Why The Arts Matter: Play Resource

The arts and education facility for children celebrates 25 years of funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland

No demographic benefits from the creative stimulus that the arts can provide more than children. In classrooms, youth clubs and homes across the country, children and young people turn to the arts again and again as a means of self expression, recreation and learning - through creativity and imagination they come to understand more about themselves and the world around them.

Based in north Belfast, Play Resource has made it their mission to provide children and those schools, organisations and community groups that work with children with all the materials, support services and training they need to develop and grow through the arts.

According to Play Resource director Anne O'Donoghue: 'It's about giving young people the opportunities to be creative so that ultimately they become well-rounded adults who give something back to society.'

Formed in 1983, Play Resource is the largest creative resource facility in the UK and the only organisation of its kind in Northern Ireland. It opened its doors with just 50 members, but this number has steadily grown to 2,500, with an estimated 300,000 children benefiting from the arts resource every year.


Central to the Play Resource ethos is the concept of reclaiming and reusing waste materials from landfill sites to instill in children the importance of protecting the environment, but also as a means of lessening the organisation's impact on the environment. Play Resource diverts, on average, 500 tons of scrap per year from landfill. 1,141 free waste collections are made annually by Play Resource from 143 different businesses throughout Northern Ireland.

This month Play Resource began a year-long series of events to mark 25 years of funding and support from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland.

'We thought that what we would like to do is show what public funding for the arts means in real terms over those 25 years, what it has done for Play Resource and what it has done for the community,' explained O'Donoghue.

In recent weeks, O'Donoghue and her colleagues have welcomed Roisin McDonough, chief executive of the Arts Council, as well as Nelson McCausland, Minister for Culture, Arts and Leisure, to the Play Resource Centre to see for themselves how artists can inspire school children in a variety of workshop settings.

'The through-put here is amazing,' commented McDonough, after watching children making Christmas sculptures with reclaimed material. 'They do astonishing work, and I think there is no child or no school in Northern Ireland that hasn't availed of the services of Play Resource.'

Minister McCausland met Primary 7 children from Seaview Primary School who were working with the artists Sally Young and Anne Quail to create artwork from scrap materials such as foam, plastic, fabric, cardboard and foil.

Celebrating the centre's successful social enterprise business model, McCausland congratulated the staff and artists from Play Resource on their achievements to date: ‘My department champions the promotion of creativity and innovation, and it is clear from my visit today that Play Resource has embraced these qualities. Over the years they have established many high quality creative experiences that promote the development of self esteem, personal growth and lifelong learning.’

To learn more about Play Resource learning programmes and other services, log on to www.playresource.org.