Performing Arts Facility

Culture, Arts and Leisure – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:30 am on 8th October 2007.

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Photo of Lord Maurice Morrow Lord Maurice Morrow DUP 3:30 am, 8th October 2007

2. asked the Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, given the high level of talent in Northern Ireland in the performing arts, what priority he has given to a dedicated performing arts facility for Northern Ireland.    (AQO 327/08)

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Rather than invest in one performing arts facility for Northern Ireland, it is the policy of my Department in conjunction with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland to support existing organisations to develop their infrastructure and performance facilities.

In addition to the £6·3 million already invested in the extension to the Grand Opera House, further funding has been committed for the following performing arts venues: the Lyric Players’ Theatre has been awarded a DCAL contribution of £6 million and £2·25 million from the Arts Council; the Old Museum Arts Centre will receive £4 million from DCAL and £4·25 from the Arts Council; the Crescent Arts Centre will receive £2·5 million from DCAL and £1·45 million from the Arts Council; the Ulster Hall will receive £2 million from DCAL and £687,000 from the Arts Council; the Waterside Theatre in Londonderry has received £777,000 from DCAL; the Playhouse Theatre has received £416,000 from DCAL and £1·1 million from the Arts Council; and An Gaeláras has received £363,000 from DCAL and £650,000 from the Arts Council.

That money will deliver a new Lyric Theatre on Ridgeway Street, a new metropolitan arts centre in St Anne’s Square in the Cathedral Quarter, and a refurbished and enhanced Ulster Hall and Crescent Arts Centre. In Londonderry, it will help to deliver a refurbished and enhanced Waterside Theatre and Playhouse Theatre, and a brand new Irish language centre and arts centre in Great James Street.

In addition to the Arts Council funding, Lottery capital grants provided funding to the following main regional venues: the Marketplace Theatre and Arts Centre in Armagh received £3·67 million; the Ballymena Arts Centre received £2 million; the Flowerfield Arts Centre in Coleraine received £1·38 million; the Burnavon Arts and Cultural Centre in Cookstown received £1·12 million; the Millennium Court Arts Centre in Craigavon received £1·09 million; the Island Arts Centre in Lisburn received £1·3 million; the Strule Arts Centre received £4 million and the Alley Arts and Conference Centre in Strabane received £758,000.

Photo of Lord Maurice Morrow Lord Maurice Morrow DUP

I thank the Minister for his detailed and comprehensive answer. If I lived in Londonderry or Belfast, I would be quite happy. However, I do not live in either. Does the Minister share my concern at the lack of funding and expenditure in places such as Fermanagh and South Tyrone, but also in rural Northern Ireland in general? Will the Minister give an assurance that his Department will consider funding for rural areas in Northern Ireland?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Yes, I will. A number of regional councils have stepped up to the mark. For example, I believe that Omagh Council has spent somewhere close to £10 million developing the Strule Arts Centre, of which my Department has contributed £4 million. We contributed £758,000 to the Alley Arts and Conference Centre in Strabane to help to deliver a £4 million project.

From what I have read regarding venues in the Belfast City Council area, there is a substantial shortfall in the case of the Lyric Theatre, the Old Museum Arts Centre, the Crescent Arts Centre and others. It is not for my Department to pay for it all. Ultimately, if Belfast City Council does not step up to the mark, in the way that the regional councils have done, I am afraid that there is a risk of those projects being lost.

Photo of David McNarry David McNarry UUP

Will the Minister assure the House that the advent of a dedicated performing arts facility will ensure that all sections of society are equally encouraged to participate in its activities, and that it will make strenuous efforts to reach out in a spirit of inclusiveness?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

That is certainly my desire, and if there is any indication or evidence that that is not the case, those matters should be brought to my attention.

Photo of Mary Bradley Mary Bradley Social Democratic and Labour Party

Has the Minister’s Department had discussions with universities to explore partnerships or synergies that could be developed between the performing arts in the academic, community, civic and commercial settings?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

My Department works closely with the Queen’s University of Belfast on the Belfast Festival at Queen’s to ensure the ongoing delivery of that festival, and is happy to work with universities in delivering arts projects.