Statement from Arts Collaboration Network

Statement from the Arts Collaboration Network

26 January 2021

NI Arts and Culture sector call for urgent and immediate action from NI Executive

More than 100 arts organisations and individuals took part last week in an online meeting of artists, freelancers, venues and festivals from every part of the arts and culture sector organised by the Arts Collaboration Network (ACN).  Representatives from the Arts Collaboration Network said there is growing anxiety and frustration expressed at the second Big Gathering on 21 January 2021, at the gap between words and actions when it comes to providing practical and financial support.

ACN is now calling on the NI Executive to take urgent action to protect the sector from the impact of ongoing Covid restrictions.

The ACN, an informal network of cultural organisations and individuals across NI, has set out five key issues which need to be addressed in ‘Culture Beyond Covid’ a document sent to Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey and other MLAs. The paper sets out 5 keys asks which are:

  1. Building the sector’s infrastructure, capacity and skills so the arts sector survives to play its part in NI’s recovery.
  • Investment  to address the very significant hardship being experienced by artists, creatives and freelancers many of whom have not benefited from financial support to date
  • A partnership approach to planning a safe re opening of venues
  • A commitment to increasing the annual arts spending to support the renewal of the sector
  • Establishment of a Northern Ireland Cultural Task Force

The arts and culture sector welcomed the Executive’s allocation of £33m to support the arts and heritage sectors. However, in many cases that financial support has still not reached the numerous arts organisations and individuals who so urgently need it, with funding decisions not due until later this month. The current situation is that those monies will then need to be spent before the end of March unless that budgetary restriction is lifted.

This week it has emerged that there is £300m of unallocated funds across the NI Executive. This, at a time when many creative individuals and artists are struggling to feed themselves and their families; and the end of the CRJIS scheme could mean leading culture organizations face closure in the coming weeks and months, with considerable associated job losses. This will lead to irreparable damage to Northern Ireland’s vibrant, creative and unique arts sector.

ACN is appealing to the Executive and to the Assembly to translate the vocal support of Ministers, MLAs and civil servants into immediate action. Other regions throughout these islands are planning for long-term cultural renewal and have established Taskforces to map out a post-Covid strategy for the arts. As yet there is no such Taskforce in Northern Ireland and no plans to create one. There is no proactive planning in place to look at the safe reopening of our venues or for the return of live theatre and music. At a time when politicians across the spectrum express support for the sector, there is only a fleeting mention of the arts and culture in the just published draft Programme for Government.

Since the beginning of this crisis arts organisations have responded with imagination and creativity and continue to provide much needed support and respite in innovative ways for people of all ages and backgrounds from across NI and beyond.

The arts and culture sector plays a vital role in driving our economy and is an integral pillar of society; directly employing thousands of people and supporting tens of thousands others indirectly and attracting local and global tourists.  Research has demonstrated the value the arts play in protecting and enhancing the mental wellbeing of our citizens and the public are missing live events, cultural activity and all the benefits these bring.   Unfortunately, the vocal support from our politicians and civil servants has not translated into commensurate levels of financial assistance. The pandemic has been a body blow to an arts sector that has already been ravaged by years of cuts.

When we emerge from Covid-19, the arts and cultural sector can help Northern Ireland adapt and grow again. The arts can play a unique role in breathing new life into our towns and abandoned city centres; in helping our people heal and cope with loss but only if we survive the pandemic intact.

Now is the time for our Ministers and Executive to take urgent action to avoid a future in which Northern Ireland becomes a cultural wasteland and our citizens lose out on much that they value.

