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Overhaul for festival’s funding

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The Sydney Festival will produce a charter to guide funding arrangements with potential foreign governments, extraction industries and pharmaceutical companies, following a review of this year’s boycott crisis.

The arts festival in January was targeted by pro-Palestinian activists over the festival accepting $20,000 from the Israeli embassy to support a dance performance.

Protesters aligned with the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement demanded the festival drop its partnership with the Israeli government and urged festival artist to cancel their involvement.

Festival chair David Kirk on Tuesday said the board had suspended partnerships with foreign governments until at least 2024.

He said the temporary suspension was not a capitulation to boycott organisers but an opportunity to form guidelines on sponsor’s suitability. “We need to speak to the arts industry generally, to understand what is the consensus and the appropriate way to manage funding and sponsorship arrangements,” he said.

The festival last week received a confidential review of its international funding, and the board decided on an “immediate suspension of investment from international governments and their cultural agencies”.

Mr Kirk did not disclose how much money foreign governments contributed to the festival, but said it was insignificant. The board would develop a funding and sponsorship charter by which the festival could assess the suitability of future opportunities.

Mr Kirk said the discussions would include whether to accept funding from foreign governments and from industries such as mining and opioid drug manufacturers.

He said the festival had sponsorship guidelines in place – it did not accept money from tobacco or arms manufacturers, for example – but the procedures were “not comprehensive enough”.

About 30 artists withdrew from the festival in support of the BDS campaign, including comedians Tom Ballard and Nazeem Hussain, Marrugeku dance group, and artists Khaled Sabsabi and Karla Dickens.

Some artists went ahead with their projects but not under the festival umbrella.

Singer Katie Noonan said on social media at the time that she had been subject to “repeated, vigorous and quite aggressive” attempts to have her withdraw.

Mr Kirk said: “We apologise for the fact that we put artists into difficult circumstances. It was never our intention to do that. But an inadequacy in our policies and procedures resulted in that outcome and we don’t want that to happen again.”

In a statement, the festival said it would improve its “crisis management” capabilities and also seek advice from the community on sensitive issues, including from individuals with “connections to specific communities”.

It announced the changes during the Jewish New Year holiday, Rosh Hashanah, and members of the Jewish community contacted by The Australian were not available for comment.

Mr Kirk said the arts sector generally was interested in how to approach sponsorship deals, given the arts required more funding support, not less. “We need to consult with a wide range of people to determine what is the best way for us to balance the opportunity to take funding from a wide range of sources, but also … to understand and manage the risks more effectively than we did,” he said.

The review was led by former public servant Leigh Tabrett, the Queensland Performing Arts Centre deputy chair, and involved interviews with 50 people including artists, festival employees, and other festivals and arts bodies. The report has been deemed confidential because people spoke to the review on condition of anonymity.

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Article source: The Australian, 28/9/2022

2024-02-22 05:36:48.000000