announces support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Rescued from demolition in the mid-1970s, restored and reopened in 1980, the Grand Opera House was the first building in Belfast to attain Grade A listed status, and is the only remaining Victorian Theatre in Northern Ireland. Its historic and opulent auditorium is regarded as amongst the architecturally most important theatre interiors in the UK and Ireland.

Starting in January 2020 the ten-month project will focus on the restoration of the auditorium designed by the most prolific theatre architect of the Victorian era, Frank Matcham.

“There’s no doubt that Frank Matcham bestowed on Belfast one of his most imaginative and splendid creations,” says Ian Wilson, Chief Executive of the Grand Opera House. “The support of The National Lottery Heritage Fund and the project’s other funders will protect this unique heritage asset and will secure a thriving theatre for future generations.”

“As well as the restoration work the project will install, for the first time, an exhibition telling the Grand Opera House’s colourful history. Over 300,000 people attended shows last year. The addition of the historical exhibition will enable the Theatre to open its doors outside performances. This will further affirm the Grand Opera House’s place on the world stage as a centre for theatregoing and as a Belfast visitor and tourist attraction.”

The project will see the auditorium returned to its former grandeur, confirm the Theatre’s unique and significant heritage, and will include:

  • The restoration of the auditorium’s plasterwork, including the famous and unique elephant heads that support the ornate auditorium boxes, front-of-balcony designs, ceiling décor, paintings and the intricate decorative finishes.
  • The repair and restoration of the 1980 glass extension to the Great Victoria Street façade. This area, an important part of the Theatre’s history which is currently closed off from the public, will be reopened to allow theatregoers and visitors to enjoy more of the 1895 building.
  • Upgrade of the now outdated technical infrastructure including lighting and stage equipment to make them appropriate for modern standards of stage presentation and audience expectation.
  • Replacement of the seats throughout the auditorium and of the stage curtains.
  • Installation of much-needed modern air handling.
  • Upgrading of theatregoer facilities including increased wheelchair spaces, improving access into the auditorium and increasing the number of toilets.
  • Reimagining and remodeling the Act II front of house space so that it further supports access to the Theatre and brings alive its heritage and history through the first-ever permanent exhibition celebrating the many famous people who have appeared on its stage. These have included Laurel and Hardy, Luciano Pavarotti, Darcey Bussell, Roger Moore and, of course, May McFettridge, to name but a few!

Each week National Lottery players raise around £30 million for good causes. Thanks to them, The National Lottery Heritage Fund will contribute £4.8 million towards the project costs of £12.2 million with the Grand Opera House Trust committing £4.2 million of its own reserves, carefully garnered over a number of years for this purpose. A further £0.5 million has been secured from a number of charitable trusts and foundations, and the balance will be sought from other sources including a public appeal.

During the ten months of closure the Grand Opera House Trust will present its biggest ever outreach and engagement programme which will include talks, tours, workshops and events across Northern Ireland. The restoration and development work will be completed ahead of the Theatre’s 125th anniversary in December 2020 which will start a year-long celebration of the Grand Opera House featuring an unparalleled season of shows plus outreach and community engagement activities.

Over the last 25 years The National Lottery Heritage Fund, formerly the Heritage Lottery Fund, has invested a huge £244 million in over 1,400 projects across Northern Ireland. Historic buildings and monuments, like the Grand Opera House, have benefited from £119 million to help restore, regenerate and safeguard them for the future.

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Arts Council hosts creative careers event to inspire future creative workforce

Thursday 28th March 2019 at 3pm 0 Comments Craft , Dance , Drama , Film & TV , Literature , Northern Ireland Music , Traditional Arts , Visual Arts

Pictured (L-R) are St Mary’s students, Stephen White, Aton McVeigh and Anton McVeigh with Kwame Daniels, Bounce Culture. Image: Pictured (L-R) are St Mary’s students, Stephen White, Aton McVeigh and Anton McVeigh with Kwame Daniels, Bounce Culture.

An event aiming to inspire young people to take up a career in the creative industries took place at the Lyric Theatre Belfast, hosted by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and supported by the Department for Communities. The event gave over 200 school children, careers advisors and further education students the opportunity to hear from professionals working in theatre, music, fashion & design, animation and digital technology.

Welcomed by music journalist, Rigsy, from BBC’s Across the Line, attendees heard from a host of leading lights about how an interest in the arts can feed a successful creative career.

Musicians Ryan Vail, Kwame Daniels and fashion designer Hannah Vail gave an insight into their education, career progression and what it’s like to work in the creative industries.  The young delegates got to see an excerpt from The 39 Steps currently running at the Lyric Theatre and then had a chance to hear from Executive Producer Jimmy Fay and his team members: former creative industries apprentice and now Theatre Producer, Bronagh McFeely and Head of Creative Learning, Philip Crawford, who discussed the many backstage roles it takes to put on a theatre production. 

Digital artists such as animator Joel Simon and virtual reality and technology specialists Brian Shaw from Makematic and Rory Clifford from Retinize also helped the panel to bring a career in the arts alive for the young delegates in the audience. 

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said,

“We were delighted to host this event with support from the Department for Communities and the Lyric Theatre. At a time when our young people are making choices about their futures, we want to encourage them to see the arts and creative industries as an attractive career option.  The arts and our artists feed the creative industries pipeline here and are a major employer in Northern Ireland.  Being here and hearing from some of the leading voices working in the creative industries, will we hope inspire many in this young audience.”

Maeve Walls Director of Culture for the Department for Communities said;

‘’We are proud to be supporting the delivery of this event. Creativity is a key driver as part of a modern economy. It is essential that we make our young people aware of the opportunities in these fields and encourage them to think about how they can harness their natural creativity to develop careers for themselves and also contribute and develop a modern digital economy for Northern Ireland.”

Jimmy Fay, Executive Producer, Lyric Theatre, added,

“The Lyric is delighted to be hosting the Arts Council’s Creative Careers event. The morning is packed with presentations, discussions and performances from talented artists and professionals, showcasing the wide range of career paths for young people in the industry, both on and off the stage. From producing, acting, design, stage management, technical, marketing and creative learning; all avenues are covered. It’s the Lyric’s aim to advocate and promote the exciting and dynamic job opportunities within theatre to ensure the sustainably of new talent for the future success of the creative industries.”

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Shakespeare at The MAC a ‘Dream’ come true for Open Arts!”

Wednesday 20th March 2019 at 12pm 0 Comments Drama

Fairy King and Queen Oberon and Titania (Gareth Smyth & Michelle Porter), sprinkle a little magic ahead of Open Arts 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' at The MAC on 26-27 April. Image: Fairy King and Queen Oberon and Titania (Gareth Smyth & Michelle Porter), sprinkle a little magic ahead of Open Arts 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' at The MAC on 26-27 April.

Open Arts, one of Northern Ireland’s most dynamic arts and disability organisations will be stepping into the spotlight at The MAC on Friday 26 and Saturday 27 April for a unique production of Shakespeare’s classic romantic comedy ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.

Audiences will be transported to a magical forest world to meet the fairy king and queen Oberon and Titania and their mischievous servant Puck, who creates unintentional havoc for two lovestruck couples with the aid of a magic potion.

Adding to the comedic chaos are the motley crew of The Mechanicals (including in this adaptation a librarian, a DJ and a rugby coach!) performing the famous ‘play within a play’ and poor Bottom, whose head gets magically transformed into that of an ass, creating all the necessary ingredients for an hilarious story of order and disorder, reality and appearance and love and marriage.
Presented by the award-winning arts and disability charity Open Arts, this very special event will showcase the drama, dance, choral, visual art, creative writing and traditional Javanese Gamelan melodic percussion skills of up to 65 group members who have a range of disabilities: physical, sensory, learning disabilities and mental health illness.

Eileen Branagh, Chief Executive of Open Arts said:

"Given that it is national Shakespeare Week this week, we are especially delighted to be launching our unique adaptation of ‘A Midsummer Night's Dream’ at The MAC, one of Northern Ireland's leading arts venues.  This ambitious production is the result of almost two years’ work by Open Arts participants and tutors and it promises to be an unforgettable celebration of creativity and inclusivity.”

Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts and Education, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“Open Arts is a remarkable arts organisation and is vital, not least because it provides opportunities for people with disabilities to access and participate in the arts, but also because it provides a platform for people to make friends, to learn new skills and to increase confidence and self-esteem.  The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to support this terrific organisation, through National Lottery funding,  and I look forward to seeing the energy, commitment and creativity that the cast will bring to their take on ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.’
 
Tickets for ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ are priced £10/£8 and are on sale now from The MAC box office at themaclive.com/event/a-midsummer-nights-dream or tel. 028 90235053.

Open Arts is principally funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and receives Core Multi-Annual Funding from Belfast City Council's Tourism Culture & Arts Unit.

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Belfast to welcome Man Booker Prize-winning author Anna Burns

Friday 15th March 2019 at 8am 0 Comments Literature

Man Booker Prize-winning author, Anna Burns Image: Man Booker Prize-winning author, Anna Burns

Man Booker Prize-winning author Anna Burns, whose standout 2018 novel Milkman captured the ultimate prize in literature last year, is set to come to the Lyric Theatre Belfast next month for a special evening event on Monday 15th April. The event will be jointly hosted by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Faber Members, in association with the Lyric.

‘In conversation with’ acclaimed Irish author and fellow Man Booker-winner Anne Enright, Anna Burns will read extracts from her work and give an insight into her creative inspirations, and her much talked about novel.

Milkman is Anna Burns’ third full-length novel, winning the author her first major award. She is the first writer from Northern Ireland to win the prestigious prize.
Born in Belfast and now based in East Sussex, the novel draws on the writer’s experience of Northern Ireland during the Troubles. Set in an unnamed city, the story focuses on middle sister as she navigates her way through a complex and dangerous world, overshadowed by the threat of gossip, rumours, social pressures and politics. 

Looking forward to the event, author Anna Burns said:

“I feel excited and joyous to be coming to my home town of Belfast to take part in this event. It is an honour to be the first Northern Irish winner of the Man Booker Prize and to have the chance to share this achievement with the place I was born and grew up in. I am delighted to find that my book has spoken, not only to those of my generation, but also to younger people who weren't even born during the era in which the book is set.”

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“We knew that Anna Burns was inventive and unnerving and daring as a writer. But it was only when Milkman appeared early in 2018, that the scale of her gift was visible. It was already clear that in Milkman she had written possibly the best novel from or about Northern Ireland in a decade.

“Since then, we have lived with the book’s scrutiny of the insidious and invasive cultures of the time, and with its intense and distinctive humour, and its masterly control of the play of our language. Somebody McSomebody and Middle Sister have joined the ranks of the indispensables of our culture. It is a huge joy of course to welcome her back to her home city of Belfast which she has so vividly refashioned for good in the image of her characters.”

Executive Producer of the Lyric, Jimmy Fay, said:

“We are honoured to have been chosen by Anna Burns to host this event. It marks her first public appearance in Ireland, north or south, since she was announced as the winner of the Man Booker Prize. Her brilliant novel Milkman, with a central character whose only means of escape is literature, is just the perfect fit for the Lyric Theatre Belfast, as the home of new writing in Northern Ireland.
The chance to meet and hear Anna Burns is a wonderful opportunity for book lovers and fans of new writing across the country. It is just fantastic that we can celebrate this extraordinary writer in her home town.”

Milkman is published by Faber & Faber, making it the fourth consecutive year the prize has been won by an independent publisher. Faber & Faber has the second highest number of winning titles of any publisher, with six winners that include: Something to Answer For (1969), Rites of Passage (1980), Oscar and Lucinda (1988), The Remains of the Day (1989), True History of the Kelly Gang (2001), Vernon God Little (2003).

Tickets for the event are priced at £12, with a concession price of £8 per ticket for schools. To book your place visit www.lyrictheatre.co.uk

Faber Members is Faber & Faber's free-to-join literary programme of events, news and special partnerships - www.faber.co.uk/members

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Joshua Burnside, Roe and Jealous of the Birds showcased at major music gathering, South by Southwest

Wednesday 13th March 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Pictured L-R, Joshua Burnside, Naomi Hamilton (Jealous of The Birds) and Róisín Donald (Roe) Image: Pictured L-R, Joshua Burnside, Naomi Hamilton (Jealous of The Birds) and Róisín Donald (Roe)

Three musical artists from Northern Ireland, Joshua Burnside, Jealous of The Birds and Roe are taking part in this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) showcase, the world’s largest gathering of the music, media and film industry in Austin, Texas.  Also attending is management for the artists, Lyndon Stephens, Declan Legge and Liam Craig.

This opportunity is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland’s new collaboration with PRS Foundation and their International Showcase Fund (ISF), which is also supported by Department for International Trade, British Underground, Arts Council England, the Musicians’ Union, PPL, Creative Scotland, Wales Arts international and Arts Council Wale.  The ISF offers musicians, who are at critical stages of their careers, the chance to promote their work through showcasing performances and networking with industry leaders. 

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland added,

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is committed to providing valuable, meaningful opportunities for our artists to develop their careers.  This opportunity, supported by the Arts Council through funding from the Department For Communities, does just that by giving artists, and their management, the chance to connect with leaders within the music industry whilst shining a light on the tremendous talent that is inherent to Northern Ireland.  We are proud to partner with PRS Foundation and Invest Northern Ireland in this important initiative which is enabling export ready artists vital access to a global stage.”

ISF is open to artists in Northern Ireland who wish to travel to and perform at music industry facing showcase events including; SXSW, WOMEX, Folk Alliance, Classical:NEXT, Eurosonic, JazzAhead, Reeperbahn Festival and Canadian Music Week.  ISF can support costs for international travel, accommodation and visas for those artists invited to perform at an industry event in a territory that will be beneficial to their career development. 