The Arts Collaboration Network is an informal network of the main sector support organisations and a number of creative hubs across Northern Ireland. The people involved are Margaret Henry, Thrive Audience Development, Niamh Flanagan, Theatre and Dance NI, Mary Nagele, Arts & Business NI, Rob Hilken & Noel Kelly, Visual Artists Ireland, Kevin Murphy, Voluntary Arts Ireland, Katherine McDonald, Craft NI, Charlotte Dryden, Oh Yeah, Sarah Jones, Creative & Cultural Skills, Peter Richards, Golden Thread Gallery/Chair Belfast Visual Arts Forum, Sophie Hayles, Crescent Arts Centre, Cath McBride In Your Space Circus / Chair: DCSDC Arts & Cultural Strategy, Co-Delivery Group, Anne McReynolds and Maeve Hawkins, The MAC, Damien Coyle, University of Atypical and Jenna Hall, Belfast Community Circus School/Co-Chair Belfast Festivals Forum.

Youth Music Survey Launched

The Oh Yeah Music Centre has launched its Big Music Survey to give young people the opportunity to have their voices heard in relation to access to music and music education and how lockdown has affected them. It is hoped that the survey will shape the youth outreach programmes delivered by the centre as they evaluate how Covid has impacted on the lives of the young people they work with.

Oh Yeah is seeking the input from young people all over the region to be able to understand emerging patterns of youth engagement with music and also to grasp how much music has helped young people through the isolation and separation from their peers and wider social networks.

Manager of Youth Engagement at the Oh Yeah Music Centre, Sian Mulholland says she hears regularly how important music has been for young people and is hopeful this will help quantify that; ‘The young people we engage with use music as a coping mechanism and as a shared experience with their friends. We want to understand how we can best provide platforms for young people to access local music, engage with the music industry and also how they can gain skills that will be transferable in other parts of their lives’.

Flinn O’Grady, member of ‘Youth Voices’, Oh Yeah’s Youth Advisory Group who have helped put the survey together wants to see projects like those Oh Yeah delivers opened up to young people all across NI; ‘It’s not always fair that young people can’t have access to music lessons or music courses whether it’s in school or outside it, so hopefully with our survey we can see where needs it most so we can talk to decision makers to make it possible! Plus, you might win a £50 Amazon voucher just for answering the questions!’.

The survey will be available until 1st February 2021 and can be completed by going to: Respondents will have the opportunity to enter themselves into a draw for £50 Amazon voucher and some local record store vouchers.

NI Music Prize 2020 – A beautiful online success.

Despite COVID-19, the NI Music Prize went ahead last week and while it had to be done online, it was the most incredible evening of positivity, high quality music and emotional speeches.

Organised by the Oh Yeah Music Centre and produced by MEP (Mike Edgar Production) the awards, which normally take place at the Ulster Hall instead brought the live experience to audiences at home and around the world.

Streamed live on YouTube, it was a night of exceptional performances from ArboristCareeristJoshua BurnsideKitt PhilippaPhil Kieran and Sasha Samara. The evening also featured exclusive footage of Snow Patrol from last year’s sold out Ulster Hall show, as well as music from Jordan Adetunji.

The Oh Yeah Legend Award was dedicated to the late Bap KennedyRalph McLean paid a heartfelt tribute and the presentation was made to Bap’s wife Brenda who spoke beautifully about his legacy. There was a special screening of the Bap Kennedy Trio (with Brenda Kennedy & Gordy McAllister) performing a sublime version of his song ‘Howl On’, recorded live in 2012 at the Music Star, Norderstedt in Germany.

Three of the NI Music Prize awards were decided through public vote with each winning act receiving a cash prize of £1,000. All winners were announced live and interviewed via Zoom. Sasha Samara picked up the Oh Yeah Contender Award in association with BBC ATL IntroducingNew Pagans won best Live Act, which was announced by Nathan Connolly of Snow PatrolArborist won Best Single, which is supported by Help Musicians, for the song ‘Here Comes The Devil’.

The big award of the night with a prize of £3,000 is for Best Album supported by PPL and Kitt Philippa won it up for their stunning debut record ‘Human’.

