November 15th 2007
Local Theatre & Dance companies axed
With no permanent theatre or dance companies existing on Magnetic Island, it is necessary to travel to Townsville for live theatre. Such a cultural experience is now under threat following a decision by Arts Queensland to axe funding to Townsville's Tropic Sun theatre and Extensions Dance Company.
According to Tropic Sun sources, "This means that one-third of the City's cultural organisations, with a combined total of 41 years service to the Townsville community, are in serious danger of being closed down.
Arts Queensland this week wrote to Tropic Sun and Extensions Dance Company, Townsville's youth dance company, with the news that it would no longer fund them.
According to Tropic Sun's spokesperson, no reasons were given other than that 19 other companies throughout Queensland had received no funding.
"This is shattering for Townsville," the spokesperson said.
"One wonders if any thought has been given to the fact that large cities such as ours need all aspects of culture," the spokesperson said. "A city this size must have professional theatre. Townsville deserves it. "
Tropic Sun Theatre is the passion of Artistic Director, Dr Jean-Pierre Voos, a director with a distinguished international reputation.
Acting Arts Minister Margaret Keech however claimed the new funding model, s2m, signalled a new era for the Queensland's arts companies.
"These funding arrangements are about breathing new life into the small to medium arts sector, by supporting the entry of new organisations into the mix," Ms Keech said.
"It delivers $8.462 million in 2008 to 43 Queensland arts companies delivering music, dance, visual arts, design craft, new media, writing and theatre.
"The s2m program is designed to revitalise and sustain the sector, and accordingly, seven arts companies will be receiving funding support for the first time in 2008.
"These companies are Clocked Out Productions, Topology, Zen Zen Zo, Multimedia Art Asia Pacific (MAAP), Queensland Centre for Photography, Brisbane Cabaret Festival and Swell Currumbin Sculpture Festival."
But according to Tropic Sun's spokesperson, "Brisbane has yet again penalized the regions and tried to shut down an important part of culture in Townsville, the fastest growing city in Australia.
Ms Keech said the new funding framework was announced in May, replacing an unsustainable system which had no flexibility to address new opportunities.
"Arts Queensland went through a rigorous decision making process regarding recommendations for funding, drawing on the knowledge and experience of arts industry experts," she said.
"Arts companies were consulted thoroughly during this process, including letters to inform them of the new funding guidelines, and a series of meetings and workshops.
"While some arts companies will have their funding reduced under the new arrangements, s2m will provide valuable opportunities for dynamic new companies and organisations to enter the market."
Ms Keech said the Government maintained its overall funding of $9.6 million to the small to medium sector - the highest funding level in the country.
Tropic Sun is now planning to use the decision to reach out to the community and local businesses in an attempt to achieve financial independence.
It is at present developing a Fight Back Campaign to galvanize Townsville, and especially Townsville businesses, to support this cause. The Company needs to raise $300,000 if it is to fulfill the ambitious plans it has outlined for 2008.
Tropic Sun Theatre has been celebrating its 21st year this year with sellout seasons of Shakespeare's Othello and The Dresser; and Oedipus the King has tours organised with festivals around Australia and Japan. "
Provided the much needed finance can be found from Townsville business, plans for 2008 include an "under-the-stars" production of Richard III; a new Theatre Festival; a play commissioned to be set in Townsville, and written and developed locally; as well as a professional development program for young actors, designers and technicians, as well as youth and regional development programs.
"We cannot overstress the urgency of our beginning the Fight Back Campaign - it is a terrible time of year for this to happen, and we simply cannot wait and see if a government department might reconsider the folly of its decision. The company must survive if it is to fulfill its duty to the Townsville community - and with the help of the community we will survive," said the spokesperson.
" The ultimate challenge for Townsville business is - are we prepared to allow Brisbane to do this to us once again - or are we are prepared to get behind Fight Back and make sure that our own professional theatre survives?"
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