Brian Dolaghan, Executive Director at Invest Northern Ireland said:

“Northern Ireland has a strong base of musical talent which has been developed over many years with support from a wide range of stakeholders including Invest NI.  By supporting this initiative we aim to help grow and develop the sector through increased access to key external markets and through events such as SxSW help develop closer business linkages within the global music industry.”

Vanessa Reed, CEO at PRS Foundation said,

“We’re delighted to partner with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland in extending our vital career development and international showcasing opportunities to talented music creators in Northern Ireland. It’s fantastic news that the whole of the UK is now eligible to apply to this important fund which has a significant impact on music creators’ careers and continues to promote the strength of UK music worldwide.”

The International Showcase Fund is currently open for applications. 

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Sector leaders ‘on the same page’ with reading for children

Tuesday 12th March 2019 at 2pm 0 Comments Literature

Image:

Policy influencers, corporate partners, authors and sector leaders came together on Tuesday 5 March to discuss early children’s book sharing across the health, education and arts sectors in Northern Ireland.

BookTrust, the UK’s largest children’s reading charity, hosted the ‘On the Same Page’ conference as a celebration of cross departmental working as well as a discussion about the impact that early book sharing has on children across Northern Ireland. 

Sector spokespeople including Koulla Yiasouma (Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People), Siobhan Slavin (Nurse Consultant for Early and School Years Public Health Agency), Cathy Galway (Director of Youth, Education and Childcare, Department of Education) and Damian Smyth (Head of Literature and Drama, Arts Council of NI) alongside notable children’s authors and illustrators Dan Freedman, Myra Zepf, Andrew Whitson Kelly McCaughrain discussed the impact and the future of early children’s book sharing as well as strategies to diversify funding. The main outtakes of this included:

  • The importance of the right for a child to flourish and working in close partnership to ensure all children enjoy and achieve
  • The importance of collaboration and cooperation to ensure that every child gets the best start in life
  • The importance of early shared reading in supporting language & literacy skills, brain development, bonding, socio-emotional development and wellbeing

Koulla Yiasouma - Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People said,

“As a child I was enthralled by Enid Blyton and for my children, it was Francesca Simon’s Horrid Henry that caught their imagination. However, not all parents and children have the access to books which is why the work of the BookTrust is so important. That the charity reaches 3.4 million children across the UK with books, resources and support every year is testament to the hard work and dedication of the organisation and its many supporters. A love of reading helps children to get the best start in life so it is critical that our children are given every opportunity to enter the world of literature.”

Diana Gerald, CEO, BookTrust commented:

“On the Same Page has been a powerful opportunity to make real change in early book sharing which will impact children and families across Northern Ireland. Today’s conference brought department leaders together to discuss book sharing and take action so that every child has access to a bedtime story and an opportunity to discover the magic reading because we know that a love for reading can transform lives.” 

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“Research shows that the earlier the reading experience begins with children the better the prospects for future educational and quality of life benefits. The fact that reading is also enjoyable, inspirational, memorable, life-enhancing and, in many cases, life-changing, is an added and wonderful bonus. The Arts Council was delighted to partner in this important conference discussing these and other issues relating to the reading life and to welcome guests from across the field of interest gathered with a common aim.”

Dan Freedman, Author of the Jamie Johnson football series commented,

“It was an absolute honour to have presented a key note speech at the BookTrust’s On the Same Page conference. Reading brings us so much joy and understanding. It was a great opportunity to meet the teachers, librarians, policy makers and practitioners who are helping to ensure that the young people in Northern Ireland can enjoy the pleasure of books from an early age – something they and the whole of society will benefit from.”

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Dancing with Joy! - 107 arts organisations awarded Equipment Programme funding

Monday 11th March 2019 at 10am 0 Comments

Pictured (L_R) is Roger Courtney, Interim Manager, Crescent Arts Centre, Helen Hall, dancer, Paul Moore, Department For Communities and Noirin McKinney, Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Image: Pictured (L_R) is Roger Courtney, Interim Manager, Crescent Arts Centre, Helen Hall, dancer, Paul Moore, Department For Communities and Noirin McKinney, Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland today announced awards worth £740,000 that will help arts organisations renew and replace essential equipment. New exchequer funding from the Department for Communities, has offered much needed support to arts organisations hoping to enhance their artistic services for audiences. The fund helps to improve lighting and sound systems, renew staging and seating, as well as purchase backstage, essential items such as sewing machines, costume rails and IT equipment.

The Crescent Arts Centre received a grant of £10,988 which comes at a strategically important time for the busy, south Belfast venue. Roger Courtney, Manager said,

“The Crescent Arts Centre is literally dancing with joy - this equipment grant will help us achieve our strategic objective, to create a dance hub in Belfast, and extend the wide range of arts activities we provide here.”

Richard Wakely, Artistic Director, Belfast International Arts Festival, said,

“The grant we received will go towards a portable dance floor, an essential piece of equipment for any major arts Festival and one which will help relieve the burden of costs required to host a major international arts festival like this in Belfast.”

Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said,

“The Equipment Programme was a major success. We received applications valued at over £2 million, a reflection of the strong need within the arts sector. The Arts Council was able to make 107 awards for equipment worth £740,000 which included everything from stages and flooring to computers and sewing machines.  We are so pleased to receive this new funding package from the Department for Communities; it will benefit many artists, arts organisations and their audiences”.

Paul Moore, Head of Arts Branch, Department for Communities said:

“I am delighted the Department of Communities was able to invest £740,000 in the arts sector. This programme will provide necessary and valuable equipment to arts organisations across Northern Ireland and benefit the audiences and communities they serve.”

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Stories brought to life as Children’s Writing Fellow hosts Derry workshops

Saturday 9th March 2019 at 11am 0 Comments Literature

Myra Zepf pictured with, from left Grace Holly, Sarah Jane Logue and Cadhla Nixon Image: Myra Zepf pictured with, from left Grace Holly, Sarah Jane Logue and Cadhla Nixon

Seamus Heaney Children's Writing Fellow Myra Zepf was in Derry this week to host a special interactive workshop at the Guildhall.

Children from the city's three Irish medium primary schools, Gaelscoil Eadáin Mhóir, Gaelscoil na Daróige and Bunscoil Cholmcille, joined children's book writer Myra Zepf to mark the start of both Book Week and Seachtain na Gaeilge (Irish language Week)l with stories, games, music and fun. The 'Lúcháir Leabhar' event (The Joy of Books) was hosted by Derry and Strabane District Council, and each school was awarded a box of books by the Mayor, John Boyle.

The role of Children's Writing Fellow was created by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, with funding from the National Lottery, and the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry at Queen’s University Belfast. It is the first appointment of its kind and is one of a number of projects created by the two organisations to ensure the legacy of the Nobel Prize-winning poet, and to inspire and support current and future generations of creative writing talent.

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Kathleen Jamie named Seamus Heaney International Visiting Poetry Fellow

Thursday 7th March 2019 at 9am 0 Comments Literature

Kathleen Jamie by Robin Gillanders Image: Kathleen Jamie by Robin Gillanders

Award-winning Scottish poet Kathleen Jamie has been appointed as the second Seamus Heaney International Visiting Poetry Fellow at Queen’s University Belfast.

The fellowship is part of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Queen’s University Belfast’s joint ten-year Seamus Heaney Legacy project and is supported by Atlantic Philanthropies. The appointment is worth £20,000 annually and made to a distinguished poet of international repute.

Jamie will be based at the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University later this year, presenting public readings, workshops and masterclasses for students at the University. She will also give a reading at the Seamus Heaney Homeplace in Bellaghy.

Speaking about the appointment and looking ahead to her time in Belfast, Ms Jamie said:

“As a Scottish poet I've always looked to Ireland, admiring writers from north and south; for years I've secretly hankered to spend time there. I never imagined the opportunity would arrive in such a prestigious manner! I’d be delighted to become the next Fellow and I’m looking forward to it already.”

Kathleen Jamie was born in the west of Scotland in 1962. Her poetry collections to date include The Overhaul, which won the Costa Poetry Prize, and The Tree House, which won the Forward prize. Her non-fiction includes the highly regarded books Findings and Sightlines, both regarded as important contributions to the 'new nature writing'. Her most recent poetry collection, The Bonniest Companie appeared in 2015, and won the Saltire Scottish Book of the Year Award. A Selected Poems appeared in 2018.

Professor Glenn Patterson, Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s, said:

“Along with the Arts Council, we are very pleased to announce Kathleen Jamie as the second Seamus Heaney International Visiting Poetry Fellow and look forward to welcoming her to the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s, and to Belfast. We know Kathleen’s appointment will benefit not only local writers, students and the academic community, but also the wider public here in Northern Ireland.”

Nóirín McKinney, Director of Arts Development at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: 

“We are delighted to announce Kathleen Jamie’s appointment today. During her time in Northern Ireland, Kathleen will work closely with the MA students at Queen’s as well as taking part in public lectures, readings and workshops. As our second Visiting International Poet, Kathleen’s appointment follows a very successful visit to Northern Ireland by the American Poet Mark Doty and like he did, we hope Kathleen finds much to inspire her own future writing during her time here.”

The distinguished selection panel is comprised of current Ireland Professor of Poetry Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, and fellow poets Ciaran Carson, Gerald Dawe, Leontia Flynn, Michael Longley and Paula Meehan.

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Exhibition celebrating female artists from NI launches to mark International Women’s Day

Friday 1st March 2019 at 1pm 0 Comments Visual Arts

Joanna Johnston, Visual Arts Officer and Dr Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts at the Arts Council. Image: Joanna Johnston, Visual Arts Officer and Dr Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts at the Arts Council.

A special exhibition featuring female artists from Northern Ireland has been launched in celebration of International Women’s Day this Friday 8th March.  The exhibition, which includes works from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s contemporary art collection, runs from 1-31 March at the Burnavon Arts and Cultural Centre in Cookstown.

On show are some of the best examples of contemporary art from the artists in the region, covering a range of media including photography and painting.  The exhibition features a range of artworks from emerging and established female artists and includes photography, painting, printmaking and drawing.  Collectively, the exhibition brings together artworks which tell the stories of women from different cultures, life experiences and times.  The nine artists featured include, Shalleen Temple, Eve O’Connor, Laura McDowell, Ailbhe Greaney, Suzanne Colledge, Sharon Kelly, Fiona Finnegan and Gemma Anderson. 

The exhibition is a result of the Arts Council’s new Art Lending Scheme, a free scheme which is open to curators, galleries, and organisations interested in putting works from the Arts Council’s collection on public display.  The exhibition at Burnavon has been curated by Joanna Johnston, Visual Arts Officer at the Arts Council, who is on hand to assist organisations in curating their own exhibition.

Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented,

“We are delighted to have works from the collection exhibited at the Burnavon Arts and Cultural Centre in celebration of International Woman’s Day.  By offering the collection for public display, we are helping to showcase the work of our artists and to introduce the public to Northern Ireland’s wealth of creative talent. I would encourage everyone to go along and see this exhibition at which promises to be an impressive mix of emerging and established artists.”

The Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Sean McPeake, commented on the new exhibition at the Burnavon,

“I’m delighted that the Burnavon, Cookstown are able to showcase this fantastic exhibition of art from the Arts Council by female artists throughout March, which is most fitting as we celebrate International Women’s Day. I encourage everyone to call into the Burnavon and visit this free exhibition while we have it here in Mid Ulster.”

Deputy Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Frances Burton also said,

“As we mark International Women’s Day, we recognise this year’s theme ‘Balance for Better’ through this incredible exhibition by female artists across Northern Ireland. It offers a great opportunity to enjoy some of the best examples of contemporary art from the Arts Council’s Collection, which I hope the residents of Mid Ulster will thoroughly enjoy.”

The Arts Council Collection Exhibition at the Burnavon Arts and Culture Centre continues until 31st March, visit www.burnavon.com/theatre/art-exhibitions

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Leading performance artist, Sinéad O’Donnell, launches exhibition inspired by female empowerment

Thursday 21st February 2019 at 9am 0 Comments Visual Arts

Pictured is Joanna Johnston, Arts Council of Northern Ireland with artist, Sinéad O’Donnell. Image: Pictured is Joanna Johnston, Arts Council of Northern Ireland with artist, Sinéad O’Donnell.

“We are all sisters in this world we have to support each other. Our place and understanding of place in this world is the same in our beings to survive, to resist oppression and to join and merge through artistic forces. My work created a meeting point, through performance art, to be free.”  (Sinéad O’Donnell, performance artist).

Acclaimed performance artist, Sinead O’Donnell, has launched her latest exhibition, Crossing Permissions, at Millennium Court Arts Centre, Portadown.

The exhibition which includes a mix of photography, sculpture, video and performance art, reflects the artist’s response to time spent living and working among women in diverse locations including; Argentina, Brazil, Japan, Thailand, Uruguay and Indonesia.  In each setting the artist exchanged stories and ideas with local women to draw out issues affecting them which have informed this new work and given a voice to these women. 

Describing her latest work, Sinead O’Donnell, said,

“Crossing permissions is the title that I used to describe a process.  A process that was like an unravelling of self, art, and others through, or driven by, feminist feelings through my performance practice.  The process looked at my practice and the wider world of art that I placed myself within. As a project, Crossing Permissions, for me, was about mutual exchange: living and working alongside women; I shared my stories and they shared theirs. In each of these countries the permissions differed from culture to culture, community to community, artist to artist and woman to woman.”

