Hollywood actor Liam Neeson appeals for urgent support for the Arts in Northern Ireland

Patron of the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, the Ballymena star is appealing for 'vital' support for the arts industry.

The Hollywood actor Liam Neeson has sent a personal message to Stormont, appealing for urgent support for the Arts in Northern Ireland.

He wants ministers in the Executive to agree to spend a multi-million pound pot of money, which was released early in the summer, to help those in the industry.

A patron of the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, the star from Ballymena has written a direct message to the Northern Ireland Executive.

"As a proud Northern Irish man and patron of the Lyric Theatre, who came up through the ranks as it were of the arts scene in Northern Ireland during the 1970s, beginning in 1976 to be exact at the Lyric Theatre in Ridgeway Street in Belfast.

"I experienced first hand as many of you may have, the potential of physical danger as I practiced and learned my craft in that theatre, which by the way, never closed its doors once during the height of the Troubles. Now that says something about the character and stamina, not just of the Lyric Theatre, but of us as a people, all the people, Protestant and Catholic of the North."

Northern Ireland received £33 million in July as part of a wider UK package for the arts, theatre, music and museums, however Ministers have yet to decide how it is spent. 


He continued: "I have recently learned that £33 million has been earmarked for the arts in Northern Ireland, I cannot stress enough how essential that money is, every penny in securing the well-being of our artistic community and sustaining the lives of nearly 8000 people in every branch of the arts in Northern Ireland. It is vital, it's a lifeline. It is vital, it is vital for our economy, it is vital for our young people who are pursuing a career in our creative industries.

"You know a true society cannot be whole or fundamentally exist without the arts and the people employed in the arts. Culture is our society's compass, our north star, if we lose our compass we all lose our way.

"My appeal to you today requires your urgent attention, a character of our very existence here in the province, is at stake. Thank you all."

Jimmy Fay, Executive Producer, Lyric Theatre Belfast says the famous actor sees the urgency of the situation: "We've waited a long time now, Christmas is coming and we don't know what is going to happen yet with any of this money and I think he sees the urgency, particularly for actors, particularly for freelancers, they are suffering at the moment, they are not being paid, there are no jobs for them."

Theatres in Northern Ireland have had to remain closed throughout the coronavirus pandemic, at an estimated loss of several million pounds.

Watch Vicki Hawthorne's report: