Profiel: Northern Ierland/Noord-ierland

1. General Context

Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom in the north-east of the island of Ireland that is variously described as a country, province or region. At the 2021 census, its population was 1,903,100, making up around 3% of the UK’s population and 27% of the population on the island of Ireland. The Northern Ireland Assembly, established by the Northern Ireland Act in 1998, holds responsibility for a range of devolved policy matters including culture and sport, while other areas are reserved for the UK Government.Official languages are: English, Irish, Ulster Scots, British Sign Language (BSL) and Irish Sign Language (ISL).

There is a Northern Ireland Executive Office in Brussels. The Delegation of Flanders in the United Kingdom and Ireland | ( is covering Northern Ireland for the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Flanders. Currently there is no MOU between Flanders and Northern Ireland covering cultural matters.

2. Cultural Policy and Funding 

At the national level, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) is the development and funding agency for the Arts in Northern Ireland. It distributes public money (Department for Communities) and National Lottery funds to develop and deliver a wide variety of arts projects, events and initiatives across Northern Ireland.The funding programmes are linked to the delivery of the strategic plan, the objectives of the Department for Communities, and the Northern Ireland Programme for Government. 

Arts funding has been under strong pressure in the last decade in NI. Investment in the Arts in NI sits at only £5.44 per capita, based on 2022/23 budget figures. This contrasts sharply with Wales at £10.35 and the Republic of Ireland at £25.90 per capita. (news/ ACNI)

In 2023 a consultation with the sector took place in preparation for the 2024-2029 Strategic Plan. The 2023  Business Plan considers the specific strategic context for the arts in 2023-24, including recovery from the pandemic, the impact of the cost of living crisis, governmental priorities, the implications of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, responding to environmental challenges, and reflecting the increasing diversity of Northern Ireland society in the audiences, leaders, producers and creators of a progressive and dynamic arts sector.

The focus areas for the ACNI are diversity and inclusion, an area of close collaboration and exchange of knowledge with other arts councils across the UK (10 year strategy plan and 3 year funding cycle for core organisations). The Northern Irish organisation University of Atypical is leading on the disability access card for the UK. As in other parts of the UK, the green agenda is a key priority too. The Troubles, a period of conflict in Northern Ireland, has had a profound impact on the arts. Many artists use their work to explore themes related to identity, conflict, and reconciliation. Given the political context, community, social cohesion and peacebuilding is also on the forefront in the arts. There is an interest in the area of Fairness as part of the levelling up agenda in the UK.

Europe remains a key market for Northern-Ireland. Pre-Brexit funding for touring and international collaboration was often accessed via international collaboration in the Creative Europe framework. There remains a strong collaboration with the Arts Council Ireland and a  close collaboration with the other arts councils in the UK through its collaboration in the Arts Infopoint UK and the the Four Nations International Fund

The Cultural Bridge partnership programme is an example of the promotion of cross-border collaboration between Germany and the UK focusing on participatory arts based methodologies. 

Arts Council Northern Ireland provides limited funding for artists/arts professionals and organisations form NI for international mobility. 

Kunstenpunt-Flanders Arts Institute connected with the following ACNI staff in relation to out BAR project:

  • Graeme Steveson – research, policy
  • Suzanne Lyle – visual arts
  • Siobhan Molloy – international portfolio
  • Gilly Campbell – video, literature, circus, youth…
  • Lizzie Devlin – community arts en education
  • Patricia Lavery – community arts and education, arts and health

At the city level, Belfast City is the most active internationally and has a clear cultural strategy. In 2021, Belfast became a UNESCO City of Music, celebrating the city’s rich musical heritage and recognising the importance of music to its future. There are close connections with Gent, Unesco City of Music. Belfast 2024 emerged from the large-scale engagement process that formed part of Belfast’s bid for European City of Culture in 2018. It’s also a key aim of our cultural strategy, A City Imagining 2020-2030. The city has specific funding streams to support the arts.

3. Information 

  • The British Council Northern Ireland builds connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and other countries through arts and culture, education and the English language. The British Council Northern Ireland has a dedicated arts programme. Their Head of Arts is Collette Norwoord.
    • The British Council has an MOU with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and develops  partnerships with key stakeholders, especially festivals, in Northern Ireland.
    • An example of a long term partnership is The Outburst Festival: the British Council welcomes each year an international delegation of queer arts programmers, festival directors, filmmakers, gender non-conforming artists, LGBTQ+ activists and community workers to this renown festival which is organised by Outburst Arts – Queer Art, Revolutionary imagination. In the past delegates from Europe attended the festival. 