Peter Leathem, Chief Executive Officer of PPL commented on the awards saying, “Music is an important contributor to Northern Ireland’s culture, economy and community. Each year the Northern Ireland Music Prize celebrates the best of the country’s music and creates a platform to showcase its diverse range of talent. Congratulations to Kitt Philippa and all those recognised by this year’s Prize for making music of exceptional quality – PPL is proud to support creators in the Northern Irish music industry.”

Charlotte Dryden of Oh Yeah said: “It’s been an incredibly challenging year for artists. Through the awards we wanted to have a moment where the music community could come together to celebrate great talent, as well as say we are still here and we matter. I think we did that and we are delighted we were able to make it happen. Thanks to all our supporters and funders for believing in us and to all that that helped us to deliver the show online. Huge congratulations to Kitt Philippa, New Pagans, Sasha Samara and Arborist. They are all brilliant and worthy winners, we are delighted for them and well done to all the nominees this year. It was also a real honour to be able to add Bap Kennedy to the Legend series here at Oh Yeah.”

The NI Music Prize is supported by Arts Council Northern Ireland, PPL, YouTube Music, Help Musicians and Belfast City Council.

The event took place during the Sound of Belfast 2020 virtual festival, which ran 6th – 12th November. All events are still available to view on the Oh Yeah YouTube channel –

Oh Yeah on YouTube

We’re excited to have partnered with YouTube Music this year.

There is plenty scheduled for our dedicated channel in the lead up and during Sound of Belfast and The NI Music Prize.

Subscribe and tune in between 6th-12th November for great music, conversations and of course the NI Music Prize on 12th November!

Sound of Belfast goes ONLINE 6th-12th Nov

We have announced details of the 2020 Sound of Belfast festival!

The annual programme now in its 7th year was established to promote and celebrate the musicians, bands, venues, promoters and music communities of Belfast.

This series of events is usually dominated by live shows in venues across the city.

This year is different.

We’re going virtual and we’re dedicating it the musicians, venues, the invisible crews, sound engineers and all the people that go into making events great.We hope you can join us and please share, comment and show them some love.See you online 6th – 12th November

Full details at

Arts Council of Northern Ireland PRS Foundation PRS for Music PPL – Phonographic Performance Ltd Belfast City Council Belfast Music Help Musicians Teaser video featuring the marvellous Ryan McMullan.

Filmed by Eoin O Callaghan, Amelia Films.

Bap Kennedy – Posthumous Oh Yeah Legend Award, 2020

Bap Kennedy – Posthumous Oh Yeah Legend Award, 2020

This year’s Oh Yeah Legend Award is in association with Marie Curie, Belfast and is dedicated to the singer-songwriter Bap Kennedy, who died in 2016. This is in recognition of Bap’s enduring legacy, chiefly as solo artist and earlier with his band Energy Orchard. The Oh Yeah Music Centre, Belfast’s dedicated music hub, presents the Legend Award.

The award will be made to Bap’s wife Brenda by Ralph McLean of BBC Radio Ulster during the NI Music Prize on November 12th. The event will be a specially produced live stream aired as a YouTube Premiere at 8pm.

Bap (otherwise known as Martin) Kennedy was greatly loved in his hometown of Belfast and highly respected in Nashville, New York, London and beyond. He worked with artists such as Van Morrison, Steve Earle, Nanci Griffith, Shane MacGowan and Mark Knopfler. His music was featured extensively on the soundtrack to the film Serendipity (2001), starring John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale. 

His albums include Domestic Blues, Lonely Street, The Big Picture, Howl On, The Sailor’s Revenge, Let’s Start Again and Reckless Heart. He had a huge affection for artists such as Hank Williams and Elvis, but he developed a unique style of his own, marked by wry humour, Celtic melancholy and a resonant sense of place.

Following a cancer diagnosis in 2016, Bap started a series of powerful blog entries. People found Bap’s blog very moving and it was shared widely in all parts of the world. In his final months, Bap revealed publicly for the first time that he had a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome, and talked candidly about the part this condition had played in his life and career.

