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Arts Council Honours Four Major Artists

Saturday 17th December 2016 at 12pm 0 Comments Dance , Literature , Northern Ireland Music

Joining an illustrious line up of previous Major Individual Award recipients are dancer, Oona Doherty, Jazz Musician, David Lyttle and writer, Anne Devlin. Missing from the photograph is composer, Ian Wilson. Each has received an award worth up to £15,000 Image: Joining an illustrious line up of previous Major Individual Award recipients are dancer, Oona Doherty, Jazz Musician, David Lyttle and writer, Anne Devlin. Missing from the photograph is composer, Ian Wilson. Each has received an award worth up to £15,000

A dancer, a musician, a composer and a writer have each been presented with Major Individual Awards (MIA) from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the highest honour bestowed by the agency who is responsible for the development of the arts in the region.

The recipients of the prestigious awards, which are given in recognition of the contribution each of the artists has made to creative life in Northern Ireland, includes composer Ian Wilson, Mobo-nominated jazz musician, David Lyttle, writer, Anne Devlin and dancer, Oona Doherty.  The funding awards, worth £15,000 each, makes it possible for these artists to take time out to dedicate to their creative work and to produce a substantial and ambitious project that will make a significant contribution to the development of their professional careers.

The four join a distinguished list of artists who have previously benefited from the Major Individual Artist Award including writers, Jimmy McAleavey, Carlo Gébler, Damian Gorman, Patricia Craig, Sinéad Morrissey, Glenn Patterson and Owen McCafferty; leading contemporary visual artists, Rita Duffy, Susan MacWilliam and Cara Murphy; celebrated composers, Elaine Agnew, Conor Mitchell, Deirdre McKay and acclaimed pianist, Michael McHale, among others.

Congratulating this year’s recipients, Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said:

“These four artists have already made an immense contribution to the arts in Northern Ireland.  Each will benefit greatly from being able to take time out to concentrate purely on these exciting, innovative new projects and with the financial backing needed to produce work of lasting value. This award will help to cement their national and international reputations as artists, and help to strengthen the positive cultural profile of Northern Ireland both home and abroad.”

Each of the artists will now use the funding to develop a series of new works.

Jazz musician, David Lyttle, has carried out three major residencies to date and will use his MIA award towards a fourth upcoming residency in the USA in April 2017.  Based between Los Angeles, Las Vegas, San Francisco and the desert communities in between. He will explore the public's connection with jazz and creative music through pop up performances, Hunter S. Thompson-style journalistic research and artistic statements at iconic locations such as Alcatraz and the peripheries of Area 51.

Writer, Anne Devlin, will use her MIA funding towards the drafting of a series of short stories under the title Cornucopia. The title story was most recently published in The Glass Shore anthology. The collection is proposed as a series of inter-linked stories in a family saga over several generations, originating in Belfast.  It will be a continuation of her early work where the stories act as gathered up biographies for the characters in a play.  The subject the stories explore is that of a mind that is failing to hold the knowledge of what happened to it.  

Dancer Oona Doherty’s MIA project is entitled, Hard to Be Soft – A Belfast Prayer in Four Parts.  This innovative undertaking will see Oona working in creative collaboration to gather a collection of ideas and sound from dance company, Ajendance HipHop, and also young offenders based at Hyde Bank Wood Young Offenders Centre and Prison.  Oona will then work with internationally acclaimed Belfast musician and composer, David Holmes, to create a futuristic Belfast theme tune in four parts which will form the soundscape for a new dance theatre work to be presented in Northern Ireland in 2017 and toured internationally in 2018. 

Composer, Ian Wilson, will use his MIA award to produce three separate new works.  The first will be a new piano work for British pianist and long-time collaborator, Matthew Schellhorn entitled, A Sonata of Solstices and Equinoxes. 

Ian’s second new work will combine musical influences from Ireland, North Africa and India into a large-scale piano solo entitled, Massive Perturber, inspired by the effect of an as-yet-unseen astronomical body on objects in the icy Kuiper Belt on the edge of our solar system.  This work will involve exploring playing techniques inside the piano as well as on the keys.

The final new work will be a large-scale solo improvised work which will embrace new field recordings made in various locations throughout Northern Ireland featuring live electronics with acoustic objects and instruments.

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 Council made 277 SIAP awards to artists in 2016/17 totalling £592k. 

BBC Arts Show recently caught up with each of the new MIA awardees.  See the films here


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