Strategy 2018-2023

Download or read our development plan here (pdf)


This Development Plan sets out a vision for the continued development of Bláthanna Arts / Croílar Ealaíne and its transformation into a vibrant hub for the arts in general and music in particular. The plan

- signposts ways that this can be delivered in a way that meets the objectives for the organisation, and

- sets out how the project can deliver important benefits to a wide range of stakeholders.


Cultúrlann’s Arts Project developed initially as a pilot programme delivering a series of small seasonal festivals. This pilot was preparatory to developing a broader arts programme that included an arts education dimension.

The Arts Project continued to develop as a self-sustaining project through revenue secured via various funding streams, as well as box office and income from courses and classes, and, whilst adhering to the aims and objectives of the larger organisation, had its own clearly defined artistic vision.

Partnerships were created with various other arts organisations and educational institutions including Ulster University, NW Regional College and, in the early days, Comhaltas Dhoire.

The Arts Project put in place a self-critical developmental model with clear goals alongside external evaluation, participant feedback and impact assessment. The conclusions that formed the basis for the future development of the programme highlighted that, for clarity of purpose, consolidation was the key to underpinning and developing future programmes.

In 2002 the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) outlined in a feasibility study their terms for support for the funding of a new Irish Language Arts Centre: “It must be capable of attracting user and visitor footfall throughout each day and offer features and programming aimed at maximum participation/ use by the broadest possible range of user/ interest groups, including the elderly and disabled.”

The basis for future-proofing the Arts Project was to

- have a clear identification of priorities, prudent resource allocation and financial imperatives;

- define and designate clear and effective project structures, areas of demarcation and lines of reporting, to achieve clarity of purpose;

- ensure the understanding of these structures is communicated to all staff within the Arts programme;

- analyse and research alternative and informal approaches to the creative delivery of courses;

- review responsibilities and personnel requirement within the project.


1 Establish Acadamh Ceoil Chaoimhín Úi Dhochartaigh as a centre of excellence for music performance, learning and participation
2 Produce a year-long programme of high quality events
3 Establish partnerships on a local, regional, national and international level
4 Pioneer new and innovative approaches to music education
5 Provide career opportunities and pathways for musicians
6 Give artistic expression to the current Irish language revival through access to traditional arts
7 Contribute to the growth of the Cultural Quarter


The vision for Bláthanna Arts is clear and simple: it should offer the highest quality experience for all, inspiring future generations and potential new audiences by offering them involvement in and access to the very best and most exciting arts events. It aspires to be:

- An inspirational, forward-looking facility connecting performance, discovery and learning, that secures Cultúrlann’s reputation as the foremost cultural venue in the city.

- An energising, inclusive advocate for the future of artistic creation for all, reflecting the 
diversity of the city as well as its national and international

- Derry’s most vibrant and welcoming cultural centre and a natural destination for visitors and audiences.

The ultimate goal is to create a set of integrated new, existing and re-purposed facilities across three venues, planned together to make a wholly exceptional offering for audiences and users. This adds a collaborative dimension to the plan, in which the whole is far greater than the sum of the parts.

Again, ACNI’s commitment to the new Cultúrlann was contingent on it being “equipped to the highest standard, and be capable of being utilised for top of the range artistic activities as well as for specified arts educations programmes.”

At the core of this Strategy document is the desire to reshape and develop the existing provision by emphasising inclusivity so that it appeals to all individuals and communities and establishes a solid foundation for the future sustainability of the organisation and its position within the wider music sector, in the city and region.

The Performance and Events Programme as well as Learning and Participation Programmme will continue to offer a range of options:

- We will bring national and international performers to the centre and offer a new and outstandingly equipped venue to performers already established in the region.

- The performance programme will incorporate both events programmed and promoted by Bláthanna Arts and those where outside promoters hire the venue.

- Acadamh Ceoil Chaoimhín Úi Dhochartaigh (Music Academy) will offer high quality music learning and participation opportunities to the whole community.


These principles are intended to provide a focus for our future provision, and are designed to ensure the strategic coherence and the quality of our programme as a whole.

