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Abbey 'committed' to change after January's damning open letter from actors and directors

As part of the changes, the theatre has committed to a review of all pay rates, with any amendments to be implemented in 2020.
May 2nd 2019, 4:01 PM 7,014 4

THE ABBEY THEATRE has said it has learned from talks with artists and is committed to changes that will improve its engagement with them.

As part of the changes, the theatre has committed to a review of all pay rates, with any amendments to be implemented in 2020. 

In January, an open letter signed by 312 freelance theatre practitioners, was sent to Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan. It expressed “deep concern and dissatisfaction” with the theatre’s direction since directors Neil Murray and Graham McLaren took up their roles.

The signatories claimed the freelance theatre community had been “cast adrift” as the theatre is producing fewer in-house productions. The Arts Council also froze €300,000 in funding to the theatre after actors and directors raised their concerns about the lack of opportunities it provides for Irish based artists.

Following the publication of the letter in January, the theatre had a series of meetings with artists about ways to improve the situation. 

A report published by the theatre today states that it has “great respect” for the artists who signed the letter and has taken the concerns very seriously. 

By the end of 2018, the Abbey said it had already committed to being primarily a producing theatre and ensuring all independent artists on co-productions would receive the pay and conditions received by those in self-produced shows. 

The report states it became clear in meetings with artists after the letter that certain aspects of communication between the Abbey Theatre and the theatre community need to be improved.

It said it will now develop its relationship with industry representatives on a more formal basis and ensure its communications meet the information needs of those working in the sector. 

The Abbey Theatre is aware that, as Ireland’s National Theatre, it should lead by example in setting high benchmarks in the treatment of artists and in theatre practice. The Theatre hopes this dialogue process has reassured the sector of its position as a producing theatre, primarily providing employment and opportunity for Irish and Irish-based practitioners.

Aside from the review of pay rates, the Abbey has committed to a number of other actions including:

  • A named point of contact for casting enquiries at the theatre;
  • A vouched expense budget of €500 for costume designers;
  • The continuation of discussions on pay rates with Irish Equity;
  • Responding to a request for a dedicated design room in the building;
  • A meeting with directors on how to develop careers of emerging freelance directors.

The theatre said it welcomes the government’s commitment to increase funding for the arts and looks forward to engaging with stakeholders to “create an environment where great, well supported theatre can thrive across Ireland”. 

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Michelle Hennessy

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