Review of Abbey Theatre’s funding

The Arts Council yesterday announced that it is to carry out a major root and branch independent review of the operations of the Abbey Theatre.

The agency is seeking consultants to carry out the review of the national theatre, which receives by far the highest amount of any Arts Council-supported organisation.

This year, the Abbey received €7.1m in Arts Council funding. The next highest recipient is Wexford Festival Opera, which received €1.38m.

The €7.1m the Abbey received compares to €976,000 for the Gate Theatre and €820,000 for Druid Theatre company.

Between 2011 and 2013, the Abbey received €21.3m from the Arts Council.

A spokesman for the council said yesterday: “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 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”.

The review will examine “fixed costs, including staff costs and the cost of operating the building; staffing levels, the balance between permanent and temporary staff; employment of actors and terms and conditions of employment”.

The Arts Council states: “In overall terms, the review should consider the extent to which the Abbey achieves its mission, with particular reference to its role and responsibilities as the national theatre.”

The spokesman explained that the Arts Council funding is now one-third of what it was in 2008, “so the council is adapting as best it can to get the best value possible for the taxpayer”.

Abbey Theatre director Fiach Mac Conghail, who is currently on a fundraising trip in the US, said he welcomed the review.

“All areas of public life are suffering in this recession. The Abbey Theatre is no different. As of this year, our Arts Council funding has reduced by almost 30% since 2008 and is likely to be reduced further in 2014. This will challenge our ability to maintain our high level of artistic activity across our stages at home and abroad.’

He revealed: “The management and board of the Abbey Theatre have worked closely with the Arts Council to agree the scope and purpose of the review. This independent review will achieve a shared understanding of what is achievable during 2014-2016 which mark important years in Irish life and in the Abbey Theatre’s own history.”

The report is due to be completed by next April.


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