Archive for April 29th, 2009

2008 Stewart Parker Award

29th April 2009 by Maura McHugh

The 2008 Stewart Parker Award for new playwrights was awarded to Newry playwright Abbie Spallen last week at an event in the Abbey Theatre attended by President Mary McAleese.

Two further awards – The BBC Northern Ireland Radio Drama Award and The BBC Northern Ireland Irish Language Drama Award – were awarded to Elaine Murphy and Seán Ó Morónaigh respectively.

Set up in honour of the late Belfast playwright, Stewart Parker, the Stewart Parker Trust seeks to encourage new writing for the theatre in Ireland.

This year marks the 21st anniversary of Parker’s death and the 20th year of the Awards.

Abbey Finances Healthy

29th April 2009 by Maura McHugh

An article on the Irish Times today summarises the latest report on the state of the Abbey Theatre’s finances from 2006-2008, which was launched yesterday.

During that three-year period the Abbey Theatre received a record investment of €25.7 million from the Arts Council through the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism to alleviate a fiscal crisis. The national theatre is expected to move to its new home in George’s Dock by 2016, according to the Minister of State Martin Mansergh.

The report, which makes a strong case for reorganisation and State investment, points to the radical restructuring of the company under director Fiach Mac Conghail, an increase in attendance of 19 per cent between 2006 and 2008, and the redesign and improvement of its main auditorium in 2007. It also cites the theatre’s re-engagement and collaboration with Irish and international writers such as Marina Carr, Roddy Doyle, Brian Friel, Séamus Heaney, Conor McPherson, Paul Mercier, Tom Murphy, Mark O’Rowe and Sam Shepard.

The review includes a recent economic impact study commissioned by the Abbey, where Prof Dominic Shellard, of the University of Sheffield, and Derrick Elliss found the theatre generated €3.60 for every €1 of funding over the three years, contributing €118 million to the Irish economy.

Over the period, 32 productions were staged. They were seen by 375,000 people and employed 309 actors (and nearly 800 actors had work in productions, readings and workshops). Seven shows were world premieres and four were Irish premieres, including Conor McPherson’s The Seafarer and John Patrick Shanley’s Doubt.

Mr Mac Conghail said the theatre was in a healthy and successful position. “We promised our artists, audiences and the taxpayer that we would commit to change and provide great theatre to our citizens and I believe we have achieved this. I believe strongly there is a need for the Abbey to provide leadership and support to our writers, theatre makers and our audiences . . . and we are in a position to deliver on this promise.”

The report notes that the Abbey recorded a surplus of €3,361,868 at the end of the period, because of factors including prudent budgeting, tighter cost-control, later-than-expected rollout of some plans and an increase in box office income. The surplus will offset the 16.5 per cent reduction in the National Theatre’s Arts Council grant for 2009.

From 50 to 70 in 2 Years

29th April 2009 by Maura McHugh

Bill Jones, writing on the Copyright and Technology Blog, has a useful summary of the recent decision by the EU parliament to extend the copyright term for music recordings from 50 years to 70 years.

To ensure that performers benefit fully from the additional royalties thanks to the copyright extension, MEPs amended the original text to prevent the use of previous contractual agreements to deduct money from the additional royalties.

Also included in the legislation is a dedicated fund for session musicians. This fund will be financed by contributions from producers, who will be obliged to set aside at least 20% of the revenues gained from the proposed extension of copyright term. The fund will reward session musicians who gave up their rights when signing the contract for their performance. Collecting societies, which represent performers’ and producers’ interests, will retain the right to administer the annual supplementary remuneration.

Member States will have two years to incorporate the new legislation in their respective countries.

The Parliament also asked the Commission to launch an impact assessment of the situation in the European audiovisual sector by January 2010, with a view to deciding whether a similar copyright extension would benefit the audiovisual world.

Irish at eQuinoxe

29th April 2009 by Maura McHugh

IFTN reports that Irish screenwriters Abbie Spallen and James Phelan will be part of the group of ten writers chosen to attend the éQuinoxe screenwriting workshop in Balestrand in Norway.

Award winning playwright and screenwriter Abbie Spallen brings the project ‘The Courtship Gift’, an adaptation of a novel by Julie Parsons. This year’s recipient of the Stewart Parker Award, Abbie recently adapted her very successful play ‘Pumpgirl’ into a feature film with funding from NI Screen and BBC NI. ‘Pumpgirl’ was screened at the Belfast Film Festival in April 2009. In 2007 she won the Tony Doyle Award for her screenplay ‘Seven Drunken Knights’.

James Phelan’s feature screenplay ‘Banshee’ was also selected for the workshop. The supernatural period thriller is set in Donegal and Waterford in 1898. It follows the unraveling of a mystery by an inquisitive doctor when an affluent family is besieged by a vengeful supernatural spirit.

James recently wrote the seven part comedy drama ‘Rasai na Gaillimhe/The Galway Races’ for TG4. Starring Don Wycherley (Bachelors Walk), Owen Roe (Cromwell in Ireland) and Ruth Bradley (Alarm), it will be broadcast this autumn on TG4. The series was directed by Robert Quinn and produced by Great Western Films.

Google Deal Opt-Out Extended

29th April 2009 by Maura McHugh

Yahoo News reports that a federal court overseeing the Google Book Settlement extended the Opt-Out Deadline in the case from May 5, 2009 to September 4, 2009 (the “Extended Opt-Out Deadline”).

The Extended Opt-Out Deadline is the new date by which class members must decide whether to remain in the Settlement Class and receive the benefits of the Settlement, object to the Settlement, or opt out of the Settlement.

The change in the Opt-Out Deadline has caused the Final Fairness Hearing date to be rescheduled, from June 11, 2009 to October 7, 2009. This is the new date of the hearing for the court to consider whether to grant final approval of the settlement. All other deadlines and key dates in the case remain the same, including May 5, 2009 as the date on or before which a book must have been scanned in order to be entitled to a Cash Payment.

For further information on the Google Settlement Deal consult my previous summary of the subject, and also a recent article by American literary agent Ashley Grayson.