Councils encouraged to take up the arts challenge – Julianne Skillen

On Wednesday 21 September the arts sector gathered at the Island Arts Centre for the launch of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s Local Government Challenge Fund. The fund for 2016-17 is worth up to £1.5 million and aims to increase access to the arts across Northern Ireland.


The challenge to ten local Council’s (Belfast is not included as ACNI and Belfast City Council partner in funding the Creative and Cultural Belfast awards) is to match-fund ACNI’s offer of £150,000 of National Lottery monies, thereby increasing the level of investment in the arts in their local areas up to a maximum of £300.000.

The local Government match must be new and additional to their current support for the arts.


This fund is timely with each Council developing their own community planning programmes and this opportunity will hopefully place arts at the heart of these strategies.

The new Minister for Communities, Mr. Paul Givan MLA whose department’s portfolio includes responsibility for the arts helped launch the fund, said

“The Arts are part of the lives of everyone in Northern Ireland but geography can be a barrier to participation in the arts. The engagement between the Arts Council and local government through the Challenge Fund is a very positive response.
The Challenge Fund is an excellent example of how two strands of government working within the Department for Communities can partner their shared ambitions and together, make public investment achieve more for people across Northern Ireland, it’s a progressive approach to adopt across government”.


At the launch, delegates heard from Anthony Tohill, Chief Executive for Mid Ulster District Council about how the fund has helped support the launch of the new Seamus Heaney centre in Bellaghy, Homeplace, which will be open to the public at the beginning of October.

Another Council. Newry, Down and Mourne has already been working with Community Arts Partnership, amongst other arts organisations, to animate parts of their jurisdiction with festivals including the Skiffie World Championships, Strangford, Wake the Giant, Warrenpoint and Mourne Quest Halloween celebrations through their Challenge Fund award.

Councils have been successful in supporting the arts to varying degrees in the past and it is hoped that all ten local authorities will take up the mantle.

The Arts Council is working with the other Councils to encourage them to make bids and Community Arts Partnership is keen to help Councils bring their community planning ideas to life through the arts.

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New Belfast Community Arts Initiative trading as Community Arts Partnership is a registered charity (XR 36570) and a company limited by guarantee (Northern Ireland NI 37645).Registered with The Charity Commission as New Belfast Community Arts Initiative - NIC105169.