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.

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