A POPULAR Irish venue in Birmingham has been awarded a significant government grant to support its promotion of the community's arts, culture, heritage and music in the city.
Nortons Digbeth, which is located in the city’s Irish Quarter, has been awarded £28,000 by Arts Council England to increase grassroots music and support female musicians in Birmingham’s Irish community.
The venue claims “thousands of music, culture, and heritage fans” will now benefit from the funding injection, “which will help preserve Irish traditions in the city and support new artist development”.
Nortons will use the funding to extend its current offering, where it is dedicated to supporting grassroots musicians, with has a particular focus on underrepresented groups including second and third-generation Irish and their families across the city.
The grant will also help to increase the support and booking of female musicians by the Norton’s team, as well as enabling the purchase of new audio-visual equipment, the firm has confirmed.
Speaking about the funding award, Peter Connolly, founder-director of Nortons Digbeth, said: “We’ve worked hard over the past four years - with the help of the community - to build Nortons from the ground up and establish it as a culturally active business.
“We serve the people of Birmingham and the UK with a particular focus on live music, the creative industries and the city’s Irish community.”
He added: “With visitors from across the UK, Ireland, and Europe travelling to Birmingham for our music and culture programme, featuring artists like Sharon Shannon, All Folk’d Up, Daoirí Farrell and Derek Ryan, we know there is a huge demand for an authentic Irish experience, particularly amongst younger generations.
“It is time to raise the profile of our Irish Quarter, community and associated organisations. “We know that investing in infrastructure and the talent pipeline delivers a great return for our city and the wider Irish diaspora.”
Norton’s is an independent business, which follows the ethos of the Irish Fair Plé pledge - which aims to "achieve gender balance in the production, performance, promotion, and development of Irish traditional and folk music, and advocate for equal opportunity and balanced representation for all".
“Our efforts will help ensure equal representation and opportunities for new artists as part of that drive, with a particular focus on women, and will be putting calls out in the coming weeks,” Mr Connolly said.
“Whilst this grant represents a fraction of the costs incurred in running a year-round music and arts programme, we hope that this commitment from ACE will send a signal to the city’s businesses and national cultural bodies of the importance of supporting grassroots music and culture.
“Our thanks go to Arts Council England for recognising and supporting us in these efforts.”
Norton’s has grown in popularity since it first opened in Digbeth four years ago, and is now used by a wide range of homegrown and touring artists, bands, business networks and community groups.
It is home to a range of events, including Tradfest Birmingham, Comhaltas trad music and Pop-Up Gaeltacht Irish-speaking sessions along with regular West Midlands Irish Business Group meetings.
Welcoming news of the funding allocation, Niamh McCorriston, singer and guitarist for Birmingham sister duo Heed, said: “I have known Digbeth as the centre of the Irish community since I was a child.
“My sister and I would often attend South Birmingham Comhaltas on a Tuesday evening and watch several Irish bands over the weekends in multiple venues.
“Ensuring the future of Digbeth as Birmingham’s Irish Quarter and enabling upcoming artists to have similar experiences and opportunities that I did will really help to enhance the Birmingham Irish music community.”
She added: “The Irish music scene is more like a family and you never feel lonely.
“It will be amazing to welcome some more members into it, in particular some female artists as there aren’t many of us! This funding and development will really help to shape the future of Irish music.”