SDLP Councillor Mary Durkan, has welcomed the securing of Government funding for the arts and culture sector in the North amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. An initial funding package of £1million has been allocated by the Department for Communities as a Covid-19 Creative Support fund to be administered by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. Cllr Durkan said: “This much needed funding will provide a lifeline to a range of organisations and individuals, promoting a wide range of cultural projects. The Covid 19 pandemic has shut down theatres, concert halls and galleries around the world. Many of us will be disappointed to be missing out on concerts, exhibitions and gigs over the next few months. Aside from the wider social impact, these cancellations have seriously threatened the livelihoods of many artists, performers and creative producers.”“Organisations are already facing financial pressures, impacting on the security of jobs within the sector. I have been learning about the concerns and anxieties of a range of freelance artists and musicians who saw their calendar of gigs (and their income stream) completely wiped out overnight.”“The Department for Communities and Arts Council have been working in partnership to find solutions. I am aware of the Arts Council’s engagement with individuals and groups in recent weeks to exercise flexibility around contracts and carry forward funding to accommodate groups and individuals.” Cllr Durkan also welcomed the £10,000 grant from the Department for Communities to “Bread & Butter”, an initiative created to support freelance artists with small grants to alleviate cashflow problems. She concluded: “This is a time of immense challenge for the Arts, but with that challenge there is also scope for opportunity and growth. We can be sure that the creative talent within the sector, with adequate support in place, can find innovative ways of reaching hearts and minds during periods of uncertainty and in spite of social distance. For example, we are seeing performers hosting online gigs. Virtual galleries are bringing exhibitions into people’s homes. More than ever, we must realise the invaluable role of the arts in bringing people together and tackling social isolation, not to mention the inherent benefits for our mental health and well-being.