Part three of this interview is here
How do you feel the pandemic has been handled by the funding bodies you work with?
KIC core funders, the Arts Council NI and Belfast City Council, were responsive and flexible from the beginning of the pandemic. This allowed KIC to adjust programme timetables and methodology, while retaining our core values and aims. This support from funders was critical in securing us in the early days.
We are also funded by Children in Need NI and we were heading into the third year of a 3-year grant – they too have been flexible and supportive, allowing KIC the space to find our feet in the new environment.
KIC has lost the majority of its substantial annual earned income. This money is critical in filling the many funding gaps and enabling KIC to keep all our programmes free for participants. This is a key concern going forward.
KIC has received emergency funding from the Arts Council NI to help with Covid19 safety costs, develop online resources, and employ freelance artist Matt Faris to support KIC to redesign how we deliver to community and school groups on-line. This will be very challenging, but establishing new ways to connect with young people, particularly from marginalised backgrounds, is crucial.
I think there is an urgent need within the sector for financial support that isn’t directly connected to producing content; that we are supported to create the space to experiment with new methodologies without the additional pressure of having to meet targets in terms of outcomes and outputs during such uncertain and unstable times. The arts sector was already under strain pre pandemic and, if anything, its contribution to building a healthy society is more important than ever. Artists and small arts companies need to be supported with pressures lifted (as with other sectors), if we are to safeguard the NI arts eco system.
Do you think that might come through the allocation of the £29 million for the arts sector?
Our big concern is for next year. Obviously there are financial concerns and in particular the dramatic loss of earned income, but key to KIC operations is that all of our programmes are interconnected, and they all have a forward momentum that connects new young people. As we look at the next year we are concerned that we will not have that strong network of outreach projects that provide access into our core programmes – that is making us very nervous.
We are working to the best of our ability to ensure that the basic delivery of our services will be maintained, but there are pressures coming from every direction and we can’t pretend that those pressures aren’t very real.
As a theatre-maker, I do feel in this moment a bit like a pilot with an aircraft in a holding position over an airport. There have been times over the past 8 months when I thought I would be bringing a project ‘in to land’, only for flight control to tell me to stay in the air a little longer. The thing about ‘holding’ is that you are using up fuel. I am very aware that I must constantly refresh my energies in order to combat ‘Zoom Fatigue’. Hence, I’m delighted to say, I’ve made considerable progress in the practice of Qi Gong during the pandemic and I have begun to incorporate this discipline into my teaching of physical theatre to young actors at the Lyric Theatre! However, serenity has been fleeting during the pandemic, especially when I consider the future of participatory arts, particularly when there are urgent needs for venues, museums and libraries, and the pot of emergency money already appears to be spreading quite thinly across the arts and cultural sectors.
Part one of this interview is here