No change to Project Funding deadlines
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 Above: Raymond Scannell in Mimic, produced by Playgroup.

No change to Project Funding deadlines

Every moment counts in making theatre, especially in the next few months. Today the Arts Council confirmed that the deadlines for theatre Project funding awards would remain as March 25 (for hard copy submissions) and April 1 (for online), adding, “the same as for all other projects, as previously announced”.

Such reiteration seems unusual, but clarification may have been necessary following widely disseminated information to the contrary. Theatre Forum was just one source for news that seemed to have originally stemmed from Arts Council staff last week, informing its members that the application deadlines had been brought forward to March 4 and 11, with decisions expected for mid April. Theatre Forum explained in a detailed item in its newsletter this week that the brisk turnaround would be facilitated by a streamlined assessment process, with theatre staff, “namely David Parnell and Jocelyn Clarke”, making decisions without consulting outside assessors.

A spokesperson for the Arts Council has since told ITM that there was no formal communication of such accelerated deadlines, but that it is responding to the particular needs of the theatre sector by bringing forward the communication of Theatre Project decisions by about two months, to the start of May. This still provides more breathing room than the originally expected June, but Theatre Forum have greeted today's announcement with concern. “The Arts Council had promised decisions for the Theatre Project Award by mid April,” said Theatre Forum chairperson Fergal McGrath. “This accelerated deadline had been warmly welcomed by Theatre Forum and the sector.” The change, he added, “is regrettable and will cause serious difficulties for the sector, particularly companies and summer festivals.” There are likely to be consequences for festivals such as Cork Midsummer Festival, whose programme goes to print in mid April.

Midsummer’s Artistic Director, William Galinsky, who argued at last week's Theatre Forum meeting for a rolling system of project grants with a brisk turnover, had been pleased to learn of the earlier deadline and decisions, which left him “encouraged that people have listened and responded.” Now, those involved in potential productions dependant on Project awards for Playgroup (pictured) and Hammergrin, for example, will have to bite their nails for longer. With Project Awards now the only remaining funding option for eleven theatre companies recently removed from revenue funding (whose subsidy runs out in April), any lag before funding decisions will magnify uncertainty as to how they can continue to operate.

At last week’s Theatre Forum meeting, assembled to address the impact of swingeing cuts to the sector, members raised the need for transparency, clarity and swifter action from the Arts Council. Expediting the application process and bringing forward decisions would have suggested that the Council, represented at the meeting by a delegation that included Director Mary Cloake, appeared to have been listening. If, as some now believe, senior members of the Council might since have become wary that theatre was getting a “special deal” over other art forms, that concession has been rescinded. In the absence of a fast-track approach to Project grants, theatre companies are still seeking to stay afloat while venues and festivals must fill their schedules.


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