Sinéad O’Donnell was the first performance artist to be awarded a Major Individual Artist award by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland in 2017/18.  These prestigious awards, worth £15,000, are given in recognition of an individual’s contribution to the arts in Northern Ireland and in order for an artist to create a significant body of new work, in this case, Crossing Permissions.  The project was commissioned by Millennium Court Arts Centre.     

Joanna Johnston, Visual Arts Development Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added,

“Sinéad O’Donnell is one of Northern Ireland’s leading performance artists  with an exceptional portfolio of work that is highly regarded internationally.  The Arts Council was delighted to recognise this significant artist with a Major Individual Award in 2017 and Crossing Permissions is the outcome from the time and space this award afforded the artist.  The result is a truly impressive exhibition with great touring potential.  Congratulations to Sinéad.”

Jackie Barker, Millennium Court Arts Centre, added,

“We have been delighted to work with Sinéad O'Donnell to produce 'Crossing Permissions', a year-long project that gave Sinéad the time, space and opportunity to develop her practice, further pushing herself to create new work based on the experiences that she has encountered throughout the year.  At MCAC, we strive to support artists to take risks and to not only challenge the gallery space, but also to challenge our audiences and artists.”

Crossing Permissions at Millennium Court Arts Centre continues until 27 March 2019.  Visit www.millenniumcourt.org

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New fund opens to help arts organisations renew and replace equipment

Tuesday 19th February 2019 at 3pm 0 Comments

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The Arts of Council of Northern Ireland has opened a funding round that aims to help arts organisations renew their working environment.

The new programme, supported by £740,000 of exchequer funding from the Department for Communities, offers much needed support to arts organisations hoping to replace old and outdated IT equipment, replace lighting and sound systems, renew seating, or purchase backstage essential items such as sewing machines and costume rails.

Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said,

“The Arts Council’s Equipment Programme can be used for anything from IT equipment and seating to jig-saws, drills and microphones - all of it benefitting artists, audiences and participants in the year ahead. We were delighted to receive this new funding package from the Department for Communities. It just couldn’t come at a better time for our arts organisations, many of whom have been struggling to buy the equipment needed to benefit the audiences they serve”.

Director of Culture with the Department for Communities Maeve Walls said:

“This funding of £740,000 will be welcomed across the arts sector and will provide necessary and valuable equipment to many organisations across Northern Ireland.  I would encourage those organisations with an interest in applying to do so by the deadline of February 26th.”

For further information and to apply online by Tuesday 26th February 2019 visit artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/equipment-programme

Arts organisations in receipt of 2018/19 AFP or 2018/19 Lottery Project funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland are encouraged to apply.

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Northern Ireland musicians showcased at major music gathering, Folk Alliance International, Canada

Monday 18th February 2019 at 9am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Pictured (L-R), is Joanne Wright, Arts Council of Norther Ireland with Brigid O’Neill, Stevie Scullion and Lyndon Stephens. Image: Pictured (L-R), is Joanne Wright, Arts Council of Norther Ireland with Brigid O’Neill, Stevie Scullion and Lyndon Stephens.

Two of the region’s top emerging artists, Stevie Scullion of Malojian and singer-songwriter, Brigid O’Neill, took part in this year’s Folk Alliance International, the world’s largest gathering of the folk music industry and community.  Also attending the five-day event in Montréal, Canada, was Lyndon Stephens, artist management for Malojian.

This opportunity is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Invest NI’s new collaboration with PRS Foundation and their International Showcase Fund (ISF),  which is also supported by Department for International Trade, British Underground, Arts Council England, the Musicians’ Union, PPL, Creative Scotland, Wales Arts international and Arts Council Wales, offers musicians, who are at critical stages of their careers, the chance to promote their work through showcasing performances and networking with industry leaders. 

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland added,

“The Arts Council is committed to providing valuable, meaningful opportunities for our artists to develop their careers.  This opportunity to attend Folk Alliance International does just that by giving artists the opportunity to connect with leaders within the music industry whilst shining a light on the tremendous talent that is inherent to Northern Ireland on an international stage.  The Arts Council is proud to partner with PRS Foundation and Invest NI in this important initiative which is enabling export ready artists vital access to a global stage.”

ISF, is open to artists in Northern Ireland who wish to travel to and perform at music industry facing showcase events including, SXSW, WOMEX, Folk Alliance, Classical:NEXT, Eurosonic, JazzAhead,

Reeperbahn Festival and Canadian Music Week. ISF can support costs for international travel, accommodation and visas for those artists invited to perform at an industry event in a territory that will be beneficial to their career development. 

Vanessa Reed, CEO at PRS Foundation said,

“We’re delighted to partner with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Invest NI in extending our vital career development and international showcasing opportunities to talented music creators in Northern Ireland. It’s fantastic news that the whole of the UK is now eligible to apply to this important fund which has a significant impact on music creators’ careers and continues to promote the strength of UK music worldwide.”

The International Showcase Fund is currently open for applications.  Visit artscouncil-ni.org/funding/scheme/international-showcase-fund for details.

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Arts Council publishes its 2018 Annual Funding Survey

Friday 15th February 2019 at 9am 0 Comments

Culture Night Belfast 2018 Image: Culture Night Belfast 2018

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has released data from its 2017/18 Annual Funding Survey.

Investment levels in the arts over the last 7 years contributed to another difficult year for the arts sector. Key headline figures show fewer performances delivered in 2017-18, an increase in the number of staff working on a part-time or contract basis, a decline in the number of volunteers working for core arts organisations, and a reduction in the number of outreach activities taking place.

Despite declining income levels however, arts organisations reported an overall increase in the number of arts activities carried out, reporting a rise in the number of festivals and participation based events. The report also revealed the positive efforts organisations were making to deliver a range of social outcomes, with 51 per cent of activities delivered in the most deprived 10 areas in Northern Ireland, as well as the targeted work taking place with children/young people and deprived communities.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council, commented:

“The data presented today has been gathered from the 106 organisations funded through the Arts Council’s Annual Funding Programme.  It is a reflection of their financial position, employment figures, the work they undertake, the services they offer, and their geographic reach.

“While there are some positives to be found in today’s report, overall the survey reflects a troubling financial climate. Our major arts organisations are facing reduced funding and rising core cost, which is impacting on their programming, their ability to deliver outreach activities and to reach new audiences through publicity and marketing.”

Statistical bulletin:
Part of the Arts Council’s research programme aims to provide data on activity funded through the Annual Funding Programme.  This helps to demonstrate the results of our significant investment in a core group of arts organisations and contributes to increasing the knowledge and understanding of the value of this investment. 

These statistics detail findings from the 2017/18 Annual Funding Survey which was completed by 106 arts organisations.  These organisations received £13m under its Annual Funding Programme.

As with last year, the data is presented in the form of an interactive dashboard to make it easier to analyse. Each of the four excel spreadsheets can be interrogated by selecting the desired criteria in the drop-down box at the top of the page. 

Some Key Findings

  • Small and medium scale arts organisations remain most vulnerable to cuts in public funding due to their reliance on Arts Council funding and limited ability to generate earned income, for example through box-office sales.
  • Arts organisations continue to operate in a challenging operational environment with increasing core costs having to be covered by funding originally allocated for programming.  This is impacting on organisations ability to deliver outreach and invest in reaching new audiences through publicity and marketing.
  • The number of volunteers working for core funded organisations fell by 12 per cent compared to 2016-17.  The time contributed by these volunteers increased by 2 per cent to over 100,000 hours.
  • Fewer people are being taken on as apprentices by core funded clients.
  • The vast majority of activity still takes place in urban areas, reflecting the geographical location of arts organisations.  A larger proportion of activity was delivered in rural areas compared to the previous year.
  • Fewer performances were delivered in 2017-18.  Despite an increase in the proportion of discounted and discretionary sales, the average ticket yield increased.  This suggests organisations are increasing the price of tickets to offset reductions in income.

Background on data
In a number of instances it has been necessary to exclude extreme responses to ensure trends displayed are an accurate reflection of the portfolio. Referred to as outliers, these figures have been removed as they tend to obscure trends.

A variety of methods are used by clients to record audiences and participant levels, some of which are more reliable than others.  To reduce associated error, organisations are asked to report data as either ‘actual’ or ‘estimated’; depending on the confidence they have in the data.  Both fields are shown in this release.

It is particularly difficult to estimate attendances at non-ticketed events such as carnivals given the nature of the work delivered.  This release includes data provided by a number of carnival organisations which together make a substantial contribution to total estimated attendances. Subsidy per attendance is calculated using actual and estimated attendances combined.

This is the fourth year this survey has been run, allowing data received to be cross-checked with responses received over the last three previous years.  In a change to the survey, organisations were asked to comment on any unexplained or large year-on-year changes in engagement levels.  This helped to validate the data received.  Any unexplained, large scale variances were checked directly with the organisations concerned.

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Poems by late poet Pádraic Fiacc gifted to Belfast schools

Tuesday 12th February 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Literature

Pictured are year 11 students from Malone Integrated College with Principal Katrina Moore, James Kerr from Verbal Arts and Gilly Campbell from the Arts Council. Image: Pictured are year 11 students from Malone Integrated College with Principal Katrina Moore, James Kerr from Verbal Arts and Gilly Campbell from the Arts Council.

Secondary schools across Belfast are set to receive a copy of the late Padraic Fiacc’s Selected Poems Ruined Pages, in memory of the influential poet who died aged 94 at the end of January.

The books are a gift from the Verbal Arts through its publishing imprint, Lagan Press, and with support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Education Authority will be distributed to 50 secondary schools across the city.

Born Patrick Joseph O’Connor in Belfast in 1924 and later emigrating with his family to New York in the late 1920s, Pádraic Fiacc is best known for his writing on the Troubles. He enrolled at St Joseph’s Seminary, Yonkers in 1941 and studied for five years under the Irish Capuchin Order. Unhappy at the life of a prospective priest, he left the seminary and came to Belfast in 1946, where he immediately began forging a reputation as a poet.

His first full collection, By the Black Stream, was published by Dolmen Press in 1969. Other volumes quickly followed, as well as a miscellany of his critical and autobiographical work. Recent collections include Sea:  Sixty Years of Poetry by Pádraic Fiacc (edited and illustrated by Michael McKernon, 2006) and In My Own Hand: Poems Written in the Poet’s Own Hand (2012). Fiacc was recognised for his contribution to Irish literature when he was elected a member of the Aosdana in 1981 and honoured by Belfast City Council in 2012 with a special reception at City Hall.

James Kerr, Chief Executive of Verbal Arts commented:

“The Verbal Arts is delighted to be able to share the creative talent of Padriac Fiacc with the next generation of young people.  Through our imprint Lagan Press we have published many works by Fiacc including Red Earth, Sempere Vaccare and My Twentieth Century Night Life.  This bequest of Ruined Pages to the 50 post primary school libraries in Belfast gives a great overview for first time readers to the talent and vivacity of Fiacc and will sustain the legacy of one of our greatest poets for years to come.”

Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts and Education, at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland commented:

“Pádraic Fiacc was one of the most distinctive poets of his generation. His powerful writing on the Troubles will perhaps be what he will be best remembered for; breathtakingly honest,  often unsettling, but always brilliant. We are delighted to be working alongside the Verbal Arts imprint Lagan Press and the Education Authority to gift this important collection to schools across Belfast, so that many generations to come can experience his work.”

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Sam McCready (1936-2019)

Monday 11th February 2019 at 4pm 0 Comments Drama

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has learned with great sadness of the death yesterday of Sam McCready, Belfast actor, author, poet, director, teacher, painter, and a founding member of the Lyric Players Theatre.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council, paid the following tribute to Mr McCready:

“The word ‘legend’ is much overused, but with Sam McCready, the epithet is no exaggeration. For decades he was a pivotal figure in Northern Ireland culture, and his influence on the shape of professional theatre here cannot be overstated. He was a great actor, director and theatre-maker in his own right and, as actor, mentor, teacher and friend, he dedicated a lifetime to encouraging younger actors to reach their own creative potential and inspired many of our finest actors who would go on to achieve world renown. Sam McCready was revered as an artist internationally, but he will be remembered locally with unusual warmth and affection by the entire arts community of Northern Ireland. We have lost one of our leading lights, an inspiration, and a truly lovely individual.”

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Tales of Life on the Lagan celebrated at Waterways Storymaking Festival

Tuesday 5th February 2019 at 12pm 0 Comments

Pictured are young writer Aisling Smyth,10, from St Theresa’s Primary School in Lurgan, composer Bridgett O'Neill, who composed a special piece for the festival, Brian Cassells, OBE, Chair of Lagan Navigational Trust and poet Olive Broderick. Image: Pictured are young writer Aisling Smyth,10, from St Theresa’s Primary School in Lurgan, composer Bridgett O'Neill, who composed a special piece for the festival, Brian Cassells, OBE, Chair of Lagan Navigational Trust and poet Olive Broderick.

The stories of the Lagan Navigation were brought to life on Saturday (2nd February) at a special awards ceremony celebrating the creative talent of the communities that connect with the waterway.

Organised by the Lagan Navigation Trust, and supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland National Lottery funds, Lisburn and Castlereagh Council, Belfast City Council, Armagh City Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, Waterstones, Libraries NI, the Odyssey Trust and many others, the Waterways Storymaking Festival invited local people to submit their stories of life on the Lagan using words, images, music and dance. 

With a theme this year of “Linen on the Lagan”, creative writing, tapestry and photography workshops  ran through the Autumn, encouraging local residents to reflect on their own experiences of the historic waterway. As part of Saturday’s celebration event, prizes were awarded for creative writing across a range of categories for adults and young people. Residents in six local communities also learnt stitching skills to create a series of stunning tapestries which were displayed alongside a photographic exhibition, while local composer Bridget O’Neill worked with musician Colin Reid to create a new musical commission entitled Flight of the Locks.

