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Wednesday, January 25, 2006
By Ian Kilroy
THE Abbey Theatre has landed the biggest grant of its history with the Arts Council awarding it €25.7 million for the next three years.
This year’s round of revenue funding, announced yesterday, is the biggest single grant the Arts Council has ever awarded and marks the first time that the National Theatre has received a three-year funding package.
The institution was on the brink of bankruptcy last year after running up substantial, unforeseen debts. Those debts were cleared with funding from the Department of Arts, so the new grant will not go to service debt.
The €25.7m will be spent on new productions and the running costs of the theatre over three years: €7.2m this year, and €8.5m and €10m in 2007 and 2008.
The money will not go towards the provision of a new building for the National Theatre, which is planned for 2009.
The grant represents an increase of around 43% in funding for the Abbey, but is believed to be less than the Abbey asked for in its application.
While Abbey director Fiach Mac Conghail would not confirm details of the Abbey’s application, he would say that "this year will be tight", even in light of the grant.
Mr Mac Conghail recently argued that the Abbey has traditionally been under- funded to fulfil its brief.
Chairwoman of the Arts Council Olive Braiden credited additional funding from the Department of Arts for making the grant possible.
"This three-year arrangement with the theatre should allow the Abbey to progress with its core function of providing the highest quality theatre as an expression of national artistic vibrancy," Ms Braiden said.
Mr MacConghail said the grant was "a substantial endorsement of the artistic policy and the change process within the organisation" of the theatre.
Mr MacConghail has introduced new measures since taking up his post to ensure the theatre doesn’t run into financial difficulties in the future.
The Abbey grant is just part of a total €51m give-away by the Arts Council in revenue funding this year. Details of the allocation of the remainder of the money will be announced this Friday.
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