How will the arts react to the four-year plan?
Arts organisations must be trembling at the thoughts of what’s in store in the Doomsday budget, coming to an apocalypse near you on December 7th. At the same time, we should probably be seeing plenty of excellent work, with ideas fuelled (if not funded) by the times in which we are living.
The boom years may have given us plenty of arts centres around the country (many of which are proving to be white elephants) but they certainly didn’t inspire a whole lot of interesting theatre, books or film around the phenomenon. That’s not to say there weren’t good books or theatre produced in the past decade or so, but there are few that took the Celtic bull by the horns.
Now we live in, ahem, interesting times, so in the near future it will be interesting to see what role artists play. The public anger at what this country is experiencing is fertile ground for the writers and artists among us; there are stories to be told whose resonance could well last as long as our IMF repayments.
The audience’s appetite also seems to be as healthy as ever, regardless of belt tightening. Both the Dublin Fringe and Theatre Festivals had very healthy years at the box office, with a few records being set in the case of the Fringe. The Abbey’s biggest headache of late seemed to be finding enough seats for people to see John Gabriel Borkman and the Plough and the Stars; and the Gate had a terrific run with Death of a Salesman.
So what happens next? Hopefully, the organisations that are punching above their weight will continue to do so, and produce shows and work of the calibre of recent years. Even if budgets get cut, ideas will still foment. Here’s hoping that a lack of funding doesn’t stop these ideas getting the space and the audience they deserve.
The Arts Council has already published its plans for the next three years (which you can read here) although this plan was released at the end of October so all bets could be off after the main Budget. The Government has now published its four-year plan (which you can read here) in which it says; “The Tourism, Culture and Sport area will contribute savings of €76 million by 2014” with a reduced allocation to cultural institutions and cultural projects expected to bring in €5 million in 2011. The Government also expects to save a further €50 million from 2011 to 2014 from Tourism, Culture and Sport, through (among other cuts) a “reduction in allocation to the Arts Council and other Cultural activities”. It seems that the majority of these savings will be made in the sports and tourism sectors. We will put up more details as we get them, and check The Irish Times website here for updates.