Yesterday I visited the Lyric Theatre in South Belfast. The theatre has been completely rebuilt and is due to open in May. I was met by Mark Carruthers, chair of the Lyric, and chief executive, Ciaran McAuley.
The new theatre, built on the Lyric's existing site at Ridgeway Street, Stranmillis, includes a 339 seat main auditorium, a new studio with flexible performance space, dedicated youth and education space and improved front and back house facilities for staff and artists.
The Stormont Executive committed approximately £9 million to the new building and that emphasises the government's commitment to supporting the arts and creative industries in Northern Ireland. Investment in the arts contributes significantly to economic regeneration and this is particularly important in the current financial climate.
Over the past few years investment in the arts infrastructure in Northern Ireland has increased significantly. Just last year the Crescent Arts Centre re-opened after a major refurbishment, we also have a number of high quality arts venues in Londonderry, and work is ongoing on the new Metropolitan Arts Centre in Belfast, which will further enhance the arts scene.
The total cost of the Lyric project is £17.854 million of which DCAL contributed £9.79 million and the Arts Council £2.4. Belfast City Council provided £1.25 million and so there has been a total of £13.44 million of public money towards this particular project. Meanwhile the Lyric itself has raised over £5 million towards the project.