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Our work cut out

Ireland is famous for theatre, but funding cuts could change that, key figures warn

The prevailing feeling throughout the theatre community is one of shock: despite having known that cuts were imminent, the severity of some of the decisions made by the Arts Council -- with the Corn Exchange's 48% cut in funding chief among them -- has the sector reeling. Three practitioners give HQ some insight into what the theatre world is thinking and feeling.

Jo Mangan, Artistic Director, The Performance Corporation

"Irish theatre has just suffered a huge blow which will have a profound impact on our country's cultural life for years. Many of my colleagues have had their life's work and their livelihoods annihilated overnight without being offered any realistic way of continuing to create work for Irish audiences. Those of us left standing are in a perilous position after suffering successive cuts.

We all knew that cuts were coming and were prepared to share the 'pain'. But what has happened does not appear to be underpinned by a clear or coherent strategy. The great and the good have talked a lot recently about selling 'Brand Ireland' through arts and culture; this all now sounds a bit hollow. Ireland may not realise it, but it needs independent theatre. It is the seed bed for theatrical exports which directly help to promote cultural tourism.

Tom Creed, Associate Director, Rough Magic Theatre Company

"It's important to acknowledge that the Arts Council has committed 20% of available funding for projects, bursaries and other awards. However, it is important that these funding schemes are advertised soon, and that the application process is streamlined and sped up, so that we can get on with the business of making work.

If the Arts Council aspires to dismantle the existing theatre infrastructure somewhat, it needs to support far-sighted, alternative models, such as Project Arts Centre. I am especially disappointed to hear that Project has been cut more severely than most other venues when it has actively been providing support for years to many artists who work outside the revenue-funding system."

David Horan, Artistic Director, Bewley's Cafe Theatre

"The Arts Council had an incredibly difficult job to do this year. They have promised to provide sufficiently for one-off Project Awards in 2010, and it's important that it does because it's the only way emerging artists can work. We have to support the writers, actors and directors coming up.

The Arts Council has also promised to start a Touring Fund. If it targets successful work and that work is sent to the right venues around the country, this could do a lot for Irish theatre . Great accessible theatre happens all the time, but it's not seen by enough people. Hopefully, that will change now." - SC


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