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Arts Council Challenge Fund

Wednesday 14th September 2016 at 1pm 0 Comments

The Arts Council Challenge Fund has been designed to encourage local authorities to increase their investment in the arts, with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland offering match funding of £1.5 million. Image: The Arts Council Challenge Fund has been designed to encourage local authorities to increase their investment in the arts, with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland offering match funding of £1.5 million.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is challenging local authorities to increase their investment in the arts with the offer to double their investment with match funding. 

"If you're in, we're in"

The Arts Council is offering match funding of £1.5 million to incentivise investment in the arts in relation to the new powers conferred upon local authorities for Community Planning. 

The Arts Council Challenge Fund will embed arts policy and programming in the development of Community Plans and their emerging themes, including economic regeneration, community relations, social cohesion, tourism and health. 

Up to £150,000 is available to each council area

  • the Arts Council will match local authority spending on the arts
  • match funding may be available each year for up to three years
  • investment must be new and additional to current spending


The deadline for applications is 31st March 2017. Application forms and guidance notes can be accessed here

Download the Arts Council Challenge Fund Information Brochure here

The examples presented below are just some of the ways in which the arts can address the emerging themes in the development of Community Plans:

The Arts & Interculturalism

The Arts Council's Intercultural Arts Programme continues to support projects across Northern Ireland. One of the most recent projects to receive support is Beyond Skin’s, Orchestre des Réfugiés et Amis.  Translating as, Orchestra Refugees and Friends, the Belfast-based project which will run over the next 18 months, includes a social, creative space for artists in Refugee or Asylum status to regularly meet, engage and experience different cultures whilst working with professional musicians... [Click for more info]

The Arts & Health + Well-being

The Arts Council's pioneering Arts & Older People Programme has supported upwards of 100 projects throughout Northern Ireland since 2009. The programme aims to strengthen the voice of older people and promote positive mental health and well-being through the arts. 

The strategic themes of the programme include combatting isolation and loneliness, working to promote positive health and wellbeing and providing creative opportunities for older people living in disadvantaged and/or marginalised rural and urban areas across Northern Ireland. [Learn more]

The Arts & Placemaking

The first project to receive support under the Arts Council Challenge Fund is the Seamus Heaney HomePlace literary centre opening in Bellaghy this September. The award of £150,000 was made to Mid Ulster District Council to help support the development of a high calibre arts programme for the centre. [Find out more about Seamus Heaney HomePlace]

The Arts & Community Cohesion

The Arts Council's Building Peace through the Arts Programme had, at its core, the ability to bring communities together, through arts led engagement. The programme which ran between 2013 and 2015 helped borth urban and rural centres across Northern Ireland experience the transformative power of the arts. Significant new works of arts, inspired by and created by the communities around them were unveiled in city centres, in border towns, along river banks and in shared community spaces. [Watch a short overview of the programme]

The Arts Council Challenge Fund Symposium 11th October 2016

The Arts Council hosted a symposium at Seamus Heaney HomePlace on 11th October 2016 to support local government representatives with the idea generation and application development process. The symposium included a series of presentations from arts organisations whose involvement as delivery agents for the programme will be key to its success. A targeted audience of arts sector representatives enjoyed a networking opportunity with key personnel from each of the local authorities in Northern Ireland. Je Ahn from London based architecture firm specialising in the arts and place-making delivered a key note outlining a several of the major projects that they have been involved with across the UK and Republic of Ireland, with the budgets for each of these falling within the parameters of the funding available through the challenge fund. 

Roisin McDonough Presentation

Je Ahn Presentation

Studio Weave Case Studies

Symposium Delegates Contact List



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