The Lagan Navigation dates back to the 1700s; connecting with 300,000 residents, 141 schools with a 35,000 pupil population, and traverses three council districts along its 27 mile route. As custodians of the waterway, the Lagan Navigation Trust campaigns and raises investment to have the route restored and fully reopened for communities and future generation to enjoy.

Brian Cassells OBE, Chair of the Lagan Navigation Trust commented,

“The Lagan Navigation has been a hugely significant part of life for many generations of people. We were overwhelmed by the number of entries we received to this year’s festival. We’ve had local people taking part in creative writing workshops and photographing the surrounding landscape and wildlife, and others coming together in their communities to learn embroidery skills. This is only the second year of this Festival, so it has been extremely encouraging to see so many people, of all ages and abilities, getting involved and celebrating our proud tradition of storymaking in Northern Ireland.”

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, was one of the judges of the writing competition. He said:

“The Arts Council was delighted to get involved for the first time this year in the Waterways Storymaking Festival. Many of those who submitted their stories and poems to the creative writing competition had never done anything like this before and it was fantastic to see the range of entries submitted, each with own unique perspective on what the Lagan Navigation means to them.”

An exhibition of artworks created for the festival will now go on tour to Lagan Valley Island, Belfast Boat Club and the Millennium Court Arts Centre in Portadown. For more information visit www.lagannavigationtrust.com

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Belfast Exposed launch exhibition of works from the Arts Council’s Contemporary Art Collection

Wednesday 30th January 2019 at 9am 0 Comments Visual Arts

Pictured launching the exhibition is Deirdre Robb, Chief Executive, Belfast Exposed with Joanna Johnston, Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Image: Pictured launching the exhibition is Deirdre Robb, Chief Executive, Belfast Exposed with Joanna Johnston, Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

A special exhibition at Belfast Exposed featuring selected photographic works from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s contemporary art collection is now open.  The exhibition has come about as part of the Arts Council’s new Art Lending Scheme, a free scheme which is open to curators, galleries, and organisations interested in putting works from the Collection on public display.

Inspired by the wealth of photographic works in the collection the curators wanted to ensure the photography works on show were reflective of the breadth, diversity and talent that Northern Ireland excels in.

There promises to be something for everyone, including a range of emerging and established artists dealing with topics such as life and death, domesticity and feminism, war and colonialism, as well as urban scenes and landscapes.

The exhibition features 21 artists including renowned photographers Paul Seawright, Donovan Wylie, Susan MacWilliam, Peter Richards, Ailbhe Greaney, Fergus Jordan, Laura McDowell, and Joanna Karolini. It also includes 3 video works from Mairead McClean, Adrian O’Connell and Angela Halliday.

Joanna Johnston, Visual Arts Development Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented,

“We are delighted to have works from the Collection exhibited at Belfast Exposed.  Many of the artists represented in the Collection have major national and international reputations and by offering the collection for public display, we are helping to showcase the work of our artists and to introduce the public to Northern Ireland’s wealth of creative talent. I would encourage everyone to go along and see this exhibition at Belfast Exposed which promises to be an impressive mix of emerging and established artists.”

Deirdre Robb, Chief Executive of Belfast Exposed and curator, added,

“Northern Ireland is home to some of the best photographers in the world. By hosting a selection of the work in our gallery, it allows us to celebrate the artists and acknowledges the contribution they make to the field of photography in a local and global context.” 

The Arts Council Collection Exhibition at Belfast Exposed continues until 16th March, visit, www.belfastexposed.org

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Daniele Rustioni to become new Chief Conductor of the Ulster Orchestra

Friday 25th January 2019 at 9am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Internationally-renowned Italian maestro, Daniele Rustioni Image: Internationally-renowned Italian maestro, Daniele Rustioni

The Ulster Orchestra is delighted to announce that Daniele Rustioni will be its new Chief Conductor to succeed Rafael Payare in September.

Rafael has collaborated with the Orchestra musicians for these past five seasons to build an exciting level of achievement in Northern Ireland, culminating in this season’s exploration of the large-scale Shostakovich symphonies. Of Daniele’s appointment Rafael said;

“I am sure that Daniele is going to have a great time with the wonderful artists of the Ulster Orchestra, as well as with their enthusiastic and receptive audience.  I have spent the last five years with this ensemble and it will always have a special place in my heart.  We have shared unforgettable experiences together, and the musicians as well as the greater community in Northern Ireland have always made my family and me feel at home.  I am confident that they will treat Daniele exactly the same way and I wish him all the luck in the world with this new chapter for the Ulster Orchestra.”

Richard Wigley, the Ulster Orchestra’s Managing Director, commented;

“Daniele is sought after by orchestras all over the world and in all the major international opera houses. He has all the musicianship and talent necessary to lead the Ulster Orchestra to build on and continue the outstanding trajectory begun with Rafael. His new partnership with the Ulster Orchestra’s musicians couldn’t come at a better time for our burgeoning audiences. I am personally delighted to welcome Daniele into the Ulster Orchestra family, and we have already formulated some great artistic plans together.”

Daniele Rustioni stated;

“I perceived a special connection with the Ulster Orchestra ever since I first set foot on the podium at Ulster Hall as a guest conductor a couple of years ago. Emotion and brilliance from the musicians combined with the Hall’s magical atmosphere allows the sound to soar from every instrument and envelope you completely. And what can I say about the touching and exhilarating reception from the wonderful Northern Ireland audience? My heartfelt thanks go to Rafael for his great work and for his warm support in “passing the baton”. I am delighted and profoundly grateful to take the position of Chief Conductor with this fabulous orchestra and I can hardly wait to get started, sharing inspiring music, and collaborating with all the exciting projects that are already taking shape. It will be a thrilling adventure for all of us.”

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Pádraic Fiacc (1924 – 2019)

Monday 21st January 2019 at 1pm 0 Comments Literature

Belfast poet, renowned for his writing on the Troubles, dies, aged 94.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has learned with sadness of the death of the Belfast poet, Pádraic Fiacc, who died last night at the age of 94.

The young father is able himself to carry
The immaculate white coffin but
Stains it with a dirty-faced boy's
Fist-smudged tears
then suddenly cries
Out like a man being tortured by water.

Pádraic Fiacc, Tears/A Lacrimosa, 1986 (excerpt), recalling an incident in 1972 in which a child is killed by a ricocheting bullet.

 

Born Patrick Joseph O’Connor in Belfast in 1924, Pádraic Fiacc adopted his pseudonym in honour of his friend and mentor, poet Padraic Colum. (Loosely translated from the Irish, Padraic Colum means Padraic the Dove while Padraic Fiacc means Padraic the Raven.)

Pádraic Fiacc’s family emigrated to New York in the late 1920s. Raised in the notorious Hell’s Kitchen district of the city, he was educated at Commerce High School and Haaren High School. It was at this point that the young writer became acquainted with Colum and he produced four plays and a volume of poetry – since lost. He enrolled at St Joseph’s Seminary and studied for five years under the Irish Capuchin Order. Unhappy at the life of a prospective priest, he left the seminary and left for Belfast in 1946. In Belfast he immediately began forging a reputation as a poet, appearing in New Irish Poets (1948). His work also appeared in Irish Bookman, Poetry Ireland and the Irish Times.

In 1956 he settled in Glengormley with his new wife, the American artist Nancy Wayne. In 1957 he won the AE Memorial Award for his anthology Woe to Boy (Never published in its original form). During the 1960s he was a presence in the local literary scene but he was never truly established until his first full collection, By the Black Stream, was published by Dolmen Press in 1969.

Other volumes quickly followed: Odour of Blood (1973); Nights in the Bad Place (1977); The Selected Padraic Fiacc (1979); Missa Terriblis (1986); Ruined Pages (1994); Red Earth (1996) and Semper Vacare (1999). A miscellany of his critical and autobiographical work, My Twentieth-Century Night-Life appeared in 2009, which included two biographical pieces for radio: Hell’s Kitchen and Atlantic Crossing. Recent collections include Sea:  sixty years of poetry by Pádraic Fiacc (edited and illustrated by Michael McKernon, 2006) and In My Own Hand: poems written in the poet’s own hand (2012).

At the centre of his work are two overriding concerns: the correct poetic response to the moral, political and civil disintegration of Belfast in the face of violence and the re-imagination of a Celtic Twilight in a modernistic, self-expressive aesthetic.

In addition to Northern Ireland’s civic strife, the sectarian murder of his friend Gerry McLaughlin in April 1975 was a turning point in Fiacc’s response to the Troubles and this event deepened the poet’s concern with the impact of civil and personal violence for the rest of his artistic career. His ground-breaking anthology, The Wearing of the Black (Blackstaff 1974), remains a touchstone publication, presenting a vigorous and challenging gathering of diverse voices vexed by themes of grief, hurt and outrage. His own poems from this period are the bedrock of the enduring regard for his work among subsequent generations of readers and writers and the affection with which he is held among a public otherwise disengaged from poetry.

Fiacc was recognised for his contribution to Irish literature when he was elected a member of the Aosdana in 1981. He was honoured by Belfast City Council in 2012 with a special reception at City Hall.

Tributes have been paid by fellow poets and colleagues.

President Michael D Higgins, said: 

“He courageously raised crucial questions about the relationship between violence, poetry and language. His portrayal of the Troubles was stark and revealed an honesty like no other. It was a unique contribution at critical cost. His empathy for the frightened and maimed individuals on either side of the divide shone through his work. I had the privilege of visiting him last week and reading one of his poems to him, a poem dedicated to his friend Gerald Dawe. Padraic Fiacc leaves a legacy of particular intensity.”

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:
“Throughout his long career, Pádraic Fiacc established himself as one of the most distinctive voices of his generation. In our long and rich tradition of poetry, he ranks amongst the best, and his place in Northern Irish literary history is assured.  Because his honesty and drive to bear witness to his times is so direct, unflinching and uncompromising - no matter how hard these things are for us to hear - as a chronicler of the Troubles, he is unsurpassed.”

Poet and critic Gerald Dawe, who co-edited with the late Aodán Mac Póilin, Fiacc’s Selected Poems, recalls:
“One very distinct image remains in my memory of Padraic Fiacc – Joe as he was known back then. It’s 1974 and we are in the front room by the bay window of his house in Glengormley. Joe is playing ever so lightly on the piano Seosamh MacCathmhaoil’s (Joseph Campbell) ‘The Blue Hills of Antrim’. It has such a delicate easeful quality, almost effortless, the air carries the tune. His sense of home, nestled high up above Belfast which he knew like the back of his hand, would eventually succumb to a pitiless violence but Joe – as Padraic Fiacc – withstood miraculously the downward spirals to reach a stoical calm; his poetry becoming testament to both the light and the dark of his city’s history.”

Poet and writer Maria McManus, said:
“It is the work of a pure poet such as Fiacc, to speak the truth. He did so tenderly, sometimes brutally, and his truth is as a grain of sand in an oyster shell, uncomfortable, something gritty, and necessary in the transformation of suffering to beauty. We are the poorer for his passing, and all the more enriched for the legacy of his poetry.”

Tara McEvoy, a PhD student at Queen's University Belfast and co-editor of The Tangerine magazine, one of the best contemporary journals of new writing, based in Belfast, said:
“Pádraic Fiacc's passing marks the loss of an inimitable and vital voice in Irish poetry. His work stands as testament to a lifetime committed to capturing the ‘moment on the/ Margin’, to his empathy and compassion. He will be sorely missed.”

Poet Moyra Donaldson, said:
'I was first introduced to Pádraig Fiacc by the late Mairtin Crawford in the sanctuary that was Bookfinders cafe, a place where outsiders and anarchists were always welcome. I came to realise that Fiacc’s ‘Troubles’ poetry, though unwelcome to many, was a passionate and compassionate cry against the encircling darkness that was Belfast at that time.'

Michael McKernon, Fiacc’s most recent publisher, added:
“Poet Pádraic fiacc’s mesmerizing work both celebrated and challenged an imperfect world.”

Patrick Ramsey, Fiacc’s publisher for many years at Lagan Press, said:
“Pádraic Fiacc reminded us of the moral duties of the artist to witness, to record faithful to that witness and to endure. That he did so was in itself astonishing but to have also done so with such aesthetic and poetic brilliance is nothing less than a miracle of defiance and hope. His poems will last.”

A selection of poems by Pádraic Fiacc can be viewed at: www.troublesarchive.com

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Informal gathering in memory of Prof Elaine Thomas CBE (1950-2019)

Monday 21st January 2019 at 12pm 0 Comments Visual Arts

Professor Elaine Thomas CBE Image: Professor Elaine Thomas CBE

Former Dean of the Faculty of Art and Design, University of Ulster

Following the sudden death earlier this month of the artist and lecturer Elaine Thomas, who joined the Ulster Polytechnic in 1973 as a Fine Art Lecturer and became Dean of the Faculty of Art and Design and Professor of Fine Art at the University of Ulster in 1990, past students and teaching colleagues are invited to an informal get-together in her memory.

The get-together is on Saturday 2nd February, 1.00pm at University of Atypical (formerly Arts & Disability Forum), 109-113 Royal Avenue, BELFAST BT1 1FF (opposite side of the street to Belfast Central Library).

This is a relaxed gathering of past students and teaching colleagues from Elaine’s time in Belfast. It’s in Elaine’s memory – but not a solemn affair – just an opportunity for people to see each other again, maybe after decades, and enjoy memories of an exceptional tutor and person.

There will be a book to record memories of Elaine. Please think of an anecdote to write in the book or add a message of sympathy for her family. Afterwards, it will be sent on to Elaine’s sister, Annette.

