Round of applause as White takes festival helm


SMALL PRINTS:THE NEWS THAT Willie White, below, has been appointed artistic director and chief executive of the Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival was greeted with heartfelt congratulations from the theatre community.

White has been at the helm of the Project Arts Centre in Temple Bar for the past nine years. It’s a brave appointment, perhaps one of intention, as White, who also founded the Loose Canon Theatre Company and Irish Theatre Magazine, is definitely part of the new school of Irish theatre. White will replace Loughlin Deegan, who is moving on to become the first director of Lir, the national academy of dramatic art.

White has earned enormous respect from young theatre-makers and audiences, championing director Wayne Jordan and the enfants terriblesof the theatre scene, Theatreclub.

Positive, practical, encouraging and laden with common sense, White has been a both a rock and rocket fuel for a new generation of writers, directors and actors during his near-decade at the Project. “In a way we’re in a more exciting time than we were [during the boom years],” White says of the current situation in theatre and creativity in general, “People have shown themselves to be a little bit beaten down but also resourceful. Some people aren’t on bond watch, they’re thinking about other things. Some people are just getting on with it.”

White admits that his “head is still in the Project” but has begun to think about the “broader performance” a festival offers in terms of planning. “You’ve got to cater to different audiences.”

Of course the biggest challenge in the coming years will be maintaining funding. “Looking at the environment at the moment it is more challenging but it [the festival] is a good cultural event that people value. A festival has unique possibilities and it’s an attractive proposition. It’s a venerable old organisation,” White says.