Artists receive grants to create projects showcasing work for new audiences

The £15,000 Major Individual Awards are the largest handed out by the Arts Council NI.

An opera singer, performance poet and dance choreographer are among Northern Ireland artists to receive funding to support new projects which will showcase their work to local and international audiences.

Five Major Individual Awards (MIAs) of £15,000 are being presented by the Arts Council NI with National Lottery funding – the first time the grants have been awarded since before the Covid pandemic.

They are the highest value awards bestowed by the Arts Council.

The recipients are acclaimed opera singer Giselle Allen, composer Greg Caffrey, poet and performer Alice McCullough, dance maker Eileen McClory and visual artist Jennifer Trouton.

The awards are given in recognition of the contribution each has made to creative life in Northern Ireland.

The artists will use the awards to develop new works.

Soprano Giselle Allen is to study three new operatic roles (Brian Morrison/PA)

Soprano Ms Allen has represented Northern Ireland on the international opera stage, and will use her award to take time out to study three new roles. She plans to work with vocal coaches in Italy and London.

She said: “This award is really amazing. It is going to enable me to learn three new roles that I am moving into.

“I will also be able to use it for language coaching, because one of the roles is in Czech, the other two are in German.”

Artist Jennifer Trouton is to create a new piece for an exhibition at the Ulster Museum (Brian Morrison/PA)

Ms Trouton has exhibited her visual art works in London, New York, Cuba, China and Paris. She will use the grant to create a giant 10ft x 5ft embroidered textured piece which will be displayed at the Ulster Museum.

She said: “It is awards like this which allow us to be a bit more innovative and challenging in our work and not confined by commercial restraints.”

Poet Alice McCullough is aiming to go on tour in the US (Brian Morrison/PA)

Ms McCullough will use the funding to showcase her poetry which focuses on disability rights activism to an audience in the US.

She said: “This is going to blast open my career for me.

“I have had ambitions for quite some time to go to America more, to perform over there.”

Composer Greg Caffrey will make studio recordings of some of his works (Brian Morrison/PA)

Mr Caffrey will use his award to make studio recordings of three of his chamber music works and to create a new song cycle based on local poetic texts.

He said: “It is absolutely vital that the kind of thing I do is supported.

“Without this kind of funding, we could certainly pursue our artistic endeavours but it would be impossible to hire lots of musicians to make recordings or to make the kind of videos that are talked about.”

Choreographer Eileen McClory is to create a new dance work to be premiered at the Belfast Festival (Brian Morrison/PA)

Dance choreographer Ms McClory is to create a new work which she hopes will premiere at the 2023 Belfast International Festival.

She said: “It is going to enable me to really expand on my artistic development and my choreographic voice and to experiment with interactive technologies and to collaborate with some really incredible artists.”

Liam Hannaway, chair of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: “Each artist will benefit greatly from being able to take time out to concentrate purely on these innovative new projects with the financial backing they need to produce work of lasting value.

“This award, made possible thanks to the National Lottery players, will help to cement their national and international reputations as artists, and strengthen the positive cultural profile of Northern Ireland, both home and abroad.

“It is important that these awards returned because we have five artists who have made a major contribution. Who want now to develop new work. What we want to do is to give them the funding to enable them to do that work.

“For two or three years the sector has been decimated in terms of opportunities.”