MA Dramatic Writing Master Fin Kennedy, the author of the influential In Battalions report, examining how government cuts to the Arts Council are affecting new play development in England, last week secured a launch event in the Houses of Parliament for his follow-up study, on ways to protect risk-taking on new work for the stage, despite austerity.
The original In Battalions report was published in February 2013 after playwright Fin Kennedy had a chance encounter with UK Culture Minister Ed Vaizey in which Mr Vaizey said that Arts Council cuts were having “no effect”. Kennedy’s response, a research-led report co-authored with Oxford University doctoral student Helen Campbell Pickford, found theatres across the country cancelling new plays, commissioning fewer writers, and curtailing a whole host of creative research and development such as young writers’ groups and education work. It has been downloaded over 24,000 times and had questions tabled in Parliament.
Their follow-up Delphi study, a form of expert consultation, was published last week, and launched at a meeting in the House of Commons of the Performers’ Alliance All-Party Parliamentary Group on 29 January, sponsored by the Group’s chair Kerry McCarthy MP. The event was attended by around 70 theatremakers and politicians, including playwrights David Edgar and Dennis Kelly, artistic directors Giles Croft and Sudha Bhuchar, the Principal of RADA Edward Kemp, Ben Bradshaw MP – a member of the Culture Select Committee – and Shadow Culture Minister Helen Goodman MP.
Fin Kennedy said: “This Delphi study is about finding solutions to the problems uncovered by the original In Battalions report. New theatre writing is one of our country’s greatest success stories, internationally recognised and a huge driver for growth at home. It would be a tragedy if that success were allowed to wither on the vine due to the short-term effects of austerity.”
Kerry McCarthy MP said: “This report could hardly have come at a more critical time. These findings will be of interest to everyone who cares about the future of regional theatre and the role of the subsidised sector in nurturing the skills and talent, as well as future hits, of commercial theatre, TV, film and radio”.
Fin Kennedy will be working with MA Dramatic Writing students to organise the In Battalions conference as part of The Year of Experimentation this summer. Further details will be announced shortly.