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TheatreNI, a new organisation to support and develop theatre and performing arts in Northern Ireland, launched at the Lyric Theatre, Belfast on Wednesday 7th October 2015.

The new organisation is the result of a merger between the Northern Ireland Theatre Association and the Ulster Association of Youth Drama.

Many of Northern Ireland’s theatres and arts centres; performing arts companies; youth drama groups; and artists who work in the sector, both on the stage and behind it, were in attendance, including the MAC, Grand Opera House, Prime Cut Productions, New Lodge Arts and Down Arts Centre.

The launch took place as the Arts Council of Northern Ireland announced a seven percent in-year cut for 32 arts organisations. Guest speaker Ali FitzGibbon, director of Young at Art, outlined the cumulative damage of the cuts over the past two years and the loss of talent that is resulting from these. Ali Fitzgibbon highlighted the need  to ‘futureproof’ the arts and create dedicated budgets within various government departments, not just the small arts budget within DCAL, to recognise the importance of the impact of the arts on health & wellbeing, education, social inclusion, the economy and tourism.

The chair of the new organisation, Louise Rossington (General Manager of Big Telly Theatre Company) said,

“At this time when there have been a series of rounds of substantial cuts to theatre venues and companies across Northern Ireland, it is vitally important that the sector works together to provide a single strong voice for theatre and the performing arts.”

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Amy McKelvey, Community Arts Development Officer for Ards & North Down Borough Council and TheatreNI board member, closed proceedings by explaining the ways that TheatreNI will look to address some of the challenges facing its members,

“TheatreNI will work towards making the performing arts a celebrated and valued part of all of our communities, spreading the message that theatre enriches the lives of everyone in our society.

There is clearly a lot of work to do and this is just the starting point for TheatreNI.”

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