16/02/2011

'Testers' Try Out NI Arts' Scene

More than 4,000 'testers' have sampled NI's rich, cultural arts scene for the very first time, thanks to Test Drive the Arts NI.

Celebrating its first birthday this month, Test Drive the Arts has helped pack-out theatres and venues as newcomers to the arts experienced some of the hottest shows.

Test Drive the Arts was launched in February 2010, with the aim of introducing people to Northern Ireland's thriving theatre and performing arts scene. The initiative is managed by Audiences NI - set up to boost attendance numbers to arts organisations across Northern Ireland and funded by Belfast City Council with support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

Almost £65,000 worth of on-the-house tickets to more than 470 performances were distributed to 'Testers' who had never experienced live theatre or performing arts events before.

Steven Hadley, Chief Executive of Audiences Northern Ireland which manages the Test Drive the Arts NI initiative said: "Reaching our first birthday with over 4000 people having enjoyed the arts is a great milestone for Test Drive the Arts NI.

"The interest and positive feedback we have gained from our 'testers' is a testament to the strength and depth of the cultural scene in Northern Ireland.
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"Our success is down to the support of Belfast City Council and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, as well as the commitment of more than 50 theatres and venues who have embraced the Test Drive the Arts concept," he said.

"By engaging with newcomers to the arts we are not only widening their horizons, but hopefully ensuring that our arts and culture will be supported by a new generation of audiences."

Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Pat Convery said: "I believe it is vital that everyone gets the chance to enjoy the cultural events and experiences that we have available.

"If our support of Test Drive the Arts NI over the past year has helped allow more people to experience the thrill of live performances then I am delighted.

"I look forward to another successful year ahead as we work to make culture accessible to all," he said.

Fifty organisations and venues are taking part in the scheme, including more than 20 Belfast-based arts organisations, whilst the Belfast Film Festival, Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival and Belfast Children's Festival are just some of those represented, the Belfast Waterfront Hall, Grand Opera House, Ulster Hall, Lyric Theatre and performances by the Ulster Orchestra were also included in the high calibre list.

(GK)

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