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150 more projects get grant aid from Covid-19 arts fund


Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey

Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey


Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey

A plan to take a play about isolation around care homes and an online study of mental health in the arts world are both to benefit from an emergency fund.

They are among 150 further projects to secure grants through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland's Covid-19 fund. These are in addition to the 88 award offers announced in May before the scheme closed suddenly due to high demand.

The grants of up to £3,000, made available by Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey, have come as many were giving up hope of continuing their careers in the sector.

One to have benefited is Maria Connolly (47), whose successful application means a play she wrote two years ago about isolation will now hit the road later this month to entertain residents in care homes.

Playwright and actress Maria has built her career over almost three decades, but in the space of two months everything threatened to fall apart.

"I was about to give up hope," she said. "I was feeling useless. I didn't know what my job was any more.

"It's been a tough time, but it's a lesson to all writers to never throw out their work."

A mix of comedy and music, The Broads focuses on three icons of cinema - Judy Garland, Bette Midler and Marilyn Monroe - and their struggles with loneliness.

Maria will be joined by fellow actors Christina Nelson and Roisin Gallaher, with music by Richard Clements.

"The plan is to take it around care homes and to the cancer unit at City Hospital," said Maria.

"We don't need a stage, just a good space where we can social distance and we'll do our stuff. It'll be theatre as raw as it gets.

"It will be so good to have something to get up for."

For east Belfast man Adam Dougal, the award means he will be able to continue a mental health project which has taken on extra significance since the start of the coronavirus outbreak.

Newly married to actress Colette Lennon, in a new home in Belfast and with a baby due in September, he said his need to find a way to keep working has never been greater.

"I didn't think I'd ever be in a position where a grant like this would be so important," he said.

"I've been working on Like Minded since December, but I never suspected it would become so relevant."

Adam's work features podcasts, all available for free online, focused on hard-hitting issues like suicide and depression in the arts world.

"I was lucky when I started this in getting a series of five together, with people really opening up on a personal level," he said.

"As my wife is an actor, both of us were left here trying to think of what to do, so when I heard the grants were available, Like Minded seemed like the perfect proposal.

"I started recording in December but any chance of a proper launch was ended by the restrictions.

"Mental health is more important than ever.

"I'm so grateful to the Arts Council for recognising that and for allowing me to develop the project."

Adam's podcasts are available on Spotify and Google Podcasts among others by searching Like Minded Podcasts NI.

Belfast Telegraph