Recognising each other after many years may not be easy but should be enjoyable.

Please RSVP to Damien Coyle and Vivien Burnside at:

st.comgall@gmail.com

including your name and when you were a student or colleague of Elaine.

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Northern Ireland writers take to the stage at prestigious Jaipur Literature Festival

Friday 18th January 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Literature

Jan Carson and Paul McVeigh pictured with Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Image: Jan Carson and Paul McVeigh pictured with Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Belfast-based writers Jan Carson and Paul McVeigh are representing Northern Ireland at the Jaipur Literature Festival. The writers have accepted invitations to read at the Festival with the support of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and British Council Northern Ireland. Their stay in India will cover the five-day celebration at the end of this month.

Considered one of the most important events of its kind across the globe, the festival brings together a diverse mix of the world’s greatest writers, thinkers, humanitarians, politicians, business leaders, sports people and entertainers on one stage to engage in thoughtful dialogue and debate.

Other programme speakers this year will include Sebastian Barry, Germaine Greer, Anuradha Roy, Mary Beard, Alexander McCall Smith and Belfast Book Festival and Lifeboat Readings veteran Kayo Chingonyi.

The invitation to attend the Jaipur Literature Festival is part of new links formed with key cultural institutions in India by the Arts Council as a platform for creating, sharing and promoting the creative arts.
Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama, at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“The Jaipur Literature Festival is world renowned, a celebration of books and writing which draws together international publishers, writers and cultural figures from across the globe.  It’s a fantastic stage to showcase Northern Ireland’s rich literary talent and we are delighted to be able to support Jan and Paul at this important festival. They follow David Park and Glenn Patterson who have attended the Festival in recent years.”

During the festival, Jan and Paul will take part in a number of panel discussions and debates, including one together entitled, 'What Is Not Said: Celebrating the Short Story'.

Jan Carson is the author of the novel Malcolm Orange Disappears, a short story collection, Children’s Children, and a micro-fiction collection, Postcard Stories. Her novel The Fire Starters is forthcoming from Doubleday in April 2019.

"I'm so grateful for the opportunity to visit a country I've always been fascinated by and to have a chance to showcase my own work alongside a host of Internationally renowned writers. I'm really looking forward to making contacts, encountering new writers and exploring Indian culture."

Paul McVeigh’s debut novel, The Good Son, won The McCrea Literary Award and The Polari First Novel Prize. He is the co-founder of the London Short Story Festival and has written for stage, radio and television.  Speaking about the Festival Paul said:

“I'm looking forward to meeting authors from around the world and sharing Northern Irish stories with them. I’m hoping to learn a lot from the many different cultures and writing styles and seeing how they influence and inspire me.”

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Prolific Singer Ríoghnach Connolly Announced as Nerve Centre Musician-in-Residence

Thursday 17th January 2019 at 3pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

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Armagh-born singer and flautist Ríoghnach Connolly has been named as the new Musician-in-Residence at the Nerve Centre, where she will work on a number of exciting projects and collaborations in the community over the next year.

Following jazz artists Neil Cowley and David Lyttle, and most recently multi-instrumentalist Marty Coyle, Connolly will be the first Nerve Centre Musician-in-Residence who is primarily a vocal talent.
The ‘irrepressible, inimitable’ singer grew up as part of the Armagh Pipers Club where she had her eyes opened to the world of folk music and how it travelled into other countries and cultures. This would shape Connolly’s time studying and working as a community musician in Manchester, a vibrant city she would be actively involved with, broadening her horizons and helping others at a grassroots level. It was there where Connolly formed Honeyfeet, a ‘folk-hop’ collective who have played countless festivals over the last 12 years and have recently finished recording their third album.

Never restricted to one sound, Connolly has worked both in studio and live spanning across Irish traditional, folk, blues, jazz, electronica and more. Her formidable voice has been used to front a ream of musical projects, including her own 2012 album Black Lung which was recorded before her headline appearance at the Manchester Jazz Festival and adopts traditional Irish sean-nós singing. She is also part of collaboration-based project Beware Soul Brother, spawned from a previous residency in Brazil, regularly features with Afro Celt Sound System and is one half of The Breath with Stuart McCallum, which has released two albums to date.

The residency is supported by funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland Lottery Fund.

Joanne Wright, Arts Development Officer for Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented,

'Congratulations to Ríoghnach on this terrific opportunity with the Nerve Centre. We are delighted to once again support the Nerve Centre’s Musician-In-Residence initiative with National Lottery funding and we look forward to seeing the many positive outcomes from the project as Rioghnach engages creatively with musicians, of all ages, from Derry and beyond.'

Having delivered a workshop and performed with Honeyfeet at the Nerve Centre in 2016, Connolly said she is ‘very proud and humbled at being invited back’ as Musician-in-Residence, adding that ‘it feels really exciting to be getting the opportunity to really dig into the communities here and help facilitate creatively in any way I can!’

Connolly will be tasked with producing new, original music during her tenure and using her diverse talents and experience to help educate and take young aspiring artists to the next stage in their learning.
Pearse Moore, Chief Executive of Nerve Centre, said ‘We’re delighted to welcome such an accomplished artist and presence to the Musician-in Residence role as Ríoghnach. Her talents, experience and enthusiasm will bring a new energy to our music initiatives this year and we can’t wait to see what she produces.’

Looking ahead to getting started, Connolly said ‘I intend to learn as much as I am going to pass on, and that is how I go into every musical situation.

‘In my opinion, so much is passed on through the oral traditions of a culture that cannot be written down that, it is important to attempt to document as much as possible. I just want to help investigate and musically capture that moment in time for everyone involved. It’s about investing in people with enough honesty that they can represent a bit of themselves musically in a safe space - and to show how liberating and fun that can be when you can really get your teeth into a project!’

To stay up to date with the latest news and opportunities to get involved with Ríoghnach Connolly’s residency at the Nerve Centre, visit www.nervecentre.org

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Community artists recognised with Arts Council of Northern Ireland legacy awards

Wednesday 16th January 2019 at 10am 0 Comments Community Arts , Circus & Carnival Arts

Pictured (L-R) are Mervyn Smyth, Gilly Campbell, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Hannah Anderson. Image: Pictured (L-R) are Mervyn Smyth, Gilly Campbell, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Hannah Anderson.

Mervyn Smyth, Community Engagement Manager at Belfast Exposed Photography and Hannah Anderson, circus artist, have each been awarded £5000 National Lottery funding by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.  The career development awards are presented in memory of Mike Moloney, co-founder of the Belfast Community Circus School and Anne O’Donoghue, Director of Play Resource Warehouse, two of the arts sector’s largest figures, who sadly passed away in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

The awards were established under the existing Support for the Individual Artist Programme (SIAP) as part of the Arts Council’s continuing commitment to support artists and create a sustainable arts sector.  Each awardee will now use the funding towards a project that will significantly impact their professional careers.

Gilly Campbell, Head of Community Arts & Education, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented;

“Both Mike and Anne contributed a huge amount to the life and legacy of the arts in Northern Ireland and we are delighted to make these two awards available in their memory to artists in support of their artistic careers.  Congratulations to Mervyn Smyth and Hannah Anderson whom I know will benefit greatly from these awards.”  

Reflecting Mike Moloney’s passion for circus and street theatre and his work with young people, the Mike Moloney Award was established to support the development of young people from Northern Ireland working in the field of circus arts and street theatre.  Awardee and aerialist, Hannah Anderson, will travel to Guadalajara, Mexico, for a six-month residency where she will be mentored by Yazmin Gonzalez, Artistic Director of leading aerial performance company, NMOR Espectaculos y Multimedi.  During the residency Hannah will focus on aerial hoop, fabrics, rope, aerial pole, trapeze, contemporary dance, flexibility and custom apparatus, helping to take her professional circus career to the next level.   

Anne O’Donoghue’s legacy is significant joining the Play Resource Warehouse in 1984 where she remained as a committed director for thirty years championing community arts practice.  With this commitment in mind, the Anne O’Donoghue Award was created to support an individual working in community arts by building their professional capacity through continuing professional development. 

Awardee, Mervyn Smyth, will use the Anne O’Donoghue Award to develop his skills working with people in the mental health sector using photography.  Specifically he will use the award for study visits and mentoring whilst engaging with people with complex mental health conditions, bringing this experience back to his role as Community Engagement Manager with Belfast Exposed. 

For information on all funding opportunities visit artscouncil-ni.org/funding

 

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Own Art unveils new brand and website

Wednesday 16th January 2019 at 9am 0 Comments Visual Arts

New Own Art logo Image: New Own Art logo

Creative United’s Own Art scheme, which supports new buyers and collectors of contemporary art and craft, will unveil its new brand and website at the London Art Fair taking place at London’s Business Design Centre in Islington from 16 to 20 January 2019.

Originally launched by Arts Council England in 2004, over 50,000 customers across the UK have Own Art’s interest-free loan scheme to help finance the purchase of more than £40 million of contemporary art and craft.

Own Art is now the UK’s largest membership body for contemporary art and craft, helping to support the sector to develop and grow.

Funded by Arts Council England, Creative Scotland and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the scheme has been hugely successful in growing and diversifying the UK’s base of art buyers and collectors, particularly those from lower socio-economic backgrounds for whom buying art may otherwise have been out of reach.

Finance for the scheme is provided by Hitachi Capital Consumer Finance, offering customers the chance to purchase contemporary art and craft with a 10 or 20 month interest-free loan between £100 and £25,000. The amount borrowed –without any additional charges –is repaid in manageable, monthly instalments.

The new branding is part of Creative United’s long-term strategy to support contemporary artists and galleries by encouraging both public engagement with and appreciation of the arts.
Own Art’s new look and feel reflects the personality of the scheme and aims to strengthen its core mission: making contemporary art and craft accessible to everyone and bringing people closer to galleries and artists.

The new brand identity, designed by London-based Spy Studio, retains Own Art’s trademark pink while echoing the iconic form of the red 'sold' dot and comprises a clear graphic language. The bold typographic marque is inspired by transporting and moving art. The identity will be adopted across the entire Own Art network of over 300 galleries and digital platforms, activating an engagement strategy that will facilitate interaction between galleries and prospective buyers thanks to its immediate recognisability.

The accompanying website, developed by Brighton-based web agency Wolf cub Digital, has been designed to connect galleries, collectors and artists using a clear and informative structure and compelling editorial content.

Own Art member galleries will also become active content creators, directly promoting their own programmes to new potential buyers.
This new digital platform will help facilitate anyone starting out as a collector or interested in discovering exhibitions and artists in their local area.

Mary-Alice Stack, Chief Executive at Creative United said

“2019 is set to be an exciting year for Own Art, and we are very proud to be launching our new brand identity at the London Art Fair. As we continue to develop and grow the scheme in partnership with our network of members across the UK, we are looking forward to rolling out the new look and feel across all our platforms, and to introducing the benefits of the scheme to many more galleries, artists and buyers in the year ahead.

We aim to establish Own Art as an essential resource for anyone interested in collecting contemporary art or discovering more about the UK art market, and we are confident this brand refresh will help us to reach this ambitious goal.

Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland said

“Own Art is an affordable way to begin or to grow a personal art collection. The scheme not only supports local artists through the sale of their works but also opens up the idea of buying artwork to people who may not have thought about buying art before. We now have nine galleries in Northern Ireland currently offering the scheme to buyers and I would love to see more galleries in the region get involved.”

Visit the new website www.ownart.org.uk

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ABO Conference 2019: Cross Border

Tuesday 15th January 2019 at 9am 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Raphael Payare, conductor Image: Raphael Payare, conductor

The UK’s most prestigious classical music forum, the Association of British Orchestras (ABO) annual conference, will be hosted by the Ulster Orchestra at the ICC Belfast, from 23-25 January.

At a time of anxiety for the sector over Brexit, with potentially restricted access to talent and increased red tape in European touring markets, Director Mark Pemberton says:

“Brexit will of course be a topic, but with so little concrete information available even at this advanced stage, we will be taking the opportunity to look beyond geography and politics. What other boundaries exist? What are the barriers that inhibit reaching wider audiences? How can we make meaningful progress around diversity and inclusion? There is competition in our sector, but it is also an industry that’s incredibly good at sharing ideas and best practice. We’re proud of the reputation that the ABO Conference has built as the best forum of its kind for open discussion of all these issues.”

Delegates will be welcomed by Gavin Reid, Chair, ABO, Fionnuala Jay-O'Boyle CBE DL, Lord Lieutenant of Belfast, with a keynote address by Sean Rainbird, Director, National Gallery of Ireland. Richard Wigley, Managing Director, Ulster Orchestra says:

“The Ulster Orchestra couldn’t be happier to welcome delegates from across the orchestral sector in the UK and beyond. We are proud to be part of Northern Ireland and its new-found flourishing place in the world. A warm Belfast welcome awaits.”

Visiting speakers Steve Brosvik of Nashville Symphony and John Kieser of New World Symphony will be giving updates on how programmes in the US are supporting and encouraging equity, diversity and inclusion. UK Disability Champion for Arts & Culture Andrew Miller will present a session, along with conductor James Rose, with updates on the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s Change Makers project, which has created a disabled-led professional ensemble.

Other cross-border issues on the agenda will be the progress that is being made to counter the historic ‘us and them’ divide between musicians and management. The ABO’s ‘Find Your Way’ programme, now in its third year, aims to boost the careers for future leaders in the sector, and actively encourages orchestral musicians to participate. Graduate of the scheme Catherine Arlidge MBE – violinist in the CBSO and now Artistic and Educational Director of the National Children’s Orchestras of Great Britain - and current participants, will present at the conference.

