Equity and Theatre NI: We must protect and promote Northern Irish arts

Equity has teamed up with Theatre NI – the representative body focussed on supporting and developing performing arts in Northern Ireland – to host an event to discuss ways to build on success of Northern Ireland’s creative industries.

On 4 May, high profile performers, local and national politicians, leading arts and culture practitioners and representatives from community and voluntary groups will join gather at Belfast City Hall to hear addresses from actor Simon Callow, DUP MP Gavin Robinson and Sinn Féin’s Culture, Arts and Sports spokesperson Sinéad Ennis.

Guests will have the chance both to celebrate the sector and its contributions to the Northern Irish economy, and to put forward ideas on how we can build on this success and position Northern Ireland as an international centre for theatre and performing arts, the wider arts sector, the digital and creative industries, generating jobs and new businesses, promoting tourism and economic growth.

There are over 2500 creative businesses in Northern Ireland. This is nearly 4% of all NI businesses. The creative industries account for 5% of Northern Ireland’s workforce, that’s 43,000 jobs.

The creative sector is now bigger than traditional areas of the NI economy including manufacturing and agriculture and has a huge potential to grow and develop.

Commenting on the event, Equity General Secretary Christine Payne said:“Committing to the arts and creativity pays off – this is a resilient sector and workforce that has the power to transform Northern Ireland’s economy. Across the UK as a whole the creative industries are now worth nearly £92bn and have grown by 44% since 2010. Northern Ireland deserves to share in this prosperity.”

Niamh Flanagan, TheatreNI, added: "We are delighted to join with Equity to celebrate the talent of the people working in this industry and its potential to be a contributor to transforming the Northern Irish economy, this region and the lives of our people.

"We need investment in this ‘hidden gem’ to realise this potential. Worldwide, prosperous economies and regions are characterised by a diverse and strong creative sector; creating wealth, jobs and innovation, and adding value to other business sectors such as manufacturing and tourism.

"In 2013 those 43,000 people employed in the Creative Industries in Northern Ireland generated £797million GVA to the local economy, an increase of 11.3% in one year. Imagine what this contribution could be with parity of investment with the Republic of Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales."*

*Creative Industries Economic Estimates, Northern Ireland (2015) Annual Report (Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure) available here