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Support for Cathedral Buildings fire agreed for former tenants

Date: 07 Feb 2023

Belfast City Hall dome

Former tenants of Belfast’s Cathedral Buildings, which was devastated by fire, are set to benefit from £154,696 of funding support to sustain their work.

Thanks to the Department for Communities (DfC) and Belfast City Council, 13 former tenants of Cathedral Buildings are set to benefit from £154,696 of exchequer funding as part of the Cathedral Buildings Fire Support Programme.

On Monday 3 October 2022, the Old Cathedral Buildings on Donegall Street, Belfast, was devastated by fire, severely impacting the livelihoods of the many creative businesses, sole traders and practicing artists based there.

Following an initial exercise to gauge the former tenants’ needs, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, in partnership with the Department for Communities and Belfast City Council, launched the Cathedral Buildings Fire Support Programme in December 2022. The programme offers former tenants funding to counter the costs incurred as they relocate and seek to re-establish themselves.

Councillor Ryan Murphy, Chair of Belfast City Council’s City Growth and Regeneration Committee said: “The impact of the fire has been devastating for the former tenants of Cathedral Buildings. As well as providing funding, we’ve worked in partnership with the Destination CQ BID to support tenants to relocate, to navigate their insurance policies where possible, and to offer business support services. I’m glad that we’ve been able to collaborate with the Department for Communities and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland to give these businesses and cultural organisations vital support and I wish them all every success in their new locations.”

Dr Suzanne Lyle, Head of Visual Arts, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added: “The Arts Council of Northern Ireland welcomes this good news and is grateful to the Department for Communities for making this vital funding available to those whose livelihoods were devastated by the Cathedral Buildings fire. This funding is absolutely critical in helping these artists and arts organisations reactivate their work, sustain their artistic practice and manage existing projects.”

John Ball, Head of DfC’s Arts Branch said: “The Department’s support to those impacted by the fire in the Cathedral Buildings is a signal of the importance placed on the people and organisations who work to make our arts sector what it is. We were pleased to be able to work together with the Arts Council, Belfast City Council and Libraries NI to provide this practical and much needed help.”

Aidan Mulholland (Mulholland Violins), a bow maker and restorer of stringed instruments, is set to receive £45,280 from the Cathedral Buildings Fire Support ProgrammeMr Mulholland’s restoration work ranges from fitting new bridges through to full scale restoration of antique instruments. He will use the funding to replace specialised tools, wood and instrument parts, as well as re-stock antique violins, violas and cellos for restoration - the basis of his specialist work.

Aidan Mulholland commented: "Assistance from the Cathedral Buildings Fire Support Programme will allow me to get my business back, and to offer my customers the same level of service. I can return to bow making once I replace the specialist tools and wood I lost in the fire. Local string players will have a full repair/restoration service for their instruments and have somewhere to purchase restored quality violins."

Another recipient of the Cathedral Buildings Fire Support Programme is Digital Arts Studios (DAS), a non-profit organisation that provides artists' residencies, equipment hire, training, outreach and exhibitions. DAS is a space for artists and creatives to work, learn and advance their careers and the organisation aims to support and encourage visual artists whose innovative work merges with digital technologies. DAS will use their funding to replace equipment that will be used by visual artists on the DAS residency programme and by participants in their in-studio workshops, training and support hub services.

Dr Angela Halliday, Director, Digital Arts Studios, commented: “Digital Arts Studios is delighted to have received funding from the Cathedral Buildings Fire Support Programme. This funding will help purchase essential equipment for artists to use to develop skills and create new work. Digital Arts Studios is grateful to the Department for Communities, Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Belfast City Council for this much-needed assistance, and we look forward to welcoming artists to our new premises at 1 Exchange Place, Belfast, where they can make use of the new equipment and resources.”

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