Sixty-three community groups and arts organisations in rural-based communities across Northern Ireland are set to benefit from the third round of the Arts Council’s National Lottery Rural Engagement Arts Programme (REAP).
The National Lottery Rural Engagement Arts Programme, worth £400,326, was established in 2022 with the aim of providing an integrated, cohesive approach to the needs of rural communities as they emerged from the global Covid-19 pandemic. The overarching theme of the programme is to tackle isolation and loneliness and promote social inclusion and wellbeing through participation in the arts.
The National Lottery Rural Engagement Arts Programme is one of the Arts Council’s core National Lottery programme areas.
Gilly Campbell, Director of Arts Development, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: “The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to make this funding available to rural communities. We know that taking part in arts activities can raise self-esteem, boost confidence and motivation, as well as alleviate isolation and loneliness.
“Thanks to The National Lottery players, the National Lottery Rural Engagement Arts Programme has supported 135 arts projects in rural areas with total National Lottery funding of £898,780 since its establishment in 2022. The programme has been making positive impacts in rural communities by increasing opportunities for people to engage and participate in meaningful arts activities, enriching their lives for the better. The Arts Council believes that arts, and coming together as communities, can all make a vital contribution to building wellbeing, confidence, and healthy, integrated communities.”
REAP funding has been offered to organisations located in Local Authority Areas across Northern Ireland, with particular focus in some of Northern Ireland’s most rural areas, for example Fermanagh and Omagh, Mid Ulster, and Newry, Mourne and Down. The Mid-Armagh Community Network is set to receive £9,721 funding to develop a community-based project to teach music, dance and drama within an Ulster-Scots context.
The project aims to encourage participation in Ulster Scots traditional art forms by offering low-cost lessons in Scottish traditional fiddle, Scottish theatre, dance, drama and accordion. The project will also develop a community choir. Students can also participate in music exams. The project aims to engage 150 – 160 participants and lesson fees will be kept as low as possible to encourage participation from those who are more financially disadvantaged in the community.
An example of a recent REAP-supported project in Armagh was with Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council for their rural community arts project, Nature and Nurture. Nature and Nurture worked with rural communities in Aghagallon, Donaghcloney and Tannaghmore with 36 participants over 4 months. All participants reported that the Nurture and Nature project had benefitted their mental health and wellbeing, and that they had learned new creative skills or tried a new creative activity.