In the four years since his passing, Bap’s art and his humanity are being appreciated more than ever. It is only right that his achievements should be recognised with a Legend Award.

Brenda Kennedy said, “This is great news! So many people who love Bap, at home and abroad, are going to be delighted. Bap is a legend for so many reasons: for his remarkable achievements, his great musical legacy, the legendary life he led, and for all that he quietly overcame. As a West Belfast teenager, Bap was determined to “lead an interesting life” and he did that alright! His music took him all round the world and earned him the admiration and affection of musicians and fans alike. But to me, Bap was a legend above all for the lovely, warm, genuine man that he was.

Many thanks to Oh Yeah Belfast, and to everyone who has appreciated and supported Bap’s music over the years.“

Conor O’Kane from Marie Curie, Belfast said, “It is wonderful for Marie Curie to be included in the celebration of Bap Kennedy’s exceptional talent. Thanks to Oh Yeah Music Centre and especially Brenda Kennedy and family for inviting Marie Curie to be part of the celebration and recognition of Bap’s music. Marie Curie’s ability to care for people with terminal illness, like Bap, depends on voluntary donations. In this a very difficult year for everyone, we very much appreciate the association with the Legend award and are grateful to anyone that can donate in support of our work across the whole of Northern Ireland.”

Charlotte Dryden of Oh Yeah said, “We are honoured to be making this presentation. Bap Kennedy was and still is a much-loved Belfast musician; his music reached and resonated with people all over the world. That music and his legacy remains so strong and we feel privileged to be adding his name to the Legend series at the Oh Yeah Music Centre.”

 Previous recipients of the Oh Yeah Legend Award are:

Terri Hooley (2008), Henry McCullough (2009), The Undertones (2010), Stiff Little Fingers (2011), Gary Moore (posthumous, 2012), Therapy? (2014), Divine Comedy (2015), Ash (2016), Vivian Campbell (2017), Jackie Flavelle (posthumous, 2018), Snow Patrol (2019).

The Oh Yeah Legend Award 2020 is in association with Marie Curie, Belfast and supported by Colin Reid.

You can donate to Marie Curie here –

For more info Marie Curie Belfast

NI Music Prize 2020 – The show will go on…line!

NI Music Prize

The show will go on…line!

Thursday, November 12th, 8pm

Streaming LIVE on Oh Yeah, YouTube Channel

The NI Music Prize has confirmed that this year’s awards will go ahead with an online broadcast on November 12th. The event, which will take place at the Oh Yeah Music Centre, will be a virtual show due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Organised by Oh Yeah, produced by MEP (Mike Edgar Production) and streaming live on YouTube, the awards plan to bring as much live experience as possible to audiences at home. There will be brand new performances from shortlisted acts including Arborist, Careerist, Joshua Burnside, Kitt Philippa, Phil Kieran and Sasha Samara.

Rigsy (DJ & Broadcaster) and Gemma Bradley (Presenter, BBC ATL Introducing) will present the show. There will be guest contributors, with live announcements and presentations as well as some previously unseen footage including the Snow Patrol performance from last year’s incredible event at the Ulster Hall.

The awards include Best Album supported by PPL, Best Single supported by Help Musicians, the Oh Yeah Contender Award in association with ATL Introducing and Best Live Act. The winners of three categories will be awarded a cash prize of £1,000 and £3,000 will go to the winner of Best Album. 

A panel will decide Best Album on Nov 12th and voting is now open to the public for the other three shortlists. Voting closes on Nov 11th at midnight.

Commenting on the adapted format for 2020, Charlotte Dryden from Oh Yeah said: “It has been an incredibly difficult year for music, musicians and live music, but we were determined to make sure that the show will go on. We need to have a moment for our community to come together to say we are still here, we will get through this and we matter. We have an incredible amount of talent to celebrate here and while we normally get together under one roof for this annual celebration, this is an opportunity to showcase our music in a new way. We’re urging everyone to join us, tune in, get involved, organise watch parties and support local music. It will be different, but we think it will be great.”

