In view of the lack of official comment about the possible demise of the Light Opera Festival before it’s long expected 50th Year, it is worth looking back to see what Waterford City Council officials said on the matter in the past and this links in with the general unhappiness being expressed by the recent Imagine Festival, who feel aggrieved about the serious reduction in their funding/support from Waterford City Council this year.
Imagine wrote to the City Council about the reduction from €6,000 in 2008 to €3,400 this year – almost a fifty percent cut. In that letter they indicated that the present City Manager, Michael Walsh (when he was head of planning) indicated a need for three major arts festivals and that the city would put serious money into these three event. This gave rise to the possibility that the Opera Festival, as people knew it, would be a casualty to progress.
Imagine went ahead and held exploratory talks with smaller events to merge into an Autumn arts events. They nailed their colours to the pole and improved their own 2008 Festival in so many fruitful and imaginative ways but now feel abandoned. So much so that they expressed to City Council as follows – It seems a waste of resources that the city continues to fund a number of small festivals, e.g. the Sean Dunne Literary festival, to a level we believe is €30,000, while it could be brought together with the other festivals e.g. Waterford Fringe / Imagine / WIFLO / New Music Week and create one decent arts festival for the city.
Imagine, by 1 April, were so unhappy that they went on to describe events as – the strange shenanigans with City Council and the possibility of a decent arts festival. Such was their unrest that they went on to state – it seems ludicrous that the city continues to fund SDLF to the extent of €30,000 and it is going nowhere.
When I got copies of this correspondence and permission to quote from it, I spoke to the Arts Office, who referred me further, so I e-mailed the City Manager on 16th April and asked for clarification and indicated the points involved in Imagine’s letters. I also asked about the future of the Opera Festival. Needless to say, no reply was received.
The questions still remain and need addressing. Surely one person can speak for City Council. During the Sean Dunne festivals, when I wanted a quote about a rival festival I was referred by the Arts Office to two senior librarians and still no definite comment.
The arts are in a precarious position and lack of intent and clarification creates a vacuum of despondency. The UK Arts Council ACE, in response to the recession, fast-tracked a £40 Million fud called Sustain open to all non-commercial arts bodies who will receive a decision within six weeks. Arts and Business research in the UK has shown that 40 percent of arts organisations have experienced a drop in public funding; 63 percent are experiencing lower rates of private funding and 43 percent are suffering decreased support from trusts and foundations. Our site is the right place to shop for most trusted, high quality medications!
ACE have also made £500,000 available for Town Centres Initiative, which aims to enable artistic activities to take place in empty retail spaces.