Awards for twenty Northern Ireland artists to 'take careers to the next level'

Individuals working across literature, drama, music and more receive annual Arts Council ACES grant helping to build on work to date with major new projects

(L-R) ACES artists, Myra Zepf, Kelly Creighton, Rebekah Coffey, Jane Talbot, Mary Murphy, Rhiann Jeffrey, Emily McFarland, Jennifer Goddard, James Conor Patterson, Ayesha Mailey, Koichi Samuels, Davy Watson and Andrea Spencer

Twenty artists from Northern Ireland have been announced as the latest recipients of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland’s ACES awards 2017/18, a National Lottery supported funding grant bestowed upon Northern Ireland’s most talented emerging artists to allow them to develop their professional, artistic careers and create new work.

Awards under the Artists Career Enhancement Scheme (ACES) are made annually to professional artists working in music, visual arts, drama, dance, literature and participatory arts and are among the most prestigious awards bestowed by the Arts Council. The artists include three drama awardees, six visual artists, five musicians, five literature awardees and one community artist.

In addition to receiving a bursary of up to £5,000 each, many of the recipients have been partnered with a professional organisation or leading artists, at home or abroad, to help each of them to deliver new creative work. Some of these include; Prime Cut Productions, Queen’s University, Ulster Orchestra, Institute of Contemporary Art Philadelphia, Moving On Music, An tSnáthaid Mhór, Tinderbox Theatre Company, Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University, composer Garth McConaghie and leading soprano, Nathalie Paulin, University of Toronto.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, commented: 'These 20 artists are already established and highly regarded in each of their fields. The ACES awards are given in recognition of their work to date and to provide them with support to take their careers to that vital next level. The ACES programme has been running successfully now for eight years and addresses the need for on-going training and skills development within the arts sector.'

Belfast musician and singer-songwriter, Davy Watson, has worked with major names in music in the past including Madonna, Phil Lynott of Thin Lizzy and Bob Geldof. His ACES supported project will see him partner with the Ulster Orchestra to develop an On Your Doorstep concert featuring his own music arranged for orchestra.

ACES artists, Emily McFarland, Davy Watson and Myra Zepf

ACES artists, Emily McFarland, Davy Watson and Myra Zepf

On Your Doorstep is an Ulster Orchestra outreach project which aims to bring orchestral music to people in their own neighbourhoods, increase access to and grow audiences for orchestral music as well as collaborate with artists from different musical genres.

Commenting on his award Davy Watson said, 'Performing with the Ulster Orchestra will be a unique challenge for me creatively, introducing me to new audiences and with the help of the ACES grant, offer fresh possibilities for my music to be heard.'

Below are the 20 artists chosen to receive ACES awards. Click here for more information on individual artists.


Rhiann Jeffrey

Ayesha Mailey

Eileen McCrory

Community Arts

Jennifer Goddard

Visual Arts

Andrea Spencer

Clare Gormley

Emily McFarland

Liam Crichton

Samantha Moore

Mary Murphy (craft)


Davy Watson

Graham Ginty

Koichi Samuels

Marcella Walsh

Rebekah Coffey


James Conor Patterson

Jane Talbot

Kelly Creighton

Myra Zepf

Paul McVeigh

The Artists Career Enhancement Programme (ACES) forms part of the wider Support for the Individual Artist Programme (SIAP) administered by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland annually. As part of its continuing commitment to supporting the development of individual artists, the Council made 244 SIAP awards to artists in 2017/18 totaling £544k. Since its establishment in 2010, 137 artists have been supported through ACES.

For more information on funding opportunities visit Click here to see some of the lists of recipients from previous years.