Making resources stretch

While many in the theatre sector grapple with the threat to the company model, and seek further information about pilot production hubs and new mechanisms for funding, others are adopting an adapt-or-die pragmatism. Cork Midsummer Festival received a cut of just 3.7 per cent, from €187,000 to €180,000, which fits a pattern its artistic director, William Galinsky, observed of “preserving medium-scale festivals… that do an awful lot on quite a little.” How they operate may prove instructive for a sector long dependent on state subsidy and critically vulnerable in straitened circumstances.

“What I’ve learned is that with planning, lots of things are possible,” says Galinsky. A festival co-production with Belgian theatre company Victoria, for instance, will have been eighteen months in development by the time it opens in June. Inviting more potential co-producers to an early workshop for the project, itself modestly co-funded by the Granary theatre and an Arts Council commission award, has resulted in a co-production between the Midsummer festival, Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queens, LIFT and Victoria, which has in turn opened avenues to half a dozen funding bodies in Ireland, Northern Ireland and the UK. “We’re not doing miracles,” says Galinsky. “It’s just about smart planning.”

Such planning and strategising may count as “smart, joined-up thinking” but it also requires time. That’s one reason Galinsky thinks that pilot production hubs should be set up as three-year projects, even if funding cannot be guaranteed, allowing the sector “to show how it can work, rather than creating policy from the top down.”

Touring shows is also cost-effective, allowing further access to domestic and international touring funds, amortising costs and making the show more attractive to receiving venues. Galinsky suggests it’s a practicable model for theatre makers in an international culture increasingly well disposed towards co-productions and touring networks. “It means the show is earning its keep,” he says. “You’re keeping people in employment longer and you’re looking at a combination of subsidised and commercial theatre. Subsidy is manure, basically.”

The vagaries of revenue funding have prompted broadly similar statements recently, but few as positive.



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