In the final session, conservative thinker and polemicist Sir Roger Scruton will address an audience who face the seemingly competing and incompatible demands of artistic excellence and public accessibility. He will defend the concept of elitism - a culture which distinguishes between knowledge and opinion - where knowledge must set standards and distinguish false from good: “…this is something which much concerns the advocate of classical music, because he knows that the classical tradition of music contains within it precious achievements, precious knowledge, and a precious world of feeling which requires a certain effort to enter.” Roger Scruton

The ABO is delighted to welcome back Principal Media Partner Classic FM, and to announce a new relationship with Help Musicians UK as Charity Partner, as well as welcoming International Arts Manager as Media Associate. Classical Music magazine, newly acquired by the Mark Allen Group, continues its long association as Print Media sponsor for the conference and the ABO/Classical Music Awards which will be hosted by Anne-Marie Minhall from Classic FM. The ABO is grateful for the support of Arts Council of Northern Ireland, and its hosts the Ulster Orchestra.

On the first evening, delegates will attend the ABO’s award dinner, with partner Classic FM, which will see the presentation of the ABO Award and the ABO/Classical Music Awards, which recognize excellence and innovation in orchestras concert halls, and artist management.  On the second evening, there will be a ‘cross-border’ concert with the Ulster Orchestra, conducted by Rafael Payare, bolstered by musicians from across Europe for a performance of Shostakovich’s huge Symphony No 4.  A pre-concert reception will be hosted by ISM. A post-concert event will be jointly hosted by Alan Davey CBE, Controller BBC Radio 3 with Peter Johnston, Director BBC Northern Ireland. The conference opens with the premiere of Béal by Ryan Molloy, especially commissioned for the Ulster Orchestra and performed by its brass musicians, followed by the Čhavorenge choir, part of a project by the Czech Philharmonic – and supported by British Council Northern Ireland – to rehabilitate the reputation of the marginalised and stigmatised Roma community in the Czech Republic.

Further details of the new partnership between Help Musicians UK and the ABO will be announced in the closing session of the conference.

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Belfast Children’s Festival turns 21!

Thursday 10th January 2019 at 12pm 0 Comments Comedy , Literature , Northern Ireland Music , Visual Arts , Youth Arts , Dance , Drama , Craft , Circus & Carnival Arts

Belfast Children’s Festival turns 21 Image: Belfast Children’s Festival turns 21

Belfast Children’s Festival has launched its 2019 festival programme. Now in its 21st year, this year’s theme is ‘Our Place in the World’.

From Friday 8th to Wednesday 13th March, over 90 events will take place in 12 locations across the city. Belfast Children’s Festival has become one of the largest children’s arts festivals on the island of Ireland and the UK, attracting over 31,000 people last year.

Eibhlín de Barra, Director Young at Art, unveiled the packed programme at earlier this week at Belfast Cathedral.  She said:

“The 2019 Belfast Children's Festival is a wonderful mix of theatre, dance, comedy, music, visual arts and literature for families. From the powerful Oorlog (War), to the madcap exploits of Expedition Peter Pan, and from Cahoots NI’s charming adaptation of Jon Agee’s Milo’s Hat Trick, to the hilarious The Alien’s Guide To Dance Gone Wrong, there really is something for everyone. On top of it all we're creating an inSPIREd family programme of events and activities in the heart of the Cathedral Quarter."

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is principal funder of Young at Art, and thanks to public and National Lottery funds, Young at Art is able to programme and deliver a wide range of artistic content, education and engagement programmes, and professional development throughout the year.

Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive Arts Council of Northern Ireland commented

“As Young at Art’s main funder and its longest running partner, the Arts Council is pleased to support the 2019 festival programme. Now in its 21st year, the Belfast Children’s Festival continues to produce fresh, innovative and entertaining events tailor-made for young audiences. We know that inspiring the imagination at a young age can provide the building blocks for a creative and fulfilling life and there is no better way to introduce children to the arts than by offering them access to quality arts experiences from a young age.”

Young at Art will present several world, UK and Irish premieres, at this year’s festival including Oorlog (War), Loo, Removed, and The Alien’s Guide to Dance Gone Wrong.

While closing the festival on Wednesday 13 March is the high energy and playful Expedition Peter Pan (ages 7+) by Het Laagland (The Netherlands). This production promises a wild adventure of imagination, hilarious surprises, and rediscovery of the child in all of us.

On Saturday 9 March the inSPIREd family fun day will be bursting with exciting activities across the Cathedral Quarter including a one-off special Baby Rave ‘Rave in the Nave’ in Belfast Cathedral, free children’s art workshops exploring home and the urban landscape around us, DJ workshops with Bounce Culture, Acoustic Picnic in Oh Yeah Music Centre, digital animation with Can Do Academy, augmented reality workshops with Art Cart, theatre workshops with Northern Ireland Opera, and more, all supported by new sponsor Destination CQ BID.

Once again, the festival will also be hosting the TYANI (Theatre for Young Audiences NI) Showcase. The 4-day showcase will profile some of the finest performance work for young audiences being created right here and features performances, a unique work-in-progress from the Belfast Ensemble, a ‘scratch’ performance platform featuring four emerging individual artists, discussions and networking events. The festival will also welcome a group of international programmers and producers to the city.

For more information on this year’s festival programme or to purchase your tickets, go to www.youngatart.co.uk. The maximum ticket price is £10, and adults pay the same price as children. Many events are free.

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Christmas gift for artists selected to represent Northern Ireland on Indian adventure

Wednesday 26th December 2018 at 9am 0 Comments Visual Arts , Literature

Visual artist Mairead McCormack and poet Emily S Cooper have been selected by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the British Council to undertake working residencies in the prestigious Sanskritti Cultural Centre in Delhi. Image: Visual artist Mairead McCormack and poet Emily S Cooper have been selected by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the British Council to undertake working residencies in the prestigious Sanskritti Cultural Centre in Delhi.

Two young emerging artists have been chosen to represent Northern Ireland on an Indian adventure of discovery.

Visual artist Mairead McCormack, who specialises in textiles, and poet Emily S Cooper have been selected by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the British Council to travel to the prestigious Sanskritti Cultural Centre in Delhi where they will each undertake six week residencies in January and February 2019.

The residencies are awarded annually to artists to give them dedicated space and time to develop their artistic practice and are the result of new links forged with key cultural institutions in India by the Arts Council and British Council as a platform for creating, sharing and promoting the creative arts.

The Sanskritti Cultural Centre will offer a unique experience for the artists, unlike anything they will have experienced before. Designed as a serene environment to encourage innovative and interactive work, the five-acre campus houses three museums, a multi-purpose hall, an amphitheatre, artists’ studios, dormitories and workshop spaces.

Sonya Whitefield, Arts Development Officer, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

“This is a fantastic opportunity for Emily and Mairead to immerse themselves in a very different artistic community and to draw inspiration from another culture – the art, the people, the places they will visit.  These residencies are about providing new learning experiences for our artists, as well as giving them a platform to showcase the immense talent and creativity Northern Ireland has to offer. We wish them every success.”

Colette Norwood, Arts Manager, British Council Northern Ireland commenting on the opportunity said:

“British Council is delighted to continue to offer a series of artist residencies in India, in partnership with the Arts Council.  The festivals and Indian cultural organisations we are working with provide vital opportunities to celebrate our artists internationally.”

Emily S Cooper writes poetry that centres on ideas of identity and location. In 2018 she was awarded the Irish Times Hennessy New Irish Writing Prize and longlisted for Seamus Heaney Award for New Writing. She said: 

“I’m absolutely over the moon about going to New Delhi. To have the opportunity to spend six weeks researching and writing my project on female solitude is such a gift. I’m hoping to spend my time talking to artists and finding out how they find solitude impacts on their creative process and how their individual experiences of cultural and social pressures affect how they find that solitude. I’m excited to experience the hustle and bustle of the city as well as the oasis of the Sanskriti Centre.”

Mairead McCormack is a recent graduate and emerging textile artist, she believes her trip to India will allow her to learn new skills and benefit her future career prospects. Looking forward to her placement she said:

"I am very grateful to the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the British Council for the opportunity to travel to India for a six week residency at the Sanskriti Foundation. I am looking forward to challenging my creative process during my time in India and hope to undertake lots of research exploring traditions of textiles, embroidery, natural dying and printing processes. I hope to draw parallels between cultures, technologies, the old and the new and from my own experiences on this creative journey."

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Calling all Curators, Galleries and Museums! Arts Council launches Art Lending Scheme

Friday 21st December 2018 at 3pm 0 Comments Visual Arts

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has launched its Art Lending Scheme Image: The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has launched its Art Lending Scheme

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has launched its Art Lending Scheme, a free Art Lending Scheme for curators, museums and galleries across Britain, Ireland and Europe that are interested in exhibiting works from its rich, contemporary art collection.

The Arts Council’s collection holds 500 works by established and emerging visual artists working in, or from,  Northern Ireland.  The Loan Scheme provides an opportunity to bring works out of large collections, where they may not be seen.

Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland said, “Many of the artists represented in the Arts Council’s contemporary art collection have major national and international reputations, such as two-times Turner Prize nominee, Willie Doherty;  Cara Murphy, whose work is included in the Downing Street Sliver Collection; and Colin Davidson, who painted the Queens’ portrait in 2016, Ian Cumberland, and Paul Seawright.

“By offering the Collection for public display, we are helping to showcase the work of our artists and to introduce the public to Northern Ireland’s wealth of creative talent. Curators can curate their own show or the Arts Council’s expert staff can help compile and theme an exhibition suitable for any space. We can provide works in all media, from painting, sculpture, crafts, print, photography and video through to digital art.”

The free public loan scheme is available to organisations and galleries, locally, nationally and internationally and covers loans of single art works up to full exhibitions.  It offers museums and galleries an opportunity to bring a new audience to contemporary works of art and to interpret the Collection material in new ways; potentially becoming a catalyst for education and outreach or bringing other aspects of a theme into play.

To view the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Collection you can see the full list of works available at artscouncil-ni.org/collection and for more information on the Arts Council’s Art Lending Scheme email: collection@artscouncil-ni.org

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Stone sculptor, Sheena Devitt, receives £15,000 Rosy James Memorial Trust craft award

Friday 21st December 2018 at 10am 0 Comments Visual Arts

Pictured is Sheena Devitt with Dr Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Image: Pictured is Sheena Devitt with Dr Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Stone sculptor, Sheena Devitt, from Killyleagh, County Down, has been awarded the Rosy James Memorial Trust Award, an annual craft bursary worth £15,000. The bursary, administered by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland on behalf of the Rosy James Memorial Trust, aims to assist craft makers to develop their professional careers by developing a new body of work which might otherwise have been unattainable.

Sheena Devitt carves into stone and slate to create site specific sculptural artworks and her designs are inspired by and respond to a site’s topography and history, its orientation and present inhabitants. Her process of designing the sculptures starts with layers of drawings on paper and the transferred design takes on a new life as the work moves from a graphic image to a sculptural piece about shape, texture and light.

Sheena’s training in drawing and painting, combined with a one to one apprenticeship in stone letter carving, has given the artist an excellent grounding in using drawing to develop ideas, and the ability to practice a very specific craft to a high level.  Many of her works are sited permanently in private gardens, interiors and public spaces in both the UK and USA.

Dr Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:

"Congratulations to Sheena Devitt on receiving the Rosy James Memorial Trust Award.   This notable artist’s work is very impressive, requiring great skill and it has been exhibited locally, nationally and internationally.  I wish Sheena every success as she embarks upon producing new works using the Rosy James Memorial Trust Award, a bursary which demonstrates the true power of philanthropic giving.”

Commenting on the award Sheena Devitt said,

“I’m delighted to receive the Rosy James Memorial Trust Award which will enable me to take my artistic practice in a new direction.   With this award I plan to combine hand working and stone machining processes.  I will collaborate with a leading stone machining specialist to design and develop a new range of limited edition marble lighting to add warmth and texture to interior spaces, for distribution in the UK and international markets.  My designs will be based upon my own drawings which are inspired by patterns formed by the movement of water and wind across the landscape and seascape of Strangford Lough.”

