Downstage funding plea
Downstage will ask Wellington City Council this week for $90,000 to get the theatre through the next six months.
Last month the theatre suddenly cancelled shows for the rest of the year and said it was in serious financial trouble.
Chief executive and director Hilary Beaton says Downstage is asking council to support its long term plan to secure the theatre’s position in Wellington.
“We need more infrastructure funding and we’re calling on the Wellington City Council to come in as a partner,” Beaton says.
“It will enable us to stabilise the company and allow us to get on with the business of producing innovative theatre.”
Meanwhile, the Wellington Mayoral Forum is a proposing the establishment of a regional amenities fund to invest in events and attractions that contribute to the region’s quality of life and economy. The intention is to start with a $2 million fund in 2013-14, increasing by $250,000 each year until an agreed cap is reached. Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says the amenities fund would create new attractions and safeguard the future of existing events and amenities.
“This fund is essential,” Wade-Brown says. “We can’t afford not to have it.”
A council spokesman said the fund could be used to secure the likes of Downstage. A similar fund in Auckland provides $1.4 million for theatres in that city while in Wellington the council currently only funds theatres to the tune of $33,000 each year.
The council has agreed to push ahead with the amenities fund proposal and the Mayoral Forum will consider feedback from all councils in the region next month before consulting with the public.
Despite recent setbacks Downstage is planning for the future and is expected to be back producing theatre in April. Hilary Beaton says Creative New Zealand had offered a contract with increased funding of $25,000 for 2012-2013, and the theatre had seen increasing audience numbers.
“Since 2008 we have increased our audience by 2,000 each year, we’ve diversified the demography of that audience, and we’ve doubled the number of freelance artists we employ.:
Beaton says the theatre had been hit by a series of events including reduced funding from Creative New Zealand, the world economic recession and the World Cup.
Other theatres in Wellington have reported lacklustre houses during the RWC failing to attract the expected tourist dollars.
Beaton says the building continues to be used as a venue for hire, as well as for dance classes, play readings, and as a rehearsal space by Bats Theatre.
“Then we have the New Zealand International Arts Festival coming up in February and our first new production in April.”
The theatre is also planning a major fundraising event next month with a big line up of artists, auctions and prizes.
“I’m optimistic about the future of Downstage. This is a good news story,” Beaton says