Downpatrick Artist Receives Top Recognition

Downpatrick-based artist recognised as University of Atypical celebrates Arts and Access.

The high quality work of disabled and deaf artists and of arts venues working to improve disabled and deaf access has been celebrated and recognised at a ceremony in Belfast.

The University of Atypical, formerly known as the Arts and Disability Forum, hosted a celebration of artists’ talent and venue commitment at the Atypical Gallery in Royal Avenue.

Thirteen of Northern Ireland’s leading disabled artists have received individual Disabled/Deaf Artists Awards (iDA) awards totalling £17,000 to develop their work. The majority of those artists were part of the celebration, with playwright Shannon Yee speaking about her experience of iDA and poet, Alice McCullough performing a poem to illustrate the effect of her iDA award.

The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Deirdre Hargey presents Downpatrick-based artist Una Walker, left, with a sunflower to commemorate being one of the recipients of the individual Disabled/Deaf Artists (iDA) awards managed by the University of Atypical and funded by the National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland. A total of 13 disabled/deaf artists received £17,000 in funding to develop their art.

Among those receiving an award was Una Walker,  a visual artist from Downpatrick,  who has exhibited in Ireland, the UK, Europe and internationally for more than 30 years.

As well as focusing on artistic talent, the event also presented Arts and Disability Equality Charter awards to venues that have worked to improve access and facilities for disabled and deaf people in all areas of their work.

Strule Arts Centre was again credited with the Excellence award, having worked closely with Omagh Access Group to enable deaf and disabled people to participate freely in the arts. Gerry Knight spoke about the venue’s hard work.

Enniskillen Castle and the Millennium Forum received Arts & Disability Equality Charter plaques to commemorate reaching Charter status, and the Ardhowen Theatre was presented with a certificate as evidence of its commitment to working towards Charter status.

Artists receiving the iDA grants work in a range of disciplines, including visual arts, music, multi-media, poetry, comedy, theatre and dance.

The iDA scheme is managed by the University of Atypical and funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, with funds designed to help artists establish their careers in the arts. Some of the past recipients of iDA have built international reputations with the help of these grants. The big difference between this and other types of funding is that artists are supported right through the process, from the initial idea to project delivery.

University of Atypical CEO Chris Ledger said: “Northern Ireland’s Arts and Disability work is respected and admired not just in the UK and Ireland but on an international level. The University of Atypical is run by disabled people, whose dedication to promoting artistic excellence and working towards cultural equity contributes to the growing reputation of the work carried out here.”

Damian Smyth, Head of Literature, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said: “Congratulations to all of today’s award recipients.  The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is delighted to have been able to support both the iDA Awards and the Arts & Disability Equality Charter Awards over the years and we look forward to continuing to work with the University of Atypical to encourage the involvement of disabled and deaf artists in the arts.”

Those present also looked forward to this year’s Bounce Arts Festival Weekender, which this year will run from September 13-16 September, presenting an entertaining and thought-provoking mix of skilled work by disabled and deaf artists from the UK and RoI.

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