With the release of this important report, we at Theatre and Dance NI would like to remind members that as the resource organisation for Theatre & Dance here, we offer support in all areas of your profession but most importantly in minding your mental health & well being through our Membership Assistance Programme.

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has commissioned survey-based research to identify the needs of freelance artists in theatre and dance. These are artists who are developing, creating and producing small to mid-scale work on an independent basis. The Freelance Practitioner Research Report, published 8th September 2021 highlights the vulnerability of freelancers working in Northern Ireland, which has been exposed and brought into sharp focus by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Key findings:

  • Many freelance artists from the theatre and dance sectors feel they need to leave Northern Ireland to find the training and funding they need – 86% of respondents have considered relocating from NI.
  • The research reveals a clear need from theatre and dance freelance artists for access to funding to support the independent development of their projects.
  • A Project Funding programme designed specifically for freelancers in theatre and dance would result in more varied and experimental work, which would in turn broaden and diversify audiences.
  • Any future Project Funding programme would need to balance the needs of freelancers, enabling them to move beyond the existing structure of venues and companies, but also strengthening their status within these organisations.
  • The programme would need to work within, and help to develop, the rest of the performing arts ecosystem.
  • The challenges faced by freelancers are not only about the lack of Project Funding, but are the result of years of chronic underfunding of the arts in Northern Ireland.

The Arts Council is working closely with funders and sector bodies to develop a responsive and realistic programme of support that meets the range of needs identified in the report and will publish further details later in the year.

The Executive Summary is available to download at: http://www.artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/publications-documents/ACNI-Freelance-Practitioner-Research-Report-Executive-Summary.pdf

The Full Report by Annabel Jackson Associates Ltd is available to download at: http://www.artscouncil-ni.org/images/uploads/publications-documents/ACNI-Freelance-Practitioner-Research-Report.pdf

The Art Council’s Strategic Development Department conducts a programme of research and evaluation to provide evidence and intelligence that supports arts and culture organisations to improve their practice and to demonstrate their impact. Designated as a producer of Official Statistics, we produce a range of annual and stand-alone reports to inform art and culture policy and demonstrate alignment to government’s key targets as set out in the Programme for Government. For further information, email: strategy@artscouncil-ni.org