Funding for arts organisations will fall 8.2% next year


FUNDING FOR Irish arts organisations will be down next year by an average of 8.2 per cent, with theatre, dance and literature coming in for the brunt of the cuts.

State investment, via the Arts Council, in Irish theatre (aside from the Abbey) will be cut by 8.37 per cent next year (from €8.6 million to €7.9 million). Dance overall is down 11 per cent and literature 9.5 per cent, with most of this reduction coming from the complete cut of funding to the Irish Writers' Centre.

Following its own cut to €75.7 million for 2009, an effective reduction of €8.9 million, the Arts Council informed most arts companies of their funding levels this week though the figures will not be generally released until January.

The council had taken a considered and strategic approach to the cuts, said deputy chairman Maurice Foley. It had "sought to maintain the fabric of the arts - the key organisations - across a dozen areas of arts practice, and to guarantee people across the country an opportunity to experience the best of the arts in 2009".

Many arts companies are maintained at last year's funding levels or have small cuts, but others have had quite big drops and a handful of organisations have lost their funding altogether. Some 352 organisations got funding, 34 got an increase, 93 got the same funding as in 2008 and 241 companies face grant cuts.

Among the winners are the National Chamber Choir, whose increase in funding from €365,000 to €400,000 follows its loss of funding from RTÉ. Most venues have fared reasonably well as the council is anxious to maintain the network at local level.

Regularly funded visual arts organisations have generally received the funding they expected - these include the Butler Gallery in Kilkenny (up from €206,000 to €216,000) and the National Irish Visual Arts Library up (from €80,000 to €93,000).

The strategy with theatre (apart from the Abbey, which has been cut by 16.5 per cent to €8.3 million) seems to have been to maintain the four bigger companies: Druid, the Gate, Rough Magic and the Dublin Theatre Festival. Other theatre companies have taken a greater-than-average hit. Three theatre companies are thought to have lost funding altogether.

Galloglass Theatre Company in south Tipperary is among them. It reacted with shock and disbelief and was "staggered by the harshness of this decision", said chairwoman Ethel Reynolds. "Given the economic climate, we had anticipated a cut in funding but nothing as drastic as a total cut."

Larger organisations in opera, too, have fared better than the smaller groups. The Cork-based company Opera 2005, which last year had an annual programming grant of €110,000, has been cut completely. The Irish Writers' Centre on Parnell Square also had its funding cut completely, from €200,000 last year. It was told in November it would have a cut of €30,000, to €170,000.

The centre, which supports and promotes writers, has had what director Cathal McCabe describes as "probably the best year in our history". The centre was stunned by the cut, especially as it was told by the council in April that it was "absolutely integral to the fabric of supports for writers in Ireland", said McCabe. "We are mystified."

The writers' centre has had hundreds of messages of disappointment from writers and the public, he said.

The council is understood to have opted to maintain larger organisations this year, as they give more employment to artists, offer more work for the public, and have larger infrastructures and long-term commitments. The implication seems to be that they may face cuts in the future.

The council confirmed an increase in the Aosdána cnuas to €20,000 a year by 2010, despite reduced resources. And money has been set aside for bursaries during the year for individual writers, dancers and visual artists.

"We sought to maximise the resources available, cutting the council's operating costs by 20 per cent as well as seeking the best artistic value for money and the most local impact," Mr Foley said.

Who gets what

Abbey Theatre€8.35m (-16.5%)

Other theatre€7.96m (-8.37%)

Visual arts€5.06m (-3.71%)

Music€4.86m (-3.51%)

Opera€3.94m (-3.94%)

Dance€3.15m (-11.12%

Film€2.39m (-1.68%)

Literature€2.28m (-9.53%)

Traditional arts€1.51m (-0.26%

Street art€.823m (-5.95%)

Circus€.244m (-0.00%

Architecture€.168m (-0.00%)

TOTAL€40.77m (-8.20%)