Coronavirus: NI arts sector ‘facing obliteration,’ says theatre chief

The arts sector in NI is “facing obliteration” because of the disastrous impact of Covid-19, according to leading figures in the industry.

The head of Belfast’s MAC theatre, Anne McReynolds, told a Stormont committee that “a cultural Armageddon” was on the horizon.

Ms McReynolds, made a direct appeal to the executive for an urgent financial package.

She was appearing before the NI Communities Committee on Wednesday.

She was part of a delegation from the Arts Collaboration Network giving evidence about the plight of venues, actors and associated roles within the sector.

Ms McReynolds said: “There is no part of the arts and entertainment sector in Northern Ireland that is unaffected.

“Every part of our sector is facing obliteration.”

‘Fell off a cliff’

She said this was ironic for the MAC, which had just experienced its most successful trading year since opening.

“But in March – in common with every arts venue in Northern Ireland… the MAC immediately ceased all operations.

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“Our self-generating activities fell off a cliff,” the committee heard.

“We went from last year generating over £400,000 of ticket sales to nothing,” she said.

“That means that every month that the MAC stays closed, we lose more than £100,000 in self-generating income, and that is going to total well over £1.3m for 2020-21 alone,” she added.

She said that was “just the MAC” and urging the committee to “consider the scale of this replicated across Northern Ireland.”

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Ms McReynolds said audiences had indicated that they were not confident about returning to venues any time soon, and that this could lead to “even further economic disaster”.

“Northern Ireland is facing cultural Armageddon and we need our executive to respond quickly and proportionately to prevent Northern Ireland becoming a creative and cultural wasteland.”

She added: “The arts sector in Northern Ireland and the thousands of workers who make it a shining success are facing devastation and we need your help.”

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