Culture Minister, Carál Ní Chuilín visited the Lyric Theatre in Belfast today to show her support for a scheme which helps make theatre more affordable.
The Community Supersaver Scheme is open to community groups at the vastly discounted rate of £5 per person.
Since its launch earlier this year, 36 organisations across Northern Ireland have registered for the scheme and enjoyed a range of stunning drama. As Northern Ireland's only full-time producing theatre, the Lyric's vision and mission is to make theatre accessible to as many people as possible.
Minister Ní Chuilín said: “It is important that our artistic offering is open and accessible to all - everyone in the north should be able to enjoy the arts.
“Initiatives such as the Lyric's Community Supersaver Scheme are an example of an arts group reaching out to excluded communities. I encourage other arts organisations to follow the creative example set by the Lyric in finding new ways to break down barriers to attendance and participation in the arts. Opening up the arts to new audiences will not only benefit the participants, but will also provide arts organisations with opportunities to grow and thrive.
“I also encourage community groups to make use of this initiative, particularly those who may think the theatre is not for them – for whatever reason.
“This is an invitation to try something new, and schemes like this awaken people to the thrill and excitement of live theatre. Also, as I've heard from the groups here today, it can have real health and education benefits as well.”
Lyric Chief Executive, Ciaran McAuley said: “The success of this scheme shows the interest there is in theatre across the whole community and that by offering tickets at £5-a-head we are dispelling the myth that theatre and the Lyric are only for the better-off.”
Two of the 36 organisations that have availed of the Community Supersaver Scheme met the Culture Minister today – Footprints Women's Centre in west Belfast and CAUSE (NI) a support group for carers of people with mental health difficulties.
Footprints Women's Centre helps build the confidence and skills of women in the Colin area of outer west Belfast and, as part of a programme offered at the centre, twelve women were able to avail of the Supersaver tickets at the Lyric Theatre.
“The women were studying Irish plays and the scheme gave them the opportunity to see one of the most famous plays by an Irish playwright, Oscar Wilde when they attended The Importance of Being Earnest in June this year,” said Christine Cosgrove, Training & Education Development Worker.
“This increased the women’s knowledge and helped build their self-confidence to share their experience with classmates, family and friends. If it wasn't for the Community Supersaver Scheme the women would not have been able to afford to go. It is a great scheme that ensures theatre is made accessible to all.”
Rachel McMordie, a CAUSE Carer Advocate described the importance of recreational time for mental health carers.
“Many of the carers we work with can deal with very challenging situations in supporting the recovery of their loved ones from serious mental illness,” she said. “An important part of our work is co-ordinating events for carers which offer them a break. The Community Supersaver Scheme is a great way of ensuring that theatre is accessible, so that carers we work with can enjoy great productions such as The Playboy of the Western World at the Lyric.”
Members of the community groups and the Minister met some of the cast of the current production of Macbeth at the theatre and were then given a tour of the photographic exhibition which charts more than 50 years of drama at the Lyric.
Noirin McKinney, Director of Arts Development with the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and principal funder of the Lyric, commented: “One of our key ambitions is to make the arts accessible to as many people as possible and the Lyric's Community Supersaver Scheme does exactly that. It allows people who may ordinarily be inhibited by cost to experience all that the Lyric has to offer and, given the diversity of this year's autumn programme, there really is something to suit all tastes.”
The Lyric Theatre welcomes applications for the scheme from community groups across Northern Ireland. Eligibility for the scheme is judged on application.
The Lyric offers a range of ticket prices to suit different budgets. It offers students 2 for 1 tickets on Wednesdays, concession rates for weekend matinees and off-peak rates on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. See the website for more details.