Awash with government funding to support the arts during Covid, the Arts Council of Ireland has slashed our funding to zero.
The Arts Council states: ‘Within the changed cultural climate of the present day, where festivals and theatres across the country are now including high quality ‘LGBTQIA+ focused theatre’ in their programme, the IGDTF [sic] mission and recent festival iteration to ‘celebrate LGBT identity through theatre in a dialogue with mainstream society’ appears less compelling in the competitive context of FIS funding. It could also be argued that the organisation’s aim ‘to foster diversity and equality’ is hampered by its corralling of the work of LGBTQ artists within the narrower frame of the ‘gay theatre’ brand’.
IDGTF states: So, there you have it! This is what we have been putting up with along with Covid! Heteronormative society says a community celebrating LGBTQ+ identity through theatre, curated and presented by LGBTQ+ people is no longer necessary as ‘straight’ events now do what we do. Equally, celebrating LGBTQ+ people and their stories in a safe and welcoming environment somehow ‘hampers diversity and equality’… Had this discriminatory nonsense been written in the last century, you could put it down to the prejudice and ignorance of earlier times, but clearly, there is an absence of understanding of diversity, equality and positive action. The right of minority groups to define and celebrate their own identity is essential to diverse theatre and a pluralist society. The don’t get that.
We asked the Council to evidence this ‘analysis’ that everyone else does gay theatre now, under the Freedom of Information Act. We have been told that no studies or comparisons exist to substantiate their bizarre claim. They haven’t undertaken an equality audit or assessed access to theatre by LGBTQ+ artists at all.
In the meantime, grant applicants like us are asked for tomes of evidence of everything they say and do… We provided strong evidence of our recent activities – books, bursaries and online plays that supported artists at this time of crisis. We provided detailed future plans and powerful testimonies from our artists and partners. This was acknowledged and then dismissed by the Council in favour of their own non-evidenced opinion.
It is likely our Festival is the only, still viable, arts event that has had support refused, at a time when Government has provided an extra 50 million euros to support recovery in the sector.
You can make your own views known to the members of the Arts Council and your local representatives if you wish.
The evidence we have accumulated to combat two years of cuts and now abolition, has persuaded the Ombudsman to open a case for investigation into this personalised travesty. We await the outcome of that investigation.
Arts Council Director Maureen Kennelly welcomed the Council’s additional funding, stating:
“People working within the arts have shown remarkable resilience, imagination and compassion during the pandemic. The return to presentation of work for the public is happening steadily and carefully and it is vital that we protect the sector as it emerges. With this increased investment, high quality work can be made and can reach the public safely. It will also help us ensure that people from all backgrounds in every part of the country will have the opportunity to participate in and experience the arts.”
We look forward to a time when the actions of the Arts Council match, rather than directly contradict, their noble words.