Report: Money well spent on festivals

THE economic impact of two of the biggest Irish arts festivals comes to €8.4m – worth an equivalent of 67 full-time jobs to their local economies, says an Ulster Bank report analysing its arts sponsorship portfolio.

This study of the Dublin Theatre Festival (DTF) and the Belfast Festival at Queen’s (BFQ), both events sponsored by Ulster Bank, offers some insight into the work-creating value to the economy of Ireland’s estimated 10,000 annual festivals. That said, it’s not all about money, insists one leading arts figure.

Stuart McLaughlin, CEO of the sponsorship advocacy body Business to Arts, says: “The economic impact is important, but the impact on the community is just as important. Artistic integrity is an essential part of the Irish brand. We’d be a poorer nation without it.

“With this Ulster Bank report, we focus primarily on the economic impact, and we have aimed to be fairly prudent. Sometimes when people talk about funding in reports, they often play up the economic impact, but their figures do not always stand up to scrutiny. We have sought to deliver realistic figures.

“The bigger festivals draw a lot of visitors from overseas, and they bring in a big international corporate presence, but they are primarily about local cultural entity.”

The Shining the light on Successful Sponsorships report, conducted for Ulster Bank by PwC, found the DTF was worth €4.53m, or 36 full-time jobs, to Dublin, while the BFQ had a €3.85m impact, or the equivalent of creating 31 jobs for Belfast.

Non-labour expenditures at the festivals in 2009 was around €4m, the largest category of which was production costs, including artist wages, accommodation, subsistence and venue costs, accounting for over €2m, 64% of total spend.

A general festival yardstick is the costs should be evenly split – a third from the box office, a third from public funding, and a third from sponsorship or philanthropy. Figures for the DTF last year were very close to the ideal split – 43% public monies; 30% box office; and 27% sponsorship or philanthropy. Sponsorship covered 22% of the costs of the BFQ.

Ulster Bank Dublin Theatre Festival artistic director, Loughlin Deegan, said: “This clearly demonstrates not only how important Ulster Bank’s sponsorship is to the festival, but also the impact it has on the city of Dublin and Ireland as a whole.

“Ulster Bank’s support enables the festival to showcase the best Irish work, ensuring we maintain Ireland’s international reputation for excellence in the performing arts.”

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