Published Wednesday, 09 October 2013
The south Belfast theatre has said it accommodates all audiences. (© Pacemaker)
During a meeting of the Department of Culture Arts and Leisure committee at Stormont, MLA William Humphrey said the recently refurbished Lyric and newly opened MAC had "little to offer" the working class, and "in particularly, the Protestant working class".
The DUP MLA member said: "The Protestant working class unionist community see their culture as culture, and the concept of "the arts" is not something which the Protestant working class community in this city buys into at any great level.
"Decisions by Belfast City Council and the regional government on investment in the Lyric and the MAC have been of great benefit and I welcome them.
"However, I am not so sure that they offer a tangible benefit to the people in Ballygomartin, Ballymurphy or Ballymacarrett."
Mr Humphrey urged the Culture Minister Carál Ní Chuilín to look at ways to encourage those communities to engage with the arts.
He added: "Outreach that people other than the BT9ers can buy into is very important."
The Lyric and the MAC have both rejected the criticism from the North Belfast DUP member.
In a statement the Lyric said: "Firstly we welcome Mr Humphrey's acknowledgement that 'investment in the Lyric and the MAC have been of great benefit'.
"However, we disagree that this investment has not benefited Protestant working class communities.
"Our recent Belfast season of plays dealt directly with Protestant culture in Northern Ireland, including the plays Love, Billy; Weddins, Weeins and Wakes by Marie Jones; Can't Forget About You by David Ireland and Mixed Marriage by St John Ervine.
We have contributed more free tickets to the Test Drive the Arts scheme than any other arts organisation, which has amounted to £100,000 of free tickets in past two years.
The Lyric Theatre
"The Pat & Plain project, funded by the Ulster-Scots Agency, won the Lyric a UK-wide award for Cultural Diversity, in which we did outreach work with primary schools across Northern Ireland.
"In terms of attendance at the theatre, 90% of household bookers come from outside the BT9 area, disproving the misconception that only people from south Belfast attend the Lyric.
"In fact, nearly 2,000 households in the Belfast North constituency have attended the Lyric since it reopened in 2011.
"The Lyric has worked hard to offer a full-range of discounts to make theatre attractive to all.
"This includes selling more than 3,600 £5 super saver tickets over the past two years to community groups, as well as £10 tickets for the unemployed."
The Mac also rejected the criticism saying it had involved over 21,000 people in its outreach programmes since its opening in April 2012.
© UTV News