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Coronavirus: Artists' emergency fund is temporarily closed due to unprecedented demand in Northern Ireland

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Niamh Flanagan

Niamh Flanagan

Niamh Flanagan

A huge demand to access a fund for artists and performers financially affected by Covid-19 outbreak has led to it being been temporarily closed.

Grants of up to £5,000 were available from the Artists' Emergency Fund, set up by the Department for Communities and the Arts Council on April 27.

Half a million pounds was available to assist people to develop work while venues across Northern Ireland were closed due to government restrictions.

To date the fund has received over 300 applications for around £1.2m in just over two weeks.

The Arts Council (ACNI) said that while the scheme is now closed to new applicants, current eligible applications would still be considered over the next two to four weeks.

"The Arts Council continues to work with minister Deirdre Hargey to determine the level of need within the sector and we aim to offer as much support as possible to individual artists and creative practitioners at this stressful time," a statement said.

Under the Executive's plan for easing restrictions, theatres, venues and galleries are unlikely to open for a number of months.

Concert and theatre rehearsals can resume and galleries can reopen alongside museums and libraries under step three of the plan, but no date has been set for that.

Although outdoor concerts can take place on a restricted basis under step four of the Executive plan, spectators can only begin to attend live events on a restricted basis under step five.

"Artists, actors, musicians and performers are the ones that people see but we also have a whole industry behind the scenes - like stage managers, lighting directors and technical staff - who are facing financial hardship," said director of the representative body Theatre and Dance NI, Niamh Flanagan.

"It's hard to put an exact figure on the numbers, but it could be in the thousands.

"Stage managers and lighting designers, for example, need live performances to take place to be in work so there's a need for a hardship fund for all freelancers in the arts."

Separate Arts Council research has estimated that individual artists will lose an average of more than £1,200 a month during the Covid-19 crisis.

"Respondents relied on their income as artists to support themselves and dependants with some already seeking financial help from family and friends to make ends meet," ACNI said.

Belfast Telegraph