With this award the artist plans to collaborate with renowned, award-winning stone specialists, S McConnell & Sons Ltd, Northern Ireland.  Visit www.sheenadevitt.com

For information on all funding opportunities for artists and organisations visit www.artscouncil-ni.org/funding

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Christmas events guide

Thursday 20th December 2018 at 10am 0 Comments Dance , Drama , Circus & Carnival Arts , Northern Ireland Music

Tumble Winter Circus, Writer’s Square, Belfast, runs until Tuesday 1st January 2019 Image: Tumble Winter Circus, Writer’s Square, Belfast, runs until Tuesday 1st January 2019

Got some free time over the Christmas break? Here’s a round-up of some of the many arts events happening over the festive holidays, supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s National Lottery funds…

Jack and the Bean Stalk, at the Grand Opera House, runs until Sunday 13th January
A firm family favourite, what better way to round of the year than visiting the annual pantomime at the Grand Opera House, Belfast? This year, veteran panto star May McFettridge stars as Dame May Trot in Jack and the Bean Stalk. Expect magic beans, loads of laughs and maybe even some audience participation.  Doomed to sell the family’s trusty cow this is the story of how Jack fights to save the beautiful Princess, outwit the evil giant and win the hand of the girl he loves. www.goh.co.uk

Tumble Winter Circus, Writer’s Square, Belfast, runs until Tuesday 1st January 2019
Never ones to conform, the Tumble Circus troop will treat you and your family to a Winter extravaganza unlike anything else on offer in Belfast. Visit the Big Top at Writer’s Square to see this all, human, all skill, all thrill event. This modern, spectacular show will entertain all, young and old, with acrobats, aerialists, jugglers and plenty of laughs. www.tumblecircus.com

Alice The Musical, Lyric Theatre, Belfast, runs until Saturday 5th January 2019
Featuring a host of Lewis Carroll's most infamous characters, Alice The Musical tells the story of Alice's adventures in Wonderland and her attempts to escape the clutches of the notorious Queen of Hearts. Tumble down the rabbit hole with Alice in pursuit of the elusive White Rabbit, to discover a fantastic realm where nothing makes sense. Can Alice and her new friends defeat the Queen of Hearts? www.lyrictheatre.co.uk

Vienna!, The Ulster Orchestra at The Braid, Ballymena, Saturday 5th January 2019
If you’ve never had a chance to hear the Ulster Orchestra, this could be your chance at The Braid in Ballymena. Part of the Ulster Orchestra’s On Your Door Step series, this concert will help you welcome in the New Year and transport you to the glittering world of Strauss for the waltz of your life! The concert will feature much-loved Viennese music from the Merry Widow to the Blue Danube – and not forgetting that all-time favourite, the Radetzky March. www.ulsterorchestra.org.uk

David C Clements and Arco String Quartet, Black Box, Belfast, Sunday 23rd December 2019
David C Clements and Arco String Quartet present an evening of original songs and Christmas classics with plenty of festive cheer thrown in for good measure. A fantastic way to be merry and celebrate the festive season with friends. www.blackboxbelfast.com

The Elves and the Shoemaker, The Mac, Belfast, on until Sunday 6th January 2019
Award-winning children’s theatre company Cahoots NI presents their very own version of classic magical fairytale The Elves and the Shoemaker.  This heartwarming festive show is suitable for all ages and is filled with lots of laughs and surprises. www.themaclive.com

Peter Pan, Millennium Forum, Derry/Londonderry, runs until Sunday 30th December
Join Peter Pan, Wendy and the Darling Family on their spine tingling adventures to Neverland where they meet Tinkerbell, Captain Hook, and his murderous motley crew.  Who will walk the plank on the Jolly Rodger pirate ship? With a powerful mix of music, dance and plenty of audience participation, it’s guaranteed to entertain and delight children of all ages. www.millenniumforum.co.uk

It’s a Wonderful Wee Christmas, Theatre at the Mill, Newtownabbey, runs until Monday 31st December 2019
Writers Caroline Curran and Julie Maxwell return to Theatre at the Mill for their fourth festive show, with a hilarious Belfast twist on the Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. When life takes a turn for Georgie, the manager of the Lower Falls Credit Union, can a strange visit from a less than angelic angel help him to find the true meaning of Christmas? www.theatreatthemill.com

Out to Lunch Festival, Belfast, 4th-27th January 2019
The ever popular Out to Lunch Festival features budget-friendly lunchtime and evening comedy, theatre, literature and music. Drawing acts and audiences from all over the world, the high-quality programme  this year features names like Scott Matthews, The Henry Girls, The Dodge Brothers, Marion Keyes and Lucy Porter. www.cqaf.com

Ulster Youth Orchestra 25th Anniversary Alumni Concert, Saturday 29th December, Ulster Hall
The Ulster Youth Orchestra will close 2018 with a special concert to mark its 25th anniversary, bringing players from across the years together for what promises to be an electrifying evening. The concert will include Michael McHale on Piano, leader Joanne Quigley and conductor Paul McCusker.

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Top Ten Stocking Fillers

Wednesday 12th December 2018 at 10am 0 Comments Literature

Top Ten Stocking Fillers Image: Top Ten Stocking Fillers

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature and Drama at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, picks out his top Christmas books for those last minute presents…

The almost half-million sales of Belfast-born Anna Burns’s novel Milkman (Faber £8.99), since it won the Man Booker Prize in October, should give us all pause for thought.

The amazing numbers give the lie to the idea that reading is on the decline, that good novels are old hat or that the public listen to snooty commentators who thought the book ‘difficult’, ‘brain-kneading’ and ‘baffling’.

Well, by the end of the festive season, the numbers of ‘baffled’ readers will have risen still further, as there is something about this dark tale of paramilitary stalkers, resistance, survival and the blackest humour which has struck a global chord, and will squeeze the story of Middle Sister firmly into many a Yuletide stocking.

It’s a good time to be reminded that, while Milkman is the most acclaimed book to reflect the peculiar cultural pressures of Northern Ireland, it sure isn’t the only one.

  1. 1. For those who prefer their fictions short and sweet, where better to start than Wendy Erskine’s Sweet Home (Stinging Fly £11.00), ten strikingly-ascetic stories of east Belfast life ranging from the wistful to the disturbing from the year’s top literary discovery.

  2. 2. Éilís Ní Dhuibhne’s Twelve Thousand Days: A Memoir of Love and Loss (£9.99) is sometimes unbearably moving, occasionally chilling, always fearlessly accurate, and is set to be something of a handbook of endurance and recovery in the face of grief.

  3. 3. Just off the press is Jamie Guiney’s The Wooden Hill (Époque Press £7.99), adroit, tricky and touching tales of the everyday and mortality from a writer also at the outset of a promising career.

  4. 4. For those under extreme seasonal pressure, Emergency Fiction Treatment can be obtained from the sparkling imagination of Ian Sansom, with his December Stories 1 (No Alibis Press £9.99), a gathering of wry, bizarre and eclectic Christmas narratives which will long outlast the troublesome season itself.

  5. 5. Meanwhile, Tyrone’s Anthony J Quinn swaps his border cop Celcius Daly for a whole other frontier – the Scottish borders – and a whole other gender, as Detective Carla Herron brings her formidable intelligence to bear on an especially grisly discovery in a Scottish forest (The Listeners, Head of Zeus £14.99.) Quinn puts another layer of wisdom on his already accomplished manner of exposing the moral duplicity of the margins.

  6. 6. With The Liar (Orion £8.99), Steve Cavanagh scooped the Crime Writers Association Gold Dagger Award for the year’s best novel, a prestigious accolade but one which the quality of his writing has been inviting for several years. In Eddie Flynn, ex-con artist turned attorney, Cavanagh has built an anti-hero of enduring appeal and a perfect, if unsettling, companion for your snoozy fireside.

  7. 7. No less unsettling is Ricky O’Rawe’s James ‘Ructions’ O’Hare, mastermind of the bank robbery planned and executed in his debut fiction Northern Heist (Merrion Press £13.99). You’ll soon forget about parallels with the infamous Northern Bank bust of 2004 – O’Rawe has a racy, pacy style and aplomb with witty observation which make this tale of Celtic Tiger robbery a bit of a Belfast urban classic.

  8. 8. It’s not all boys and toys, though. The ten stories in Sophia Hillan’s long-awaited collection The Cocktail Hour (Arlen House £15.00) are small masterpieces of mood and character, ranging from a graceless USA to the coast of east Down, from glamour to disappointment and often unexpected grimness, to a sense that one can do much worse than live on with illusion.

  9. 9. Pauline Burgess’s novel for young people, Who Do You Think You Are? (Children’s Poolbeg £8.00), follows the trials of Magda, a Polish girl growing up in Belfast, with aged relatives behind her and a world of new opportunities and risks before her. Burgess proves herself again a flexible, inventive and compassionately engaged writer.

  10. 10. Finally, the punk revolution in Northern Ireland is the centrepiece of Stuart Bailie’s monumental and hugely-readable encyclopedia Trouble Songs: Music and Conflict in Northern Ireland (Bloomfield £14.99). Even if, like me, your role models were Mr Travolta and those chaps at Gibb Bros – less spit than polish – this publication will be a guide for decades to come and a hefty (and affordable) addition to any seasonal pile under the tree.

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Sacha, Duchess of Abercorn (1946 – 2018)

Tuesday 11th December 2018 at 3pm 0 Comments

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has learned with regret of the death of Alexandra Hamilton, known as Sacha, Duchess of Abercorn, who has died at the age of 72. Sacha Abercorn is best known as the founder of the Pushkin Trust and for establishing the Puskin Prizes, a cross-community creative writing and arts programme in schools throughout Northern Ireland.

Sacha Abercorn, who was descended through her maternal line from the Romanovs and from Natalya, the youngest daughter of the novelist and playwright, Alexander Pushkin, settled in Northern Ireland in 1966 when she married James Hamilton, then MP for Fermanagh and South Tyrone. A professional counsellor in psychology, she became increasingly aware of the trauma being sustained by children living through the Northern Ireland Troubles. This provided her with the impetus to establish the Puskin Prizes in 1987. The annual creative writing competition, designed to place creativity at the heart of children’s education, was to encourage school children in all communities to find their voices and learn to express their thoughts and feelings through literary work. Ted Hughes, a long-time friend of the Duchess, was involved in the early years and the competition has since been judged by the likes of Doris Lessing, Roald Dahl and John Banville.

Seamus Heaney, a patron of the Pushkin Prizes, said in 2000 of Sacha Abercorn:

“Sacha Abercorn has been a passionate advocate of the value of creative writing in primary education, and for the past 12 years has been the inspiration of a cross-community, cross-border movement that has been its own reward, artistic and educational, for everybody.”

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland today paid tribute:

“Sacha, Duchess of Abercorn, made a considerable contribution to the creative development of schoolchildren in Ireland, especially in creative writing and expression, through her initiative of the Pushkin Prizes. A familiar figure in the broader culture, her work brought her into contact with the Arts Council many times over the decades and, on each occasion, the engagement was productive, community-orientated and inspirational.

Most recently, the Arts Council helped support the research and publication, with the Pushkin Trust, of Nearness of Ice: Arctic Convoys, complied from amazing interviews and memoirs with veterans by poet Kate Newmann and published in 2016. The book was launched by the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the UK in the Crescent Arts Centre who, in a moving ceremony, presented surviving veterans with the Ushakov Medal. It was a project and an event of very high grade and one typical of the Duchess’s passion for the interface between creativity and often difficult experience. She will be fondly remembered by many in the arts.”

The Duchess of Abercorn became a trustee of the Northern Ireland Centre for Trauma and Transformation in 1998. She published a volume of poems, Feather from the Firebird in 2003 and, in 2008 was awarded an OBE for services to charity. In 2014 she was appointed Honorary Consul to the Russian Federation in Northern Ireland.

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Ulster Youth Orchestra 25th Anniversary Alumni Concert

Monday 10th December 2018 at 3pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

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2018 has seen the Ulster Youth Orchestra mark its anniversary with a showcase tour to Vienna and Bratislava ending with a thrilling concert at the Ulster Hall in August and to close this special year, on Saturday 29th December, it will bring players from every one of its past 25 years together for what promises to be an electrifying evening!

The formation of the Ulster Youth Orchestra 25 years ago arose from a partnership between Northern Ireland’s then five Education and Library Boards (now the Education Authority) and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. The founding aim of the UYO was to bridge the gap between the work of the local education authority music services and tertiary level music education. 

The UYO strives to ensure that the activities and opportunities provided are relevant, affordable and that they empower young musicians to feel confident and prepared no matter which career path they take.  Over the years, over 2500 young musicians from all parts of Northern Ireland have had the opportunity to study with international conductors and some of the finest musicians in Europe and many have gone on to pursue highly successful professional music careers. 

The legacy of 25 years of high quality orchestral training and the camaraderie shared through our annual residential courses will be evident as the orchestra come together to perform the exhilarating Prokofiev’s Third Piano Concerto and Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony.

Paula Klein, UYO General Manager, says:

“We are thrilled to re-connect everyone for this special milestone event and to begin the next exciting chapter full of pride in what has been achieved over the past 25 years. It promises to be a fabulous evening and we are extremely proud to have this high quality of home-grown musical talent returning to the Ulster Hall stage.”

Michael McHale, although best known as an internationally renowned pianist began his UYO connection as leader of the cello section. In 2017 Michael McHale took up his position as Patron of the Ulster Youth Orchestra alongside Sir James Galway and Barry Douglas. Michael commented:

“Everyone who has been involved with and benefitted from the Ulster Youth Orchestra over the years is very proud to celebrate its 25th anniversary. As a patron and former member of the orchestra, I’m delighted to join a group of alumni of all ages to perform in the Ulster Hall on 29 December, and we hope you will join us there, to send UYO towards its next twenty five years in style!”

Leader Joanne Quigley McParland led the very first orchestra and returns to her seat, 25 years later, with a long and varied professional career to her credit.  She explains what the UYO means to her:

“The UYO has been a huge part of my musical life for the past 25 years. It afforded me my first outings as an orchestral leader and provided some of the most memorable musical experiences of my career. I feel privileged to have been a member of the orchestra when it was in its infancy and also to have been part of the tutor team since 2006. Such a wealth of musical talent has come through the ranks since the first UYO course in 1994 and NI should be proud to have an educational institution which provides world class artistic experiences for our young people. I am proud to be associated with UYO and look forward to the next 25 years!”

Conductor Paul McCusker was a violinist with UYO for seven years, remarked:

"It's a pleasure to be invited back to conduct the UYO alumni concert as it's a fabulous opportunity to celebrate all the talented people that have passed through the orchestra over the years. So many former members have gone on to have successful careers in music, with many others continuing to perform at a high level in their spare time. To have so many of these people back together will be a very special occasion, especially with Michael and Joanne at the forefront of proceedings!"


Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: 

“Congratulations to the Ulster Youth Orchestra on achieving 25 years as the foremost youth music provider in the training, development, and showcasing of our finest young musicians in Northern Ireland.  The Arts Council is proud to be principal funder of this important organisation and is also delighted to have been able to support the commissioning of a new composition by Ryan Molloy and tour to Vienna and Bratislava, earlier this year, to mark this special 25-year milestone.  I would encourage everyone to go along to the alumni concert which promises to be an evening of magnificent music.”

