Belfast Telegraph

Pianist Barry Douglas adds his weight to 'save Ulster Orchestra' campaign

By Claire Williamson

A world-renowned classical pianist from Belfast has added his voice to the growing calls to save the Ulster Orchestra, which is on the brink of closure.

The future of the orchestra is hanging in the balance because of cuts in the arts sector over the past three years.

Pianist, composer and conductor Barry Douglas is currently in the middle of an international touring schedule, which brings him back to Belfast's Ulster Hall on October 31 as part of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's.

There he will play Beethoven's 4th Piano Concerto with the Ulster Orchestra.

Mr Douglas said: "I am saddened and concerned that the Ulster Orchestra, which makes such an important contribution to the cultural life of Northern Ireland and beyond, and with which I have played on many occasions, should currently be facing such difficulties.

"I wish the Ulster Orchestra well at this time and trust that its current challenges might soon be positively resolved."

The orchestra, which costs around £4.6m a year to run, has appealed for £500,000 from Belfast City Council to help keep it afloat.

It has also asked for the free rental of the Ulster Hall for the next five years, which would save it £160,000 a year.

Last week a meeting of the Belfast City Council strategic policy and resources committee met to discuss the fate of the ensemble, but no formal decisions were made.

It has asked the orchestra to provide more details and a long-term plan for the next couple of years.

Mr Douglas is the latest in a host of the musical elite to add their support to the Ulster Orchestra's plight.

Earlier this week virtuoso Belfast flautist Sir James Galway and more than 30 leading names synonymous with the classical music world made a plea for the Ulster Orchestra to be saved.

Sir James, the first Artist Laureate of the Ulster Orchestra, and others who have worked with the orchestra in the past put their names to a letter calling for Stormont to find funding to ensure the organisation finds a way to continue.

The letter was addressed to First Minister Peter Robinson, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure Caral Ni Chuilin. It implores Stormont to find the necessary funding "to keep this marvellous institution alive and prosperous".

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