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New Chair announced for Arts Council as sector faces toughest challenges yet.

Thursday 22nd December 2011 at 2pm 0 Comments

Pictured, L-R: Brian Sore, Paul Seawright, Noelle McAlinden, David Alderdice, Anna Carragher, David Irvine, Damien Coyle (Vice-Chair), Katherine McCloskey, Janine Walker, Paul Mullan, Bob Collins (Chair) and Paul Seawright. Image: Pictured, L-R: Brian Sore, Paul Seawright, Noelle McAlinden, David Alderdice, Anna Carragher, David Irvine, Damien Coyle (Vice-Chair), Katherine McCloskey, Janine Walker, Paul Mullan, Bob Collins (Chair) and Paul Seawright.

Mr Bob Collins has been announced as the new Chair of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. His appointment is effective from December 2011 and runs for four years.

Bob Collins will replace outgoing chairman Rosemary Kelly OBE, and with the new Board, he will oversee the Arts Council as the lead development agency for the arts in Northern Ireland.

The new Chair has been Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland since August 2005 and will end his term of office there on 31 January 2012. He is also Chair of the Broadcasting Authority Ireland and was previously employed as Director-General at RTE. He will join the Arts Council Board, along with five other newly appointed board members.

Commenting on his appointment, Bob Collins said, “I am honoured and delighted to take over the role as Chair of the Arts Council. I would like to pay tribute to the leadership of the former Chair, Rosemary Kelly and the previous Board, and look forward to building on their achievements.

“I take over the chairmanship at a defining time for the arts. Our sector is affected as much as any by the economic climate, and we have to ensure that the arts can continue to deliver to their full potential. There are also, however, tremendous opportunities ahead, as we prepare for the 2012 Titanic celebrations, the Cultural Olympiad and the 2013 City of Culture in Derry~Londonderry, which, with our artists and organisations at their core, promise to establish Northern Ireland firmly on the international cultural map.”

Culture Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín, MLA announced the new appointments on Tuesday 13th December and said, “I would like to personally thank Rosemary Kelly and the other outgoing members of the Arts Council for the leadership, vision and time commitment that they have given to the Arts Sector. They have laid solid foundations on which the new Board can build over the next four years.”

In March this year, following an energetic campaign by the arts sector and the Arts Council, the NI Assembly announced a cut of £1.4 million to the arts budget over the next four years (2011-15). This was a welcome reprieve from the disproportionate £4.2 million cut initially proposed, but serious challenges remain.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, welcomed the appointment of Bob Collins as Chair, “Our new Chair will bring a wealth of experience to the post, having held senior positions in a number of public sector organisations both in Northern Ireland and the Republic. Bob’s skills will complement those of the executive team and together, we hope to steer the best way through the demanding funding and planning period ahead.

“This year and last, the Arts Council was able to maintain most of its core revenue-funded clients on standstill funding. However, the further budget cuts planned in years 2012-15, combined with inflation and other financial pressures, means that everyone working within the arts sector must continue to look for further efficiencies – it will be our toughest challenge yet”.

Following an open competition, six board members have been reappointed to serve a second term of office at the Arts Council.

  • Damien Coyle, Vice-Chairman
  • Paul Seawright
  • Professor Ian Montgomery
  • David Irvine
  • Janine Walker
  • Brian Sore


They will be joined by the six new board members.

  • Bob Collins (Chair)
  • David Alderdice
  • Anna Carragher
  • Noelle McAlinden
  • Katherine McCloskey
  • Paul Mullan

Council members have been appointed for four years to the end of November 2015.


Bob Collins – New Chair

Bob Collins has been Chief Commissioner of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland since August 2005 and his term of office will end on 31 January 2012. He is a former Director-General of RTÉ, the Irish national broadcasting organisation, in which capacity he initiated significant organisational change. He played a key role in developing RTÉ’s approach to the Arts, including the place of the performing groups within the organisation and the introduction of a new music and arts radio service, lyric fm. He has a keen interest in the arts. Bob Collins is Chair of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. He has served as a member of the Boards of the National Concert Hall, the National Library of Ireland and of the Ulster Orchestra Society. He was also a member of Comhairle Theilifís na Gaeilge.

David Alderdice – New Board Member

Mr Alderdice is the Director of the British Council NI having formerly held a number of positions in the Council in England, Bangladesh, Iraq, Netherlands, Argentina and Thailand. The purpose of the British Council is to create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries through Arts, Education and English. Through his work with the Council, Mr Alderdice has worked on a number of projects which have used arts to address community issues including “Arts for Development”, a programme which will focus on the young communities emerging from repression via the Arab Spring.


Anna Carragher – New Board Member

Miss Carragher was formerly Head of Programmes and then Regional Controller at BBC NI where she made local arts coverage a priority, most notably setting up Radio Ulster’s popular Arts Extra programme. She was a member of the UK City of Culture assessment panel which unanimously selected the Derry~Londonderry bid. Miss Carragher is a former Chair of the Grand Opera House Trust and Board member of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority. She is also the outgoing Chair of the Grand Opera House. Miss Carragher studied English Literature at Queens University under Seamus Heaney and is a keen theatre goer. Miss Carragher serves as a Commissioner on the Equality Commission for which she receives remuneration of £5,000 per annum.

