Grassroots community projects benefit from £700,000 Bank of Ireland funding

Cara-Friend and Beat Carnival are among the Northern Ireland beneficiaries of Bank of Ireland’s Begin Together programme. Pictured (from left) are Matt Vernon, carnival artist at Beat Carnival; Lee Cullen, head of youth services at Cara-Friend; and William Thompson, head of consumer banking NI at Bank of Ireland UK. Picture: Kelvin Boyes/PressEye

SOCIAL isolation prevention groups which work with migrants, educational skills and development for women, and interactive theatre for the disabled are among nearly 100 community and arts projects to receive financial support from Bank of Ireland's 'Begin Together' programme.

More than £700,000 is being allocated to community groups, social enterprises and artists groups across the island.

The funding is being allocated under two headings – the Begin Together Community Fund, in partnership with the Community Foundation for Ireland and supported by The Community Foundation for Northern Ireland; and the Begin Together Arts Fund, in partnership with Business to Arts and supported by Arts & Business NI.

Community fund grantees will receive up to £17,000 for projects spanning financial literacy and wellbeing, mental health, disability, inclusion and diversity and social isolation.

And arts fund grantees will receive up to £8,500 to support the creation of new works in music, theatre, film, craft, dance, traditional arts, and the visual arts.

Ian McLaughlin, chief executive at Bank of Ireland UK, said: “We're immensely proud to support a wide range of community groups, charities, and social enterprises working across the island of Ireland.

“Their passion and commitment in all they do helps to unite, support and protect some of the most vulnerable in our local communities.

“While the road ahead looks much more positive, communities still face many challenges. It's our hope that this support will help them face those challenges, and overcome them.”

He added: “While the arts enrich our lives, the sector has been one of the most seriously impacted during the pandemic.

“The Begin Together Arts Fund has helped sustain the development of new work and artistic practice during the pandemic and the new projects announced today will continue to be a force for good in our lives and communities into the future.”

Among the groups from Northern Ireland to receive funding under the Begin Together programme is Beat Carnival, an organisation that for nearly 30 years has been creating carnival arts, as well as organising and producing performances, training and developing artists and encouraging community participation and ambition.

The funding provided will see artists Kathryn Boyle and Ciara Dunne working in partnership with Beat Carnival to create an outdoor winter lantern parade connecting neighbouring communities through the crafting of festival floats and lanterns.

David Boyd, director at Beat Carnival, said: “Carnival arts creatively connects communities – and after the long, difficult period of lockdown isolation, people are eager for ways to reconnect, gain new confidence and enjoy creative experience together.

“Beat Carnival is pleased to have support from Bank of Ireland's Begin Together Arts Fund for a local neighbourhood programme that will result in festive celebration parades by residents in their own streets and with nearby communities.”

Another group to receive funding in Northern Ireland is Cara-Friend who have been supporting and empowering the LGBTQ+ community for close to fifty years.

Its executive director Steve Williamson said: “We are seeing a real mental health crisis in the LGBTQI+ community, with significant numbers of young people having spent their lives dealing with homophobia, isolation and depression and are really struggling, especially after 18 months of lockdown drastically limiting their access to support circles and services.

“Thanks to the Bank of Ireland's support for Cara-Friend's new pilot mental health project, we can get the support and resources needed by the most vulnerable people now, not later, thus saving lives in our community."

Among the other projects to receive support ar Age NI - Check in and Chat; Fermanagh Rural Community Initiative; Limin-Alley; and Takeaway Theatre.

A full list of 2021 grantees is available at

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