The Playhouse today welcomed Maurice Maxwell, Head of the European Commission Representation in Northern Ireland, to launch its workspace units.
The Playhouse is one of Northern Ireland's leading Art Centres, and was refurbished at a cost of £4.6m during 2008. Included within the refurbished development are a number of office and workspace units designed to attract businesses in the Cultural Industries sector. The units were part funded by the European Union through the EU Programme for Reconciliation (PEACE II) managed for the Special EU Programmes Body by the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Investment. Funding was also provided by the International Fund for Ireland and Arts Council of Northern Ireland.
Cultural Industries have been identified as a sector with the potential to create new jobs in both in Derry and throughout Northern Ireland, and The Playhouse has been successful in attracting tenant businesses working in Theatre, Film, Disability Arts and Visual Arts.
Pauline Ross, Artistic Director of The Playhouse said: "At the heart of our ethos at The Playhouse is to help and encourage people from all walks of life to create new, invigorating art, and to support emerging artistic talent. When we were planning the layout for the new Playhouse we wanted to give a strong commitment to local artists, hence we provided a number of spaces that artists and creative businesses could rent, on an affordable basis."
The business units have proved very popular, and Niall McCaughan, General Manager of The Playhouse said: "We have helped a few businesses establish themselves in Derry Londonderry including 360 Productions who make TV programmes for BBC, Discovery Channel and National Geographic Channel. Such was their growth they had to move out to bigger premises. Current tenants include Context Gallery who provide contemporary arts exhibitions for emerging artists, and Sole Purpose Productions who produce and tour theatre with a strong social message."
Since opening the workspace units have sustained or created 20 full time jobs, and supported more than 20 freelance indirect jobs.
Speaking during his visit, Maurice Maxwell said "These workspace units are a valuable asset for new and expanding businesses in the local area and are a good example of the positive contribution PEACE II continues to make throughout Northern Ireland. The units will bring together people from different community backgrounds which can only help to reinforce progress towards a peaceful and stable society and promote reconciliation."
Mayor of Derry City Council, Alderman Maurice Devenney added "Derry City Council is fully committed in supporting the drive forward of the Creative Industries in this city. Our success in becoming City of Culture 2013 opens up incredible opportunities for businesses to develop and grow in the city and access global markets. Key to the development of new businesses is the provision of affordable, supportive premises, and The Playhouse is able to play a significant role within the city through these workspace units."
Paul Carr, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, said: "I am pleased that my Department, through PEACE II funding, has been able to contribute to the refurbishment of the workspace units at The Playhouse. In particular, I am delighted to have been given the opportunity today to see at first hand the exceptional workspace facilities and meet some of the tenant businesses who occupy them. In the current economic climate the creation of jobs is critical and I am pleased that 20 new jobs have been created at the development to date".
Commenting on behalf of the International Fund for Ireland, which contributed £284,933 to the business units within The Playhouse, Dr Adrian Johnston, Board Member, said: "It is very encouraging that five tenant businesses, currently employing 12 people, now occupy the new high-quality business units here at the Playhouse, and it was a pleasure for me to meet with some of the tenants today.
"The International Fund for Ireland was very pleased to contribute towards the funding for the business units, which will have a positive impact on the local economy and help to strengthen and underpin community life long after the Fund ceases to exist."
Tony Kennedy, Board Member, Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said, "The Arts Council is proud to be one of the principal funders of this historically-important arts centre. It is such a versatile venue that has and will continue to touch just about everyone in the North West.
"The modernised venue has received great public and critical acclaim for enhancing the arts and cultural infrastructure in the North West and with its marvellous new facilities, it still maintains its unique heritage."
Commenting on the project, Shaun Henry, Director of the Managing Authority at the Special EU Programmes Body, said:
"These newly developed workspace units, which have received assistance under the EU's PEACE II Programme, will support and encourage economic growth within the arts sector. Within the PEACE Programme the arts are used to help strengthen peace building and promote greater levels of reconciliation amongst all communities. I have every confidence that the arts focused businesses, which will benefit from the workspace element of the newly refurbished Playhouse, will help to meet these objectives."