Noelle McAlinden – New Board Member

Ms McAlinden is Creative Adviser with ILEX URC and City of Culture which has involved a wide range of work with voluntary, community and statutory organisations. She describes herself as a committed Arts Educationalist, Arts Activist and Arts Adviser as well as a practicing visual artist for 30 years. Ms McAlinden has a background in teaching as a former Head of Art and Design in a Post-Primary school and as a Senior Lecturer for Arts at Fermanagh College of Further Education. She was Chair of Creative Youth Partnerships and is currently serving as Chair of the Forum for Local Government and the Arts. Ms McAlinden is a Director of the Nerve Centre and Gordon Gallery.


Katherine McCloskey – New Board Member

Mrs McCloskey began her career as a librarian in the Fine Arts Department of the Central Library before moving on to the College of Art library and eventually rising to become the Chief Librarian and a  member of the senior management team of the Belfast, Education and Library Board. She is a former Chair of the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. Mrs McCloskey gained experience in community arts during her time as Divisional Librarian for North and West Belfast. She has an interest in Irish Art and Literature.

Paul Mullan – New Board Member

Mr Mullan is Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Northern Ireland. He is a former Chairman of BEAT Initiative where he was involved in engaging communities from deprived areas with the arts. He is also a member of the BBC’s Audience Council for NI and has participated in a number of service reviews of the performance BBC Radio and TV Channels. Mr Mullan is Chair of the Special Educational Needs Advisory Centre.



Damien Coyle (Vice-Chair)

Mr Coyle is Deputy Director of the Stroke Association Northern Ireland and formerly held senior management positions in a number of arts organisations and public bodies which include Old Museum Arts Centre, Arts and Research Exchange, Community Fund and Big Lottery Fund. Damien has been Chairperson of Circa Arts Magazine and Kabosh Theatre Company and a Creative Champion for the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts in NI. His writing on arts and cultural issues has been published in a wide range of publications. Damien led on the development of a number of key arts and education initiatives including Queen’s Street Studios and the Cultural Management Training Programme at the University of Ulster and was a Moderator for the Open College Network. Damien has been a visual arts practitioner for over 25 years and has exhibited locally, nationally and internationally.

Ms Janine Walker

Ms Walker is a freelance arts consultant and drama workshop facilitator. She is Co-Founder of Belfast based theatre company “Spanner in the Works” and has extensive theatre experience having worked as an actress and workshop facilitator with Spanner in the Works over a ten year period, as well as being a member of the Lyric Drama Studio for three years from 1996-99. She graduated from Queen’s University Belfast in 2009 with a Masters in Drama & Performance Studies and specialised in Contemporary Irish Theatre.

Janine has also worked in various arts administration roles. From 2004 to 2007, she was the Arts Manager at Arts & Business Northern Ireland (an organisation that creates new partnerships between commerce and culture).  In a voluntary capacity from 2001 to 2008, Janine was a founder member & Vice-Chair of Down Arts Forum (a voluntary group that promotes access to the arts in Down District) and from 2006 to 2008 was a Board Member of ArtsEkta (an Indian and ethnic arts based organisation).  She also sat on the board of Down Community Arts (an organisation that offers participative arts to people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities) and was a Regional Panel Member for the Theatrical Management Association Awards for five years from 2003-2008.

Mr Brian Sore

Mr Sore has been a Board Member of the Arts Council and Chair of the Arts Council’s Finance and Capital Committee for the last four years. He is currently the Regional Director of the Royal Town Planning Institute. He has been Project Director of a number of significant public works and he has a keen interest in the built environment and public art. As the former Acting Chief Executive of the Greenpark Health Trust, he is an ardent supporter of art in the health care environment and has worked with artists and the voluntary group ‘ArtsCare’ to support art in patient services and hospitals.

Mr David Irvine

Mr Irvine is a Business Risk Consultant with Marsh Ltd, a global risk and insurance services firm. Apart from general business experience, David has particular interest in Governance and Risk Management issues.  Beginning as a Board Bank member many years ago, David has had a long association with Arts and Business.  He has been a National Judge for the Arts and Business National Awards in London and a mentor on the Young Professionals Scheme.

David is currently the Chair of ‘Moving on Music’, an organisation which promotes and presents quality music, supports emerging Artists and provides support services to the Arts Sector.  He was awarded the “Arts and Business and the Individual Award” in the 2005 Arts and Business Creativity Awards in N. Ireland for his work with Moving on Music.

Professor Paul Seawright

Professor Seawright is Professor of Photography at the University of Ulster and was formerly Dean of Arts and Media at the University of Wales, Newport, where he was awarded a personal chair in 2001. A practising photographer he has exhibited extensively and represented Wales at the 2003 Venice Biennale of Art.

Professor Ian Montgomery

Professor Montgomery is Dean of the Faculty of Art Design and the Built Environment at the University of Ulster. Prior to this appointment he was Head of the University's School of Art and Design, the largest art and design higher education provider on the island of Ireland (established in 1849). He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Architecture and Manufacture, a member of the International Society of Typographic Designers and a member of the Design Research Society.


The outgoing board members are:

  • Ms Rosemary Kelly OBE (Outgoing Chairman)
  • Mrs Eithne Benson
  • Mrs Kate Bond
  • Mr Anthony Kennedy
  • Mr WHC Montgomery
  • Ms Sharon O’Connor
  • Mr Peter Spratt
  • Mr Raymond Fullerton


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