Thursday, 5 February 2015

A lost moment in funding history

'Our experiment in funding,' remembers the minister for arts and culture, 'was predicated on the audience being the crucial determinant for theatre. We recognised that the spectator was a vital presence in the making of meaning, and spent our money accordingly.'

Having found a wad of cash in a lock-up round the back of some flats, the state promptly sacked the entire arts council and set about distributing vouchers to the citizens. The system offered twelve vouchers to each individual above the age of 12 - children could attend for free if accompanied by an adult - which could be exchanged for tickets at a variety of performances, from circus through to scripted drama. 

'It was an immediate success, at least in terms of attendance. The
majority of people used all twelve vouchers, and a significant minority would see thirty to fifty shows a year, paying full price for their tickets. Live performance became more popular then television within six months.'

The system offered two vouchers for a large scale performance, such as those put on by the national theatre, four for medium scale and six for local events. The vouchers could be used against gigs, tragedy, cabaret nights, although members of the parliament kept using their vouchers for lap dancing.'

'Yes, a black market did evolve,' admits the head of the national theatre. 'Restaurants would accept the vouchers as payment for set meals, then use the vouchers in special offers for other diners. But because the vouchers could only be cashed by artists, they all ended up supporting the arts.'

Apart from the increase in attendance, the type of work that audiences supported evolved. For the first year, the expected companies - the Shakespeare adaptations, the populist theatre, acrobatics and shows offering nudity - dominated. Yet, when the audiences realised that they were not risking their own cash, they became more experimental in their choices.

The president of the Live Art Federation smiles, recalling the latter years of the programme. 'Audiences quadrupled for the kind of theatre we supported. By the final year, we had enough enthusiasts to stage a major festival, the largest in the world, of work more usually seen by two critics and the cringing parents of the artists.'

Sadly, the experiment was abandoned when the country joined the EU. As part of austerity measures, the programme was replaced by a more traditional funding strategy. 

'The whole idea was stupid,' said a MEP. 'Artists are the sole creators of meaning in a work, and their intention is what matters, not the opinion of some bloke off the street.'

1 comment :

  1. Our award winning production, Hamlet (A One Man Play), is a work of theatrical research where the only limit is the text. Just recently Alfredo Padilla has won the Best Actor Award for Hamlet (A One Man Play) in I Festival Carabanchel on Stage, Madrid 2015.
    In this play, the actor explores the possibilities, restructuring the original order of the fable. A bare stage, with no music or special lights or effects, just Shakespeare’s lines and one actor facing the audience. It is a pure theatrical experience.