Waterford’s annual Imagine Arts Festival, which is in its fifth year, is getting unfair treatment in terms of grant aid, according to one of its chief organisers.Festival Artistic Director Ollie Breslin points to clear inequity between funding provided for Imagine and that available to other festivals around the country. And he supports his argument with statistics.
The Waterford festival, which opens on October 26 and runs to November 5, gets a total of €23,750 this year – €9,000 from the Arts Council, €7,500 from Failte Ireland and €7,250 from the City Council. That’s towards a total estimated cost of €40,000 and the organising committee is already carrying a debt of €6,000.
Mr. Breslin says there is a huge gap between Waterford’s allocation from the Arts Council and that given to other Arts Festivals. For instance, according to his figures, Galway gets €530,000, Kilkenny €437,000, Errigal in Donegal €192,000 and Clonmel €100,000, while Baboro Children’s Festival in Galway receives €212,000.
He acknowledges that those events all need the money, along with further funding from Failte Ireland and the relevant local authorities. But he wonders why Waterford fares so poorly by comparison
He is grateful for the money Imagine is allocated and accepts that €315,000 was granted by the Arts Council this year to Spraoi. But he makes the point that Imagine is a totally separate venture and, like all such events, requires substantial money to make it a success, to make it something special.
‘When you look at our festival brochure’, says Mr. Breslin, ‘you will probably feel it is okay – not great, not awful, just okay. Well the reason it is okay rather than potentially outstanding is attributable simply to the level of funding.
‘People on the outside wouldn’t realise the amount of work that goes into organising the festival – it is nine months of trojan endeavour by an awful lot of volunteers and they deserve equal treatment in financial terms to other groups around the country’.
He said additional funding would facilitate the employment of skilled staff, easing the pressure on the volunteers and at the same time raising Imagine to the standard of a major arts festival. ‘Waterford would reap the benefits of such a festival, within which new work could be created and innovative ideas implemented’, he argued. ‘It would be a boost to local artists and to business and would raise spirits, especially at a time of year when the nights are closing in and things can appear a little gloomier’.
Mr. Breslin identifies the Tall Ships Races as an example of what can be achieved with proper organisation and funding. And his final word on the subject: ‘I know there are plans to create some major festivals in Waterford, with City Council and Failte Ireland support, but I think Imagine deserves more generous treatment, something which the arts community locally should be demanding’.
He extended thanks to various groups who have been supportive, among them Garter Lane Arts Centre, Waterford Film for All, Christ Church Cathedral and Waterford Youth Arts. He also expressed appreciation for the availability of various venues, including Greyfriars and The Granary, as well as all the usual places. And he welcomed two new galleries, Manifesto and Mary Street Gallery, which he said could only be good for the visual arts locally.
Festival information is available on the website www.waterfordartsfestival.com