The NI Music Prize is supported by Arts Council Northern Ireland, PPL, YouTube Music, Help Musicians and Belfast City Council.

For more info on shortlists, voting and process go to

The event is scheduled to take place during the Sound of Belfast 2020 virtual festival, which runs 6th – 12th November. The full programme for this will be announced on the 27th October.

The Shortlisted Acts are:

Best Album supported by PPL

Arborist – A Northern View

Arvo Party – Love Above All

Careerist – Weird Hill

Ciaran Lavery – Plz Stay, bb

Joel Harkin – Never Happy

Junk Drawer – Ready For The House

Kitt Philippa – Human

Malojian – Humm

Our Krypton Son – Modern Ruins

Phil Kieran – Life Cycling

The Darkling Air – Ancestor

The Lost Brothers – After the Fire After the Rain

Best Single supported by Help Musicians:

Arborist – Here Comes The Devil

Bicep – Atlas

Cherym – Abigail

Joshua Burnside – The Only Thing I Fear

New Pagans – Charlie Has The Face Of A Saint

Ryan Vail & Elma Orkestra – Love

Oh Yeah Contender Award in Association with ATL Introducing

Gender Chores

Jordan Adetunji

Problem Patterns

Sasha Samara

Best Live Act

And So I Watch You From Afar

New Pagans

Problem Patterns

Ryan Vail & Elma Orkestra

Board changes at Oh Yeah

Belfast music hub Oh Yeah makes key appointments to its Board of Trustees

July 2020

The Belfast-based music hub, the Oh Yeah Music Centre, has appointed former BBC executive Paul Evans to the role of Chair of the Board. This follows the departure of the outgoing Chair, Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive Officer of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society, after five years at the helm. Shona steered Oh Yeah through a huge amount of organisational, developmental and strategic changes, supporting transition and transformation which has led to a stronger and more robust organisation.

Paul Evans will now head the organisation as it heads towards its 14th year of operations in May 2021. Until his retirement as Head of Production for BBC NI, Paul Evans had editorial responsibility for a portfolio of entertainment output that included Give My Head Peace, Patrick Kielty, Across The Line, and the Hot Press Rock and Pop Awards. Throughout his distinguished career, he has produced multiple programmes for BBC Radio Ulster, BBC Radio 1, 2 and 4, and BBC NI Television. Whilst retired from his full time role, he continues to work with the BBC and is currently executive producer of The Blame Game and Give My Head Peace.

The Board is also bidding a fond farewell to its Vice Chair, Mike Edgar, who was instrumental in setting up the charity in 2007 and has served on the Board since its inception. Mike until recently was also Head of Entertainment , Events and Music Television for BBC NI and is now running his own independent television production company, MEP, dedicated to live music. The role of Vice Chair will be taken up by Lynne Best (née McDowell) who has been a committed Board Member since 2014 and continues to be an advocate for the NI music sector.

Charlotte Dryden, Oh Yeah CEO said: “It has been a privilege and honour to work with Shona and Mike in my tenure as CEO in recent years. Their dedication to Oh Yeah, leadership of the Board, support for me and our wonderful team, and sheer passion for music in NI has been an inspiration. Together, they have helped to steer the organisation to new heights, ensuring at all times that we do all we can to open doors to music. I am sad to see them step down but know they will remain trusted friends of Oh Yeah as we move into a new and exciting part of our journey with Paul and Lynne directing our steps. They bring with them a wealth of experience, a creative vision, and real dedication, and I wish them every success in their new roles. We’re very lucky to have such a committed and supportive Board.”

Outgoing Chair Shona McCarthy said: “I loved every minute of my time chairing Oh Yeah, an absolute gem in the cultural infrastructure of Belfast and an essential resource for the development of musicians and music from across the North. I will continue to be a lifelong friend and advocate, wishing ongoing success to Charlotte, her brilliant team and trustees.”

