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Coronavirus lockdown has cost Northern Ireland arts sector £4m... and counting

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Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey

The lockdown is having a major impact on artistic life in Northern Ireland, according to a new report.

The sector has taken a hit of almost £4m during the crisis so far, the report by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland estimated.

The income of individual artists has reduced by an average of just over £3,700.

Theatres, cinemas, museums, galleries and arts venues have had to close because of the virus crisis.

For individual artists, some of whom work with the elderly or with children in care homes, hospitals, school and youth clubs, the lockdown means they cannot reach their usual audiences.

The report said the financial impact of the lockdown will be significant for many of Northern Ireland's artists because it restricts their ability to trade and earn income from their performances.

It added: "The closure of arts venues, theatres, community art facilities, galleries, schools and community hubs has severely restricted the ability of organisations to deliver community outreach and public-facing services, vital for the wellbeing of vulnerable groups in society and for artists (working as facilitators) to earn an income and develop their practice.

"This has compromised the ability of some artists working in inter and intra-community contexts to build relationships with participants through their creativity, potentially compromising important peace-building work.

"A significant proportion of visual artists have been unable to work since the shutdown because access to their studios has been cut off.

"This has had a creative impact and further compounds the economic consequences of their work not reaching markets due to the closure of galleries and retail outlets."

The Arts Council report surveyed more than 300 artists and arts organisations across Northern Ireland between March 26 and April 10.

Based on data from 108 organisations, it said the anticipated income loss was expected to total £3.97m ­- an average of £36,714 per organisation.

This varied significantly depending on the scale of the organisation responding.

The report also found that organisations that depend on earned sources such as the box-office income were particularly vulnerable to financial losses during the crisis.

The report follows the establishment by Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey at the end of March of a special £1m Covid-19 support fund.

The package is aimed at artists, performers and others across the arts and cultural sector in Northern Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph