With a cost of living crisis looming, how are the arts organisations trying to tempt us out to support the arts in the autumn months? 

It seems like momentum was building with a post-Covid recovery of the arts – only to get hit in the coming season with so many different priorities competing for our hard earned cash.

There is currently no gallery asking for a fee to visit an exhibition, and although the Mac does ask for a donation it’s not mandatory. If you visit an exhibition on the occasion of its opening there is often the added bonus of some free refreshments and nibbles to help the evening along. If you venture out for late night art, you can spend a good evening out with the hospitality of the galleries.  

But what about other art forms? Belfast International Arts Festival is celebrating its 60th year and has a number of offers. It has an earlybird discount if you book before September 11 with a 20 percent discount on many events. Or, with their multi-buy discounts, choose two or three events and save £8 to £12.  

THREE SCORE: Lord Mayor Tina Black joins performers, sponsors and directors of the Belfast International Arts Festival for the launch of its 60th programme.

THREE SCORE: Lord Mayor Tina Black joins performers, sponsors and directors of the Belfast International Arts Festival for the launch of its 60th programme.

There are of course events that are free or only ask for a donation. One that caught my attention is an evening at the Black Box with the Musicians Artists at Risk Resettlement Scheme (MARRS) which was set up by Beyond Skin in 2021.

Featuring musicians from the Middle East and Africa, the night promises a diverse mix of songs, poetry and spoken word from artists we have welcomed to our shores for sanctuary. There will be collaborations with musicians who were born in Northern Ireland, have settled for many years, or have just arrived. It includes the sharing of stories from young Afghan women who are starting new lives in Belfast.

Belfast International Arts Festival

Two stand-out opportunities to see premieres of local talent with a global following are dancer/choreographer Oona Doherty in Navy Blue at the Mac and Conor Mitchell’s Propaganda, a new musical set in 1949 Berlin, opening at the Lyric. This work includes a 14-piece orchestra. 

Concessions of around £4 make Duncairn Arts eclectic musical concerts very affordable at £10 as does Moving on Music’s autumn schedule. 

The Black Box have set up Gig Buddies in Belfast, a project that pairs adults with learning disabilities and/or autism with a volunteer based on their shared interests. It is already set up across the UK and Australia, the idea being they accompany each other to a gig and build up a wider social circle and a fuller social life. They are looking for volunteers and buddies to join the newly launched Belfast scheme – email Black Box if interested. 

Portico is offering half-price tickets for groups of ten or more as well as a £10 ticket to under-25s and those new to classical music as well as fiver tickets for those in need, no questions asked.  

The way to get a ticket for a tenner at Cultúrlann for 'Arán agus Im' with Manchán Magan in September is to go to the matinee!

The Lyric has 15 per cent off if you buy three selected shows, which is a considerable saving for the autumn/winter months. The Mac have a scheme for 16- to 24-year-olds and if you join you can get tickets for a fiver for selected shows, which is a really good deal. Meanwhile, the Grand Opera House's under-26 deal gives tickets for a tenner and good standby ticket opportunities as well as discounts on silver and gold memberships, but you do have to fork out money first to join the schemes.

A lovely idea from Open Arts is inviting disabled people and their families from across Northern Ireland to participate in Takeaway Theatre, a unique, one-time-only show which is created and performed at home.
With the expertise and guidance of Open Arts performers, people with disabilities aged five and over and their families will co-create and participate in a short play incorporating themes, ideas and props which are of interest to them.

The concept of Takeaway Theatre was originally developed by lead artist Meabh Ivers, who has partnered with Open Arts to expand the project. Open Arts would like to recruit two people with disabilities and their families per month from August 2022 until June 2023 to stage Takeaway Theatre performances in their respective homes. To apply for one of these free places, email Open Arts to register your interest.