Paul Evans said: “If ever there was a time for those of us at Oh Yeah to keep faith with the goals and aspirations that were set by its founders, that is surely now. I firmly believe that our lives are enhanced by the presence of music, in whatever form, for whatever taste and, in these uncertain times, those whose gifts and talents create our music deserve all the support we can give them. The Oh Yeah mission continues and at its core is the enthusiasm, expertise and experience of its staff and board, from many walks of life, who share the sheer joy to be found in music and those who create it. I am delighted to be part of this team.”

Mike Edgar said: “Oh Yeah is the beating heart of Music in Belfast, it is run by a very wonderful team and utilised and enjoyed by artists and audiences alike in their thousands. It is a very precious place playing a vital role and adding hugely to the cultural life of Belfast and wider afield. It has been an absolute honour for me to have served on the board since its inception and I fully intend for it to remain as an important part of my life going forward. I wish Paul, Lynne, Charlotte and all the board and team all the very best for what I hope continues to be a bright future.”

Lynne Best said: “The work of the Oh Yeah Music Centre is vital to the development of NI’s talented music scene and the integration of music into our communities. The passion and dedication of their staff and volunteers – including through lockdown – is and continues to be second to none. It has been a privilege – and a lot of fun – working alongside and learning from Shona and Mike and I am delighted to have been appointed Vice Chair of such an effective and important organisation. I’m proud of everything it has achieved so far and am excited for the next chapter.”

Oh Yeah is Belfast’s dedicated music hub, a resource for music makers and also for the business of music. It combines the verve and resourcefulness of the music industry with a programme of social value. It was constituted in the belief that music is a valuable agent in Northern Ireland, a catalyst that changes lives for the better. The mission statement of the centre is ‘Open Doors To Music’. Since 2007 the award-winning centre has steadily built up a range of facilities, music development projects and a flagship youth outreach programme. The building houses a recording studio, a live venue, two rehearsal rooms, the Northern Ireland Music Exhibition and various training spaces. Oh Yeah is also home to twelve dynamic businesses. Key programmes at the centre include Scratch My Progress Talent Development, Women’s Work, Sound of Belfast Festival, The NI Music Prize and the Music & Older People programme.

Scratch My Progress 2020 acts announced

The Oh Yeah Music Centre is delighted to reveal that the five fresh new acts that have been selected for Scratch My Progress 2020 are; Gender Chores, Gilmore, Lemonade Shoelace, Riley Holland and Vivamagnolia.

Scratch My Progress is a mentoring, showcase and practical support programme for new music. The dedicated talent development programme, now in its 9th year is powered by the on-going support of PRSF and Help Musicians. Oh Yeah is also delighted to be working with YouTube Music, a partnership that will provide participating artists with a new level of support through a series of dedicated master classes and more.

Over the next 9-months the 5-acts will work with our dedicated Talent Development Coordinator to uncover opportunities for their music and take part in workshops, studio time, professional photo shoots, showcases, vocal coaching and more.

With the current situation surrounding the closure of live music and events in mind, there will also be increased support in developing digital skills in artist promotion, performance and development of online audiences.

Over the years our talent development artists have had one to one sessions with PRS, PPL, PRSF, Musicians Union, First Music Contact, Atlantic Records (Ed Sheerin, Charli XCX), Parlophone Records (Gorillaz), Domino Records (Anna Calvi, Arctic Monkeys), Jeff Robinson PR (The 1975, Belsonic),  Deezer, Ditto, Body & Soul Festival and many more. The Scratch My Progress scheme has mentored a diverse range of talent over the years including NI Music Prize Winners Kitt Philippa and Sister Ghost, music and media personalities Gemma Bradley & Emer Maguire and artists representing the rock, alternative, acoustic, rap, pop, punk and electronic genres.