€300k in Abbey Theatre funding frozen pending assurances over employment opportunities

It comes in the wake of concerns raised by 300 theatre professionals

€300k in Abbey Theatre funding frozen pending assurances over employment opportunities

File photo of Abbey Theatre. Photo: Sam Boal/RollingNews.ie

The Arts Council says it has withheld €300,000 in funding for the Abbey Theatre pending assurances about 'employment opportunities' for Irish-based artists.

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It comes in the wake of more than 300 actors, directors and playwrights writing to the Culture Minister to express their "concern and dissatisfaction" with the direction that the Abbey Theatre has taken.

The theatre professionals claim the change in strategy - to include many more co-productions with independent theatre companies and fewer in-house productions - is damaging Irish theatre.

The letter claims there will have been no Ireland-based actor in an Abbey Theatre production on an Abbey stage for the five-and-a-half months between September 2018 and February this year.

The signatories - who include high-profile figures such as Aidan Gillen, Ruth Negga and Tom Vaughan-Lawlor - wrote: "We respectfully ask that the national theatre engages in a greater percentage of in-house productions, as opposed to coproductions or buy-ins. It is the proportion which is so damaging, so heedless."

In a statement this afternoon, the Arts Council said: "In recent months the Arts Council has sought assurances from the National Theatre as to the quality of employment opportunities it provides for Irish based artists, including remuneration at Abbey rates. The Abbey is now required to evidence the range and nature of these opportunities.

"As with all Arts Council funding, support to the Abbey in 2019 will be based on a funding agreement. €300,000 has been withheld pending confirmation that these conditions have been met."

In a statement cited by The Irish Times, the Abbey has said it takes the concerns raised in the letter very seriously, and plans to meet with representatives of the professionals to discuss the issues.