Monday 22 December 2014

Consultants from UK to conduct new Abbey Theatre review

Gordon Deegan

Published 11/02/2014 | 02:30

Fiach Mac Conghail: Abbey Theatre director.
Fiach Mac Conghail: Abbey Theatre director.

The Arts Council has recruited a UK-based management consultancy firm to carry out a root-and-branch independent review of the operations of the Abbey Theatre.

The London-based company, Bonnar Keelyside, which works across the arts, heritage and wider cultural sector, started its work yesterday and is expected to conclude by the end of April.

A spokesman for the Arts Council said that the costs associated with the contract were yet "to be determined".

Bonnar Keelyside has previously carried out work relating to cultural event planning for the London Olympics.

The start of the review coincides with a recent deterioration in relations between the Arts Council and the Abbey after the Arts Council released critical evaluations of Abbey productions in response to a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

Last month, director of the Abbey Theatre, senator Fiach Mac Conghail, said that it was "insensitive of the Arts Council to release this information without duty of care to the artists in question", stating that he had pleaded with the council not to release the reports.

This year, the Abbey Theatre has had its Arts Council funding cut by €600,000 from €7.1m to €6.5m. Between 2011 and 2013, the Abbey Theatre received €21.3m from the Arts Council.

A spokesman for the Arts Council said: "The review will provide an independent, professional assessment of the current business model of the Abbey, taking into account the extent to which this is shaped and influenced by the organisation's artistic activities. It will identify if the theatre could be operated in a more efficient manner.

"If so, advice provided by the review may indicate how the resources available to the Abbey could be used to generate additional artistic and programming outputs, thereby generating a better return on the public investment."

The spokesman pointed out: "The Arts Council is the principal funder of the Abbey and is committed to supporting the organisation in its role as the national theatre."

SAVINGS

The review is to include "an examination of the current level and recent trends in costs and staffing resources and consider if alternative approaches have the potential to yield cost savings".

A spokeswoman for the Abbey said: "We welcome this review as it will increase the Arts Council's understanding of how we plan and operate our business and what it takes to deliver on the scale that we do currently."

The management and board of the Abbey Theatre have worked closely with the Arts Council to agree the scope and purpose of the review.

Irish Independent

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