Arts & Entertainment

COVID-19 arts funding leaves smaller theatre companies in the dust

By Tessa Pelle

As large-scale music, dance and theatre productions hurry to claim a $75 million COVID-19 relief fund, smaller entertainment companies are left grasping at straws for support. 

Almost half of the stimulus has been allocated within the first five weeks since Create NSW launched its crisis funding for non-for-profit and commercial performing arts organisations.  

Camilla Turnbull is the Co-Founder and Director of the independent theatre production company Ratcatch Theatre. They say its “disheartening” to see smaller organisations overlooked for funding. 

“The larger organisations often have a lot more resources to dedicate to seeking funding, so it’s not surprising in a way. Whereas for smaller organisations, it is essentially a full-time job, going out there and applying for funding,” Camilla says. 

Currently, Ratcatch Theatre has yet to gain access to any funds and are still in the application process. 

“The marketplace, when it comes to applying for art grants, is super competitive, which can be really difficult, particularly when there is a certain amount of allocated funds. We’re seeing a lot of projects in the independent sector that we really love get funded, but we’re also seeing a lot of organisations really struggling to meet the criteria for funding,” Camilla says. 

Smaller arts bodies are finding it harder and harder to stay afloat. However, despite being consistently disregarded, Camilla recognises the universal problem that surrounds equal access to funds. 

“At the same time, I guess I couldn’t really say it’s the fault of these larger organisations that do have the resources. I mean it’s a systemic issue with funding that’s finite. This is the culmination of a situation that’s been brewing for years when it comes to arts funding, and we’re really feeling the pinch now during lockdown when we cannot operate within our own industry.” 

Ratcatch Theatre was lucky enough to put on a show earlier this year, The Linden Solutionand made profits for their team. However, the company itself doesn’t make any money. 

“Both myself and Alexander [the other Co-Founder of Ratcatch], we both work adjacent to the arts industry, so we’ve been able to continue with personal employment, but then a lot of our work is funded by that personal employment as well,” Camilla says.  

Camilla is uncertain as to what the future of Ratcatch Theatre and other independent production companies looks like. 

“We’re looking towards the future with a bunch of shows that might not get programmed or reprogrammed. It looks quite bleak,” Camilla says.  “Currently, when it comes to producing work for performance and stage, everything is ground to a halt as we wait for the industry to open up again. We’re desperately seeking the resources to be able to continue producing work in a more sustainable way.”

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