A red herring in Abbey talks

 

Sir, – The Abbey Theatre executive’s attempt to dispute professionally taken notes of independently mediated meetings with representatives of theatre workers (Home News, December 12th) is clearly a red herring aimed at deflecting attention from the larger issues of concern. We entered this process, discussing our concerns around the negative effects of the Abbey’s new model of programming, in good faith, but the 2020 programme released by the Abbey Theatre is clear evidence that they did not. Having only 38 job opportunities for actors directly employed by the Abbey Theatre in production, three opportunities for freelance directors and staging one new play in our National Theatre in 2020, a theatre built by writers and actors, is unacceptable.

In the current climate where the arts are so clearly under-resourced, well below the European average, the Abbey Theatre’s usage of its large proportion of public arts council funding is inhibiting our arts ecosystem rather than helping to support and sustain it. By continuing with the high level of co-productions the Abbey is receiving double funding and detracting funds and productions from the rest of the industry, ultimately creating less diversity and choice for audiences overall. A model heavy in co-productions and presentations means fewer productions elsewhere. If the Abbey self-produced more shows and some of the scheduled presentations or co-productions were staged in one of our other fine venues this would offer audiences a diverse range of shows to attend.

We also note with dismay (Abbey Theatre director) Neil Murray’s comment on RTÉ’s Six One News (December 11th) that the 2020 programme has been welcomed by artists and the artistic community. This clearly dismisses the ongoing concerns of the 427 signatories we represent, highlighting the gulf between the current theatre executive and the artistic community.

We have engaged with the executive, for 11 months, on these pressing issues of grave concern to our sector and have completed this formal process of independent facilitation. Our requests do not impinge on any “artistic independence” of the theatre, as suggested by Minister for Culture Josepha Madigan and Neil Murray, but simply ask to address a programming policy that is affecting employment opportunities and the entire ecology of theatre in this country.

We once again call upon the board of the Abbey Theatre, the Arts Council and the Minister for Culture, Ms Madigan to address our concerns as outlined in our most recent letter of December 10th. – Yours, etc,

JANE BRENNAN (Actor),

EOGHAN CARRICK

(Director), ANNABELLE

COMYN (Director),

DECLAN CONLON (Actor),

LORCAN CRANITCH

(Actor), CLÍONA DUKES

(Producer), CATHERINE

FAY (Designer),

GERALDINE MCALINDEN

(Actor & Director),

MARGARET MCAULIFFE

(Actor), MAUREEN

MCGLYNN (Agent), JIMMY

MURPHY (Writer), JOE

O’BYRNE (Writer),

ROSEANNA PURCELL

(Actor), JONATHAN

SHANKEY (Agent),

C/o Dublin 12.