The British Council often teams up with the Arts Council NI and Belfast City to commission work for the festival. Contact Ruth Mccarthy (

  • On the Move, the cultural mobility information network, provides information and knowledge for artists and cultural professionals active across borders. On the UK country page you can find information that relates to Northern Ireland and the last edition of Mobility Funding Guide to the United Kingdom | On the Move ( contains information specifically regarding Northern Ireland.
    • Part of the On the Move Mobility Information points, Arts Infopoint UK is a pilot initiative to support the arts sector with information on practical issues relating to cultural mobility (visa, work permits, and more). Focus is on incoming mobility, meaning to the UK but information is also provided for UK arts professionals going to Europe post-Brexit. 

4. Landscape and players

Due to the impact of Covid19, inequalities, BlackLiveMatters, climate change, cost of living crisis and the implications of Brexit, including loss of European Funding and impact of travel between Northern Ireland and the EU, the landscape of the arts and cultural sector has changed. 

Prior to Brexit there were a lot of exchanges between arts professionals in NI and the EU supported by the Creative Europe projects. In the past years several EU supported projects took place, also where Flemish and NI companies were involved together such as EU Collective Plays! 

Through the EUNIC network, collaborations have been taken place such as the 2023 HARVESTING YOUNG CREATIVITY – EUNIC UK ( project in collaboration with the Young At Art Children’s festival which brought visionary festival leaders and artists from across Europe, together with local Northern Ireland counterparts in order to participate in captivating panel discussions, workshops and performances.

Building on the online exchange with the ACNI and BC NI and mapping of contacts Kunstenpunt has built up over the years, a snapshot of players in NI, far from exhaustive, follows below. They are organised in connection to disciplines and have comments on themes Kunstenpunt focuses on in the exchanges with the UK.

Visual Arts 

Centre for Contemporary ArtsCatherine HemelrykLondonderryArts organisation 
The MACHugh MullhollandBelfastCultural hub offering an eclectic programme of visual art, theatre, dance and family workshops
Void Derry | Contemporary Art DerryMary CreminLondonderryGallery with strong learning and outreach programme
Golden Thread GalleryPeter RichardsBelfastGallery with strong engagement with hard-to-reach groups and individuals of all ages, abilities and ethnicities
Belfast Exposed – Northern Ireland’s Premier Photography OrganisationDeirdre RobbBelfastGallery with Strong focus on youth and mental health
FLAX ART STUDIOSGail PrenticeBelfastResidency and workspace part of the Magnetic Residency Programme (FR-UK)
Catalystarts.orgcollectiveBelfastArts Collective
Digital Arts StudiosAngela HallidayBelfastResidency and workspace
Vault Artist StudiosHave a look at the artists currently working at VaultBelfastResidency and workspace
Array Collective – ARRAYcollectiveBelfastCollective (Turner Prize Winners)
Visual Artists Ireland | the representative body for visual artistsn/aIrelandPlatform with information for VA artists
Belfast Photo FestivalMichael WeirBelfastNot-for-profit organisation that presents one of the leading International Festivals of photography in the UK and the Visual Arts Festival of NI

Performing arts 

PrimeCut ProductionsEmma JordanBelfastTheatre company with strong community engagement
Maiden Voyage DanceNicola CurryBelfastDance company
DU Dancen/aBelfastDance company in Crescent art centre with focus on youth
Off the Rails Dance CompanyEileen McCloryBelfastProject based dance theatre company
Kids in ControlGrainne WoodsBelfastPhysical theatre for young people of all abilities and backgrounds
Tinderbox Theatre CompanyPatrick J O’ReillyBelfastTinderbox has championed new writing, producing world-class performances from Northern Irish writers
Theatre and Dance NINANAMembership organisation connecting developing and leading the theatre, dance and performing arts sector


Moving On MusicMichael Johnston (chair)BelfastMusic organisation (based in MAC)
Ulster OrchestraDaniele RustioneBelfastMusic organisation with strong community engagement
Belfast Music SocietyProfessor Piers Hellawell (chair)BelfastPromoting classical chamber music
DumbworldBrian Irvine and John McIldduffBelfastDumbworld is a multidisciplinary, creative production company working across performance, digital, installation and film

More information

If you have any questions or seek more information please don’t hesitate to reach out to our colleague Lissa Kinnaer.

(Re)Connect with the UK:

In 2023 deed Kunstenpunt onderzoek naar de (negatieve) impact van Brexit op de culturele sector in Vlaanderen. We brachten de problematiek in kaart, en wisselden ook kennis rond diversiteit en inclusie uit. We proberen op die manier de culturele relatie met het Verenigd Koninkrijk te versterken en uit te breiden.