Artful funding needed from private patrons

Slingby Theatre Company’s latest production of The Young King. Photographer Andy Rasheed.
Creative producer Dan Clancey says government funding is not the only way to pay for the arts but others disagree. Annelise Answerth reports.


Society needs to be prepared to pay for the arts and not just rely on government funding, leading creative producer Dan Clancey says.

Clancey has been producing theatre and outdoor events for the past 12 years, through both funded and non-funded organisations.

“The idea that we have to have government funding or we can’t do it, is not right, there are thousands of companies doing it without,” he said.

“Yes it should have government support, but people need to be prepared to pay for it.”

Regional Arts Victoria general manager, Joe Toohey, does not agree. “So many of the artists and producers that we work with, rely on funding to support their work.”

“It should be the role of the government to ensure those benefits reach out and allow everyone to see art.

“It keeps the arts accessible to people who might not be able to access it,” he said.

The recent announcement of the first round Catalyst grant recipients and the reduction of grants from the Australia Council of the Arts have left groups without any federal funding.

“The way that funding policy has been managed in the last 12 to 18 months has created a fair bit of uncertainty through adapting the Catalyst program,” said Toohey.

The Australia Council of the Arts stopped the long term funding of 65 organisations, due to the $60 million cut to its funds over four years, with $12 million going to the Catalyst program.

Adelaide-based theatre company Slingsby Theatre Company is one of the 65 – it did not receiving Australia Council funding for first time since 2010.

“It has allowed us to plan long term and build relationships and look into our future and that’s the beauty of stable funding,” said Slingsby’s artistic director Andy Packer.

“What does disappear is the ability to create new work, so we have to find new resources … so more time spent chasing resources and less time making good art,” he said.

“People are quite alarmed when you explain, how much it costs to make a piece of theatre, it’s quite confronting,” Packer said.

“There’s a lot that happens behind the scenes, it’ll take 10 to 12 hours to write the play, then the costumes, sets and props and then we have to plot it,” said Clancey.

The Confederation of Australian State Theatre Companies (CAST) has called for the Government to reconsider its funding decisions.

“These cuts have an impact just as dramatic and negative as the arts industry has feared and will cause irreparable damage across the sector,” said the CAST executive council in a statement.

Toohey, Clancey and Packer emphasised the relevance and importance of arts in today’s society.

“We’re surrounded by art but we begin to fail to recognise it and the role it plays in our happiness and sense of belonging to each other,” Packer said.

“We’re fighting so we can have the arts. No one wants to get rid of the arts, but there’s an imbalance of what they are prepared to do,” said Clancey.