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Theatre Network NSW considers options for its survival

Theatre Network NSW considers options for its survival
May 6, 2019

Theatre Network NSW (TNN), the state’s peak body for providing back end support and advocacy for small to medium-sized theatre companies and professionals received only 60% of its annual program funding ($50,000 of the $82,000 requested) from Create NSW in the latest Arts and Cultural Organisations program round, and consequently cannot continue operating unless additional income is secured. The agency is now considering a merger and downsizing to stay afloat.

TNN was established five years ago to help theatre independents across western Sydney and regional NSW navigate questions of wellbeing, gender equity, professional development, funding and access to or sharing of resources - practically everything unseen by audiences.

A members’ forum held in Sydney last Wednesday discussed a number of options for the organisation’s future. 

TNN has been advised that it is unlikely to receive further Create NSW funding unless it can significantly increase its income streams from alternative sources. TNN currently receives just 10% of its income through membership and other services and 40% of its total costs as in-kind partnerships for office space, website design, and venue hire.

Artshub reports that st the forum, arts administrator Bronwyn Edinger stepped down as Chair, with playwright and director Nick Atkins elected to the position. The mood at the forum was optimistic, with many of those present suggested a range of options for the organisation’s short term and long term future.

“TNN has a renewed sense of purpose and urgency,” said Atkins.

“We can’t continue the way we have been operating. We are determined to address the fairness gap when it comes to support and advocacy for companies and artists working across the spectrum of theatre practice in NSW. We need time to make a series of clear and sustainable decisions. Our next step is to utilise our resources and those we can attract to carve out enough time for us to make these decisions,” said Atkins. 

''We stand up for the little guy to make sure the interests of the artist working in an independent show or in a small company are represented,'' added Atkins.

Addressing the need to raise $32,000 in the coming months, Atkins said a number of strategies were being considered: ‘We will call on short term financial support from individuals and organisations who want to be part of making theatre in NSW a fairer and more creative sector. We will also look closely at our current operations and seek to find any ways in which we might temporarily structure our organisation to buy us that critical time we need.’ 

Most of TNN’s income for programming and services comes via the NSW Government's Arts and Cultural Organisations program.  This financial year $4,030,000 was awarded to 53 of the 63 organisations who applied, slightly less than the $4.2million distributed the previous 12 months.

‘There are a significant amount of new Board members who have stepped up to support the organisation in this moment of transition. Because of this change, it’s too early to articulate what our long term plan looks like,’ said Atkins.

‘We are currently balancing the necessary reality of closure with a determination to do everything we can to resist this course of action. We appreciate the support of our members, community and the vision of the artists and arts workers who brought TNN into being,’ he added.

''If a philanthropist walked in with enough support to keep us going three days a week we wouldn't be having this discussion but it's easier said than done,'' said Director Jane Kreis.

Atkins said he couldn't say that closure was not a possibility but ''we are determined to do everything we can to remain open and active''.

The first meeting of the new TNN Board was held last Thursday, with Kreis noting: “The new board came together in such a coherent, creative and determined way and are immediately actioning some short term and long term strategies. Obviously we can’t know what the outcomes of that will be. But the passion, commitment and outright cleverness is there.

“For TNN, the focus is always about addressing sector need though shared and unified strengths. That is not going to change but perhaps the way that is resourced is going to have to if TNN is to continue,” she concluded.

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29th January 2015 - Theatre Network NSW appoints inaugural director

19th August 2013 - Australia Council reveals key trends for performing arts

15th October 2018 - Australian Cultural Ministers release consultation on future Major Performing Arts funding

5th August 2010 - Election Messages for the Performing Arts

12th August 2018 - PAC Australia announces 2018 Drover Award finalists

22nd January 2015 - Australian Theatre Forum addresses contemporary issues in Australian theatre

27th January 2015 - Theatre Forum proclaims ‘Motion of No Confidence’ in the Australian Government

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