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Watch: Liam Neeson in message to NI Executive to save arts sector from collapse


Star power: Liam Neeson appealed to the Executive in a video recording

Star power: Liam Neeson appealed to the Executive in a video recording

Star power: Liam Neeson appealed to the Executive in a video recording

Hollywood star Liam Neeson has thrown his weight behind pleas to the Executive to secure the full £33m package to help save the arts sector in Northern Ireland.

It was announced in July that the funding would be made available as a result of the UK-wide investment in the arts.

However, the Executive has not yet decided how or when the money will be spent.

Theatres, concert halls and other venues were planning on finally reopening on September 1, for the first time since lockdown was introduced in March, but that was halted by the Executive due to the increased transmission of Covid-19.

Earlier this month, 37 arts and entertainment venues signed a letter to MLAs warning Northern Ireland risks becoming a "cultural wasteland" without urgent funding amid the Covid-19 crisis.

They have called for the £33 million for arts venues to be spent "in the coming weeks".

Venues will close and jobs will be lost if that support does not arrive, the letter warned.

South Belfast's Lyric Theatre is now putting pressure on the Executive for more support with the help of Neeson, who is their patron.

The Taken star spoke directly to the Executive in a two-minute video, which also features photographs of the Ballymena native performing in plays during his time as a young actor at the Lyric Theatre.

In the video, Neeson said: "Dear members of the Northern Ireland Executive, Liam Neeson here.

"As a proud Northern Irishman and patron of the Lyric Theatre, who came up through the ranks as it were in the arts scene in Northern Ireland during the 1970s - beginning in 1976 to be exact - at the Lyric Theatre in Ridgeway Street in Belfast, I experienced first-hand as many of you may have the potential of physical danger as I practiced and learned my craft in that theatre, which by the way never closed its doors once during the height of the Troubles.

"Now, that says something about the character and stamina not just of the Lyric Theatre but of us as a people, all the people, Protestant and Catholic of the north."

Neeson proceeded to stress how important the £33m package is to saving the arts sector in Northern Ireland.

"It is vital," he continued.

"It's a lifeline. It is vital. It is vital for our economy, it is vital for our young people who are pursuing a career in our creative industries.

"A true society cannot be whole or fundamentally exist without the arts and the people employed in the arts."

Jimmy Fay, an executive producer at the Lyric Theatre, added that the funding was vital to the thousands of people that the sector employs.

Belfast Telegraph