How Róise Goan grew the Fringe
Five years on from her ‘mad’ appointment – ‘they hired a 27-year-old amateur’ – Róise Goan, outgoing director of the Dublin Fringe Festival, leaves it in its most mature state yet
“I don’t know that it has to be different,” Goan replies. “I think that it has to be ahead. It needs to push the art forms forward so that it can push the conversation forward. Something I’ve been really trying to do over the past few years is to get the work we present into the news pages as well as the arts pages.”
Overlooked by officialdom
Goan voices her frustration about the Fringe being overlooked by “officialdom”, and she can move quickly from ebullient to embattled: “We’ve tried to be a little bit more grown-up and organised, not so we can sit at the grown-ups’ table, but at least have them notice that we’re well-dressed.
“It’s not just about recognition,” she says. “It’s about resources.”
The Fringe, which is still seeking a title sponsor and is heavily dependent on box office income, receives under half the subsidy of the Dublin Theatre Festival. A large amount of its programme, drawn from new and emerging artists, depends on Arts Council Project Awards and FundIt campaigns. “We’re really, really struggling,” she says. “I don’t mean to sound naive or blunt, but to get more money, you have to be perceived to be successful by the powers that be.”
There’s a clear tension there, between seeking the independence necessary to recognise “the new and the next” and needing the imprimatur of the establishment. “The Fringe is a house of cards,” Goan says. “It only happens because of goodwill and a nuclear amount of energy and determination. But artists are working for free so much of the time – and we depend on that. Wanting the grown-ups to take notice is about saying ‘it’s not okay that this artist is working for free’. If they had more support they would be better; they would flourish.”
Goan’s tenure has been an illustration of that lesson, and it leaves a pleasing irony: one of the the youngest directors in its history now leaves the Fringe in the most mature state it has known.
The Dublin Fringe Festival runs from
today until September 22, fringefest.com
For full coverage of this year’s festival, see irishtimes.com