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NI arts sector critical of Stormont over funding delay

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Essential: Liam Neeson described support package for arts as a ‘lifeline’

Essential: Liam Neeson described support package for arts as a ‘lifeline’

Essential: Liam Neeson described support package for arts as a ‘lifeline’

The arts and culture sector in Northern Ireland has warned the lack of decision around a financial support and recovery package is adding further uncertainty to an industry already under enormous pressure.

A series of groups, including The Lyric Theatre, the MAC and The Grand Opera House, have issued a joint statement appealing for more clarity.

Northern Ireland has received £33m as part of a UK Government package for theatres, arts and music venues and museums. Actor Liam Neeson has described it as "a lifeline".

However, Stormont ministers have not yet decided how that money will be spent.

In their joint statement, the groups said: "As a sector we have been engaged with the Executive and in particular the Department for Communities as well as MLAs from across all parties in the Assembly, over the last number of weeks and months.

"We had been expecting a decision from the Executive at last week's meeting on how our sector would be supported with the allocation of £33m of arts funding provided to the Assembly from Westminster in July.

"Disappointingly that did not happen and we now have a further period of uncertainty in a sector already under enormous pressure. October will see the end of the furlough scheme and in the absence of financial support we will face a situation where thousands of people are unemployed by the end of next month. The arts in NI have received no financial support, no date for reopening and no overall plan for the future. There is a widespread and real sense of disappointment and frustration.

"Our organisations and individuals are ready to engage about how our doors can be safely re-opened. We want to open our venues and get on with the business of providing an inclusive cultural offer to all the people of Northern Ireland.

"We need the full £33m invested in our sector and we need it urgently. Our sector cannot withstand further delay."

The Department for Communities said: "Funding for Arts and Heritage in England has resulted in Barnett funding of £33m. It is for the Executive to decide where Barnett consequentials are allocated. However, DfC has submitted a bid for £33m to secure meaningful financial support.

"We are listening to those working at grass roots in an effort to engage with a wide group of individuals and organisations."

Belfast Telegraph