Integrating music learning, participation and performance

We will work to allow every individual the opportunity to engage in a meaningful way with the arts, and be offered all possible means of access to these opportunities. In a radical departure for our project, we will draw together the currently separate strands - events and learning - to create a link between learning, participation and performance. Where possible and relevant, we will avoid programming “isolated” concerts and other events and instead strive to embed each concert in an educational or outreach context. As an example of this, in addition to performing, a visiting musician will also give a masterclass, workshop or be engaged in an educational or community project.


We will continue to work with partners (local, national and international) across a range of areas to maximise the reach and range of activities on offer and take-up of opportunities. Partner organisations include arts, voluntary, and charitable organisations, schools, the health sector, statutory services, other public sector cultural providers, amongst others. This will entail:

- creating, developing and fostering partnerships and networks in the community;

- creating, developing, managing, and delivering projects in collaboration with partners;

- supporting existing programmes or activities led by other organisations which are in alignment with our own strategy.


We will seek to build sustainability into future project planning. By their nature, arts-based projects are often time-limited or fall under a pattern of project-by-project. We will strive to continually assess the sustainability of each project, and focus on projects which build on past work, or by transferring a piloted model into different settings. We will also seek financial sustainability by approaching a wider range of funding bodies to ease reliance on a small number of core funders.

Accessibility and equality

We are committed to making sure that everything we offer is inclusive and promotes accessibility and equality of opportunity. Opportunities will be tailored to target groups in ways that most promote accessibility, allowing as wide a range of groups as possible to participate. The focus will be on an active rather than a passive role, in order to overcome hidden barriers to participation such as lack of knowledge or experience. We will specifically target:

- Young people, especially to provide positive activities to those who may lack such opportunities, and to support entry into the arts profession

- Low-income families or families with low likelihood of attending arts events

- Older people, especially isolated and frail and elderly

- People with (learning) disabilities


An tSeaneaglais (Glassworks) Concert Hall

300 capacity main hall with world-class acoustics, with the potential to become an extraordinary venue for making and experiencing music. Even in its unfinished state An tSeaneaglais looks and (more importantly) sounds like something musicians and audiences dream of: a world class concert venue.

Club Space (Basement)

100 capacity informal performance venue for folk nights, trad sessions and open mic events, with bar facilities for late-night and free flowing activity.

An Croí

200 capacity multi-functional performance space with excellent acoustics and facilities for making and experiencing arts and music. The main front-of-house facilities have the potential to offer offer an inclusive, transparent and engaging space where the audience, performers and staff meet and interact throughout the day and into the evening.

Acadamh Ceoil Chaoimhín Úi Dhochartaigh

Currently houses or will house music learning rooms, breakout rehearsal rooms, digital spaces and facilities, as well as state-of-the-art spaces for content creation and broadcast.


The further development of the Arts Hub enables a far broader and richer cross-section of arts and culture to be programmed across the venues, in spaces that are ideally suited to each individual art form, ensuring a better experience for artists and performers, existing and new audiences. Furthermore, the streamlining and closer integration of the Performance and Events Programme with the Learning and Participation Programme will allow for a more diverse programme model to be developed, planned, coordinated and delivered across the three venues.

Overview of events 2018-2023

Seasonal Events (including Samhain, Lá Fhéile Pádraig, Seachtain na Gaeilge, Colmcille Summer School)

Regular Events (including performances, concerts, workshops, masterclasses and other events)

IMBOLC International Music Festival

A week-long annual festival of music, which we hope will grow to become a city-wide, civic music festival by 2023.


Acadamh Ceoil Chaoimhín Úi Dhochartaigh (Music Academy) will continue to develop opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to learn, create and perform in new and dynamic ways.

With an 
outstanding concert hall at its core, together with
 supporting spaces for informal performance, learning and development, the Academy will encourage and enable a transformative offering of musical discovery. It will place equal emphasis on formal and non-formal instrumental progression routes,
 and be attune to career opportunities in teaching, performance, management, creative production and enterprise.

The Learning and Participation Programme currently has or will have several strategic programmes.


Instrumental Learning

Top quality training programme for young people aged 5 – 18, offering a range of learning and performance opportunities for young instrumentalists and singers as well as tuition for adult learners. Weekly classes are offered as well as workshops, master classes and week-end and annual summer schools. This tuition takes place in the Academy as well as through outreach programmes in schools.


Sean-nós dance tuition for adults and children.

