Belfast Telegraph

The financially struggling Ulster Orchestra and MAC theatre get £625k lifeline


By David Young

More than £600,000 of extra public funding is to be pumped into Belfast's Metropolitan Arts Centre (MAC) and the Ulster Orchestra, the Belfast Telegraph has learned.

The MAC is to receive £275,000 and the Ulster Orchestra £350,000, the Department for Communities confirmed last night.

The department said the cash was being handed out following a successful Arts Council bid on behalf of the two cash-strapped organisations.

It said the department was conscious that all publicly funded organisations were facing significant budget constraints.

"Officials carefully considered these two bids in this context and concluded that short-term additional funding should be provided to the Arts Council to allow them to help both organisations with their funding requirements for the remainder of the current financial year," it added.

But it also warned the financial situation was tightening - and that the two must learn to live within their means.

"Looking ahead, the department expects that it and the organisations it supports will be required to operate within significant financial constraints in the coming few years," it said.

"It will therefore be essential that these two organisations, working in collaboration with the Arts Council, draw up plans to ensure they can operate within the limits of the financial resources available to them."

A spokesman for the MAC last night welcomed the £275,000 cash injection.

"We have been working with the Arts Council, the Department for Communities and other important stakeholders to address a long-standing funding gap," he said.

"This work involved the submission of a detailed business case.

"We are pleased that the department is able to provide ongoing support to the MAC via the Arts Council.

"We will continue to work with all of our stakeholders as we deliver an outstanding arts facility for the people of Northern Ireland and for the hundreds of thousands of visitors who come to the MAC each year."

It's understood that the additional funding for both recipients must be spent in the current financial year. The Arts Council said: "It is good news that two of Northern Ireland's largest arts organisations have received the additional funding from government they required.

"This necessary investment will enable both the MAC and the Ulster Orchestra to continue as a going concern and maintain their programming commitments to the high standards expected from the public."

The MAC received £40,000 in emergency funds from Belfast City Council in October last year.

In 2015, just three years after it opened, stonework on its award-wining building was found to be crumbling, and the venue faced a £1m repair bill.

The Ulster Orchestra, which celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2016, received more than £1.7m via the Arts Council in 2015-16, while the MAC received just over £1m, according to the Arts Council website.

In 2015 the Ulster Orchestra faced a major funding crisis and had to be rescued by a £400,000 handout from Stormont.

Belfast Telegraph

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