A couple of years ago I had to end a business relationship with an old friend. Something I would rather not have done. However, it was necessary when I realised that that person’s company wasn’t a company. It was a legal fiction, necessary if he was to receive grants and commissions, it had no assets, no investors, and no long term plan. It did one thing (one set of tasks) and repeated it again and again – whenever it got a grant or a commission. Essentially this friend did one thing and hawked that skill around: they were a freelancer. Not a company. Not really. And this came as a shock to them.
As Peter Brook once remarked, theatre is now, and always has been, in crisis. Whatever the nature of the continuing existential threat that Brook Identified the truth is that theatre in Ireland (as in many other parts of the world) is facing a sustained economic and ideological challenge that will change how we conceive of, create, and experience theatre.
In Joss Whedon’s film, Serenity, the character River Tam is a psychic. She’s also a trained killer and very probably psychotic. She’s plagued by a memory she can’t quite get to the surface. In one of her many breakdowns she cries out to her brother: “It’s not mine. Its not mine and I shouldn’t have to carry it” Psychologically speaking the relationship between artists and the arts funding model in this country – and I suspect elsewhere – is pretty similar. The funding model with its power structures, bureaucracies and instrumental priorities is not mine, and I shouldn’d have to to carry it. And its driving us insane. In short the funding model does not support imagination and creativity. It defines it and constrains it. From a business point of view, it should be the other way round. In other words the funding model contradicts itself.