Community Music

A vibrant and diverse programme of participation for all ages within and outside the Academy. We provide music-making activities to people who might not otherwise have the opportunity to do so and create bespoke projects enabling participants to learn music and other skills and explore creativity through music. Working with a wide range of people of all ages, interests and abilities in various communities and centres in the city and around the North West, this programme is developed in cooperation with a wide range of partners, local authority youth services, extended schools and community groups and disability groups. The projects to date include:

- All-access Trad (music-making for children and young adults with learning disabilities)

- Creative Age (arts activities, including music, for older people)

- Community music training workshops

Instrument Bank Loan Scheme

The instrument bank is a means to make learning the instrument of choice more accessible. The bank will contain a range of instruments of varying quality available for hire to students.


Early Years Music-making

A creative programme taking place in the Academy as well as in playgroups, nurseries and family centres involving children (up to 5 yrs), parents and carers in music-making in an enjoyable group situations.

Continuing Professional Development

The provision of training, resources and support for music teachers, community musicians and other music professionals to equip them with continuing professional development, business and networking skills in order to pursue a career in this field.

Foyle Youth Folk Orchestra

A regional youth orchestra for young players of all backgrounds and instruments.

Musician-in-residence scheme

Regularly appointed high profile professional to develop and support opportunities for young people to learn and participate in music-making.

Master and Apprentice

Opportunities for top class young musicians to allow them to deepen their performance skills with guidance and support from masters of their trade.

Music Therapy

Provision of access to a music therapy service for the use of music to improve quality of life and meet the needs of those with disabilities, learning difficulties or illnesses. Delivered to clients in individual or group settings.

Musicians, Health and Wellbeing

Geared towards the health and well-being of musicians, including Alexander Technique, yoga for musicians and mental health and well-being workshops.

Further and Higher Education

We will develop a wide variety of partnerships with Further and Higher Education institutions across the North West, encompassing collaborative course design and delivery, specialist modules, placement opportunities and staff training.


Information and library service for musicians and academics, and also of interest to the general public. The archive will include audio/visual recordings of performances, talks and seminars and will include field recordings, photographs and publications.


3rd Level Education


“Connected” programme: support provided by NWRC to Cultúrlann (student focus groups, provision of artists for IMBOLC and ongoing discussions about collaborative projects and use by students of Basement rehearsal/ performance space)

Royal Irish Academy of Music (Dublin)

Links currently being developed with traditional music ensemble, including a creative project led by RIAM staff members


Collaboration on Sounding Conflict – from Resistance to Reconcilliation at The Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice. Project investigates the effects of music, sound and storytelling in conflict and post-conflict communities and their distribution through digital media activities.

UU Music Department

Spatial Music Collective performance at IMBOLC 2017, led by Brian Bridges and ongoing discussions for UU and student input into future festivals.

Hosting of student concerts in Glassworks Basement.


Primary & Secondary Schools

Teaching music and delivering music engagement workshops

Knockavoe Special Needs School (Strabane) & Ardnashee School and College (Derry)

Ongoing music education project centered around learning creative and performing skills in Irish Traditional and Ulster Scots music

Music organisations

Na Píobairí Uilleann

An organization dedicated to the promotion of the Uilleann pipes and its music.

Ulster Orchestra

Ongoing partnership links to develop music education project.

(With BBC) Main artistic partner of IMBOLC International Music Festival 2018

Ongoing discussions to develop creative partnerships between orchestral musicians and local traditional musicians.

Walled City Music

Resident classical music concert promoter.

Facilitation and support on Hearts of Stem (music, technology and special needs).

Donegal Traditional Music Network

Exploratory discussions with Donegal-based organisations and individuals on setting up a cross-border traditional music network.

Community Organisations

Tuned-in Project

All-access Trad: Extensive music education project (similar to above) around learning creative and performing skills in Irish Traditional and Ulster Scots music (currently awaiting funding decision from ACNI)

Glen Development Initiative

Arts and Older People (funded by ACNI): To help combat isolation, loneliness and social exclusion, by providing opportunities for older people in Neighbourhood Renewal Areas: Outer North NRA and Outer West NRA to participate in music and other creative activities.


Musicians without Borders

Ongoing partnership with Netherlands-based “Musicians without Borders”, an international non-profit organization which uses music as a tool for peace building and reconciliation in current and post-conflict regions to train musicians, and youth and community workers in the principles of community music-making, leadership, facilitation skills and nonviolence.