Tickets are on sale NOW for this unique performance on Saturday 29th December 2018 at the Ulster Hall, Belfast starting at the earlier time of 7pm.

£16.50/£6.00 concession, 028 9033 4455/ www.ulsterhall.co.uk and at the door.

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Arts Council of Northern Ireland honours four major artists with £15,000 awards

Wednesday 5th December 2018 at 7pm 0 Comments Literature , Northern Ireland Music , Drama

Pictured are writer, Malachi O’Doherty, playwright, Carol Moore and writer, Rosemary Jenkinson who have been presented with Major Individual Awards (MIA) of £15,000 each Not pictured is composer, Ed Bennett, who has also been presented with a award. Image: Pictured are writer, Malachi O’Doherty, playwright, Carol Moore and writer, Rosemary Jenkinson who have been presented with Major Individual Awards (MIA) of £15,000 each Not pictured is composer, Ed Bennett, who has also been presented with a award.

Two writers, a composer and a playwright, have each been presented with Major Individual Awards (MIA), worth £15,000 each, from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the highest honour bestowed by the body responsible for the development of the arts in the region.

The recipients of the prestigious awards, given in recognition of the contribution each of the artists has made to creative life in Northern Ireland, includes writers Malachi O’Doherty and Rosemary Jenkinson, composer, Ed Bennett and playwright, Carol Moore.  The awards, funded through National Lottery, make it possible for these artists to produce a substantial, ambitious project that will make a significant contribution to the development of their artistic careers.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:

“Congratulations to these four immensely talented artists who have already made an enormous contribution to the arts in Northern Ireland.  Each will benefit greatly from being able to take time out to concentrate purely on these innovative new projects with the financial backing they need to produce work of lasting value. This award will help to cement their national and international reputations as artists, and strengthen the positive cultural profile of Northern Ireland both home and abroad.”

Each of the artists will now use the award to develop a series of new works.

Carol Moore, who has worked in the creative industries for 40 years as an actor, theatre director, filmmaker and drama facilitator, will use her Major Individual Artist Award to produce and premiere her new play The Experience of Being. The play is a response to Carol turning 60 in 2016 and is a challenge to the ageism that is endemic in society.  It particularly focuses on the stereotyping of older women and its negative impact, but it ultimately offers a message that is positive and life-affirming.  The play has been in development since 2017, workshopping with associate artists Peter Sheridan, choreographer, Oona Doherty, and composer, Conor Mitchell, while Carol was Artist in Residence at the Mac Theatre.   The new play will be produced by An Griánan Theatre, Letterkenny, directed by Patrick J. O’Reilly with a music score by Conor Mitchell and the play will premiere in the Grand Opera House’s Baby Grand Studio in 2019.

Award-winning playwright, short-story writer  and the 2017 Artist-in-Residence at the Lyric Theatre, Rosemary Jenkinson, will use her Major Individual Award award to write a memoir.  The new work is inspired by the artist’s identity, family, her upbringing during the Troubles, her background as a female writer, and the writer’s life experiences as a self-imposed exile in England and abroad.   The project is an opportunity for Rosemary to develop her considerable skills in prose, already evident in three acclaimed collections of short stories.  

Composer, Ed Bennett, whose body of work includes large-scale orchestral works, ensemble pieces, solo works, electronic music, opera, installations and works for dance and film, will use his Major Individual Award to create 'Return'.  ‘Return’ is a substantial trilogy of inter-related compositions for soloists, amplified ensemble and electronic media. These will be ambitious, immersive works which take as their starting point early phonograph field recordings of Irish traditional song and will each explore narrative, poetic and geographical aspects of the original song material.  The project will culminate with performances in London, Dublin, Belfast, Amsterdam and Birmingham and also with the release of a new portrait CD featuring the completed works on the prestigious NMC label.

Writer, Malachi O’Doherty will use his award to write Nivedita and Me, a book about interweaving the story of Margaret Noble (b 1867 Dungannon) who travelled to India in 1895 and became a disciple of the Swami Vivekananda with his own story of his time as a disciple in India in the seventies.  Malachi is an accomplished memoirist particularly in I was a Teenage Catholic and Under His Roof. From 2010-2013 Malachi O’Doherty was the BBC Louis MacNeice Writer in Residence at Queen's University, Belfast.

The four join a distinguished list of artists who have previously benefited from the Major Individual Artist award including writers, Jimmy McAleavey, Anne Devlin, Carlo Gébler, Damian Gorman, Patricia Craig, Sinéad Morrissey, Glenn Patterson and Owen McCafferty; playwright Shannon Sickles (Yee), performance artist, Sinéad O’Donnell, visual artists, Mairéad McClean, Rita Duffy, Susan MacWilliam and Cara Murphy; composers, Piers Hellawell, Ian Wilson, Elaine Agnew, Conor Mitchell, Deirdre McKay, musicians, Michael McHale, David Lyttle and choreographer, Oona Doherty, among others. 

Major Individual Artist awards form part of the wider Support for the Individual Artist Programme (SIAP) which is administered by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland annually.  As part of its continuing commitment to supporting the development of individual artists, the Arts Council made 192 SIAP awards to individual artists in 2018/19 totalling £533K.  Visit www.artscouncil-ni.org for information on all funding opportunities.

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Twins announced as recipients of prestigious jazz mentorship opportunities

Wednesday 5th December 2018 at 2pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Pictured are Conor and Michael Murray, the recipients of the Jazz Life Alliance music promoter mentorship and a jazz music mentorship Image: Pictured are Conor and Michael Murray, the recipients of the Jazz Life Alliance music promoter mentorship and a jazz music mentorship

Jazzlife Alliance, a new arts company under the artistic direction of MOBO Award- nominated jazz musician, David Lyttle, has announced twins, Conor and Michael Murray, as the recipients of two jazz mentorships including a music promoter mentorship and a jazz musician mentorship, supported by National Lottery funding through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Conor Murray will take on the promoter mentorship which will provide hands-on experience in tour booking and tour promotion.  His twin, Michael Murray, a gifted saxophonist, will study with David Lyttle and internationally acclaimed saxophonist, Meilana Gillard to develop his professional musical career. 

David Lyttle says,

“Jazzlife Alliance is an exciting new organisation which is about encouraging artistic growth, inspiring and developing future jazz artists and looking differently at how jazz music is presented and taught.  Micheal and Conor are two of the most promising and hardworking young people in jazz today. They inspire those around them with their hard work as musicians and promoters and I'm very happy to welcome them to Jazzlife Alliance as our first young musicians."

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added,

“The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is committed to providing valuable, meaningful opportunities for young people to develop their musical careers.  We are delighted to support these important new initiatives from Jazzlife Alliance which offers young people the opportunity to be mentored by some of the finest jazz musicians working in Northern Ireland as well as developing new audiences for jazz.  “

Jazzlife Alliance will programme an ambitious jazz tour in 2019 aimed at bringing jazz to new audiences and stage performances across Northern Ireland by some of the jazz world's international icons.  Keep up to date at www.jazzlifealliance.org

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American Poet Mark Doty celebrates month in Belfast as International Visiting Poetry Fellow

Friday 30th November 2018 at 3pm 0 Comments Literature

Dr Philip McGowan (Queen’s University Belfast), International Visiting Poetry Fellow Mark Doty, Noirin McKinney (Arts Council of Northern Ireland), Glenn Patterson (Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry) and esteemed poet Michael Longley Image: Dr Philip McGowan (Queen’s University Belfast), International Visiting Poetry Fellow Mark Doty, Noirin McKinney (Arts Council of Northern Ireland), Glenn Patterson (Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry) and esteemed poet Michael Longley

Award-winning American poet Mark Doty celebrated his post as the first International Visiting Poetry Fellow at a special reading at the end of November.

The Fellowship was created as part of Queen’s and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland's joint ten-year Seamus Heaney Legacy project and is offered to a distinguished poet of international repute.

Throughout November Mr Doty presented public readings, workshops and masterclasses for students at the University. He also took part in a number of outreach activities at the Seamus Heaney Homeplace in Bellaghy, the John O’Connor Literary Arts Festival and the Outburst Queer Arts Festival.  His time in Belfast was brought to a close with an ‘in conversation’ style event in the Harty Room at Queen’s. The event was introduced by Noirin McKinney from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Glenn Patterson from the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry, and hosted by Dr Philip McGowan from Queen’s University Belfast.

Speaking about his appointment, Mr Doty said:

“Seamus Heaney’s deep affection for the people and places of home struck a chord with readers around the world. It's a huge honour to be the first poet to receive this fellowship in his name. Belfast offers one of the great audiences for poetry; I don’t know that I’ve ever read to an audience that listened with such deep attention.”

Mr Doty is best known for his powerful work written in response to the AIDS epidemic and his nine books of poems include My Alexandria, which won the US National Book Critics Circle Award and became the first book by an American poet to win the T. S. Eliot Prize in the UK in 1995. A former Guggenheim Fellow and Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, he currently lives in New York City.

Nóirín McKinney, Director of Arts Development at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented:  “We were delighted to welcome Mark Doty as the very first Seamus Heaney International Visiting Poetry Fellow. We hope he has enjoyed his time here in Belfast, as much as we have enjoyed having him here. During his residency he has had the opportunity to meet many local writers, poets and students as well as the wider public, through workshops, readings and lectures.”

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Five gifted young musicians awarded the BBC NI & Arts Council Young Musicians’ Platform Award

Thursday 29th November 2018 at 7pm 0 Comments Northern Ireland Music

Pictured are four of the recipients, traditional music awardee, Martha Guiney, classical awardees, Andrew Douglas and William Curran with jazz awardee, Katharine Timoney. Image: Pictured are four of the recipients, traditional music awardee, Martha Guiney, classical awardees, Andrew Douglas and William Curran with jazz awardee, Katharine Timoney.

Five exceptionally talented young musicians from Northern Ireland have been awarded the Young Musicians’ Platform Award by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and BBC Northern Ireland.  The five winners include classical awardees, William Curran (clarinet), Andrew Douglas (flute) and Brian McAlea (baritone), traditional music awardee, Martha Guiney (traditional flute) and jazz awardee, Katharine Timoney (singer).

The biennial awards which are run by the Arts Council in collaboration with BBC NI, aim to showcase and support the development of young musicians from the region by providing individual funding awards of £5,000. This funding enables the recipients to spend a sizeable amount of time learning from a master musician, mentor, teacher or composer either in Northern Ireland or abroad.  For the third time, the awards have been extended beyond the classical music arena, reaching out to musicians from traditional folk and jazz music backgrounds.

As well as this training opportunity, the awardees will receive two professional radio broadcast engagements, including one with the Ulster Orchestra, between January and December 2019. Performances at this level raise not only the professional profile of the young musicians but also give a boost to their performance experience.

Highlighting BBC Radio Ulster’s continuing commitment to specialist music and to developing new musical talent, two presenters from the station will mentor the new awardees in helping them prepare for their upcoming performances with the Ulster Orchestra which will be broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster/Foyle.  John Toal, a classical pianist and presenter of Classical Connections will mentor the three classical musicians while Folk Club presenter, Lynette Fay, will mentor the folk musician and jazz musician, Linley Hamilton, will mentor the jazz awardee.

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music, at the Arts Council, commented:

“The Arts Council is committed to providing valuable, meaningful development for our artists.  Congratulations to all five musicians on receiving this award which offers a unique opportunity for outstanding musicians to develop their musical skills, learn from the best and perform live with a professional orchestra.  All of the previous recipients of this award have gone on to have successful careers in music and I’ve every confidence that the new recipients will benefit greatly from this experience.”

Emma Dunseith, Executive Editor Arts, Music and Learning, BBC Northern Ireland, says: “At BBC Radio Ulster we are dedicated to providing our listeners with the best in specialist music and nurturing new talent is something we are extremely passionate about. We are delighted to be involved in finding new classical, jazz and traditional artists and to be able to have our listeners engage in their journey as they grow and develop with some help from John, Lynette and Linley, each of whom are extremely talented musicians with a deep love of music.”

Previous recipients of the Young Musicians’ Platform Award include acclaimed classical pianist, Michael McHale, soprano, Laura Sheerin, harpist, Richard Allen, violinist, Michael Trainor, folk artists, Conor Mallon and Niall Hanna and jazz drummer, Ed Dunlop, among others.

John Toal presents a special live edition of BBC Radio Ulster’s Classical Connections from the Ulster Hall on Sunday 13th January, featuring the 2018/19 classical winners of the BBC NI and Arts Council Northern Ireland Young Musicians' Platform Award.  For tickets visit www.ulsterorchestra.com

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The Arts Council has closed applications to its Travel Awards Scheme

Thursday 29th November 2018 at 4pm 0 Comments

The scheme will re-open next financial year.

For enquiries, please email info@artscouncil-ni.org

Note to Musicians:
Artists, bands and managers who have been invited to play at an international showcasing festival or conference in North America or Europe (for example, SXSW, WOMEX, Folk Alliance International, Classical: Next or Jazz Ahead) should apply to the International Showcase Fund (ISF), delivered by the PRS for Music Foundation in partnership with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland. To apply to the ISF, please visit https://prsfoundation.com/funding-support/funding-music-creators/international/international-showcase-fund.  The ISF has rolling deadlines due to varying event organiser schedules.  We recommend you apply for funding as soon as you are invited to showcase. Applications must be received at least 8 weeks prior to the event (see PRS website for further details of submission times).

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