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Theatres and art spaces go digital in effort to deal with coronavirus crisis in Northern Ireland


Thankful: Roisin McDonough

Thankful: Roisin McDonough

Thankful: Roisin McDonough

Northern Ireland's arts and culture community is moving online to adapt to the enforced closure of theatres, concert venues, museums and art galleries by the Covid-19 crisis.

Leading cultural space the MAC has had to cancel its £20,000 MAC International Arts Prize for 2020.

However the venue celebrated World Theatre Day on Friday by offering a live stream of David Ireland's controversial play Cyprus Avenue.

It is a story of sectarian trauma in Northern Ireland, told through a man who mistakes his baby granddaughter for Gerry Adams.

The film version streamed by the MAC mixes the Royal Court Theatre's live performance with clips shot on location in Belfast.

It will be available free via the MAC's Facebook page for the next month.

Belfast's Lyric Theatre also took to the internet to keep in touch with patrons, streaming a performance of Alice The Musical for World Theatre Day.

"The theatre may be closed but the Lyric is still here for our audiences.

"We're embracing our mission now more than ever, and while we can't share our space with you we can continue to be a creative hub," the Lyric said on social media.

In Londonderry, the VOID contemporary art space is staging online tours of the current exhibition by Ima-Abasi Okon.

"We will explore the 15-year exhibition history of the VOID programme through images, talks and videos," the arts space said.

"Each week while the gallery is closed, we will look at different artists who use a specific medium in their work."

Another project, VOID Engage, will take place online, bringing activities designed to keep children entertained as families stay at home and practice social distancing.

Also in Londonderry, the Contemporary Arts Centre is hosting "social media takeover" events while their physical space is closed.

Selected artists will be given control of the organisation's social media channels for 24 hours. First on the list is Lithuanian artist and filmmaker Ginte Regina.

The online surge comes as the Department for Communities promised £1m to help embattled arts organisations here.

Arts Council chief Roisin McDonough said the funding move was good news at a difficult time for the arts community in Northern Ireland.

She said: "The arts sector in Northern Ireland is under immense pressure at the moment.

"The council has moved quickly to distribute year-end funding earlier than usual to our core arts organisations but we knew more resources were needed to support the high number of individual artists and freelancers in our sector.

"After much discussion last week with the Department for Communities we submitted a bid to the minister for extra support and we welcome her announcement.

"Minister Deirdre Hargey has stepped in with an initial package to the Arts Council of Northern Ireland worth £1m of much-needed support for creatives and individual artists working here.

"It is a bit of good news in the midst of the coronavirus epidemic which has caused the near decimation of many livelihoods within the arts and culture sectors in a short period of time."

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