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£500k fund to help arts venues open announced

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Caral Ni Chuilin

Caral Ni Chuilin

Caral Ni Chuilin

A £500,000 scheme to help arts and cultural organisations prepare to resume after the Covid-19 lockdown opened for applications yesterday.

Administered by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the new fund will help organisations fund the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE).

It will also help pay for physical or structural changes to help venues manage social distancing - which could include things such as one way systems, signage and sneeze screens.

Called the Health and Safety Capital Programme, the fund is part of a wider £5.5m funding package announced by Arts Minister Caral Ni Chuilin, to support the arts, creative industries and cultural sectors during the pandemic.

Ms Ni Chuilin said: "This is a vital step towards recovery for the sector - while also ensuring its future resilience."

She also confirmed her Department had submitted a bid to the Executive for a further £33m to secure financial support for culture, language, arts and heritage organisations, local musicians, freelancers and artists to help them recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

Arts and culture organisations across Northern Ireland are still waiting for permission from the NI Executive to reopen.

A planned reopening date in August was deferred due to the virus emergency.

Arts Council chief executive Roisin McDonough said yesterday's funding would bring Northern Ireland closer to reopening venues safely.

"It was developed in response to Covid-19 and much needed to help our arts and cultural organisations weather the current adverse conditions," she said.

"Theatres as well as cultural and live performance venues, all play a vital economic and social role in Northern Ireland; it is here where many artists and creative practitioners develop their skills and their craft.

"Most importantly, it's where they collaborate, creating great art that inspires us, improves our well-being and supports our local economy.

"We want to ensure that organisations have proper measures in place to welcome the return of their staff, artists and audiences."

The Arts Council has already allocated almost £2.5m of emergency funding to hundreds of arts organisations and creatives across Northern Ireland during the Covid-19 crisis.

It is understood 1,400 applications have also been received for support under the £1.1m Individual Emergency Resilience Programme.

Belfast Telegraph