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Job losses likely at Adelaide Festival

Adelaide Festival

A foreshadowed $1 million budget cut has forced the Adelaide Festival to look at an organisational restructure that is expected to result in job losses.

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Arts funding

The reduction in State Government funding for the 2016-17 financial year was confirmed by the Festival in February, and is part of broader funding cuts expected by the South Australian arts industry.

Judy Potter, chair of the Adelaide Festival Corporation Board, told InDaily yesterday that the board was planning for the cuts to come from its operations, rather than programming.

“Therefore we will be needing to restructure the organisation, firstly to meet the needs of the Festival but also to achieve efficiencies,” she said.

Potter said she would be surprised if the restructure did not result in some job losses.

“There most probably will be some [job cuts], but we are still in a consultative process with the staff to come up with a model that will deliver the 2017 festival at the same time we have efficiencies, so what that means I can’t really say until it’s finished.

“It’s a true consultative process.”

The Festival has a core year-round staff of around 24 (full-time equivalents), not counting those employed on short-term or casual contracts in the lead-up to and during the annual event.

Potter said she expected that the consultative process would be finished next week, with the board keen to avoid leaving Festival staff in limbo for longer than necessary.

“It has to be done with dignity and respect,” Potter said. “We have an amazing, passionate staff.”

The board is also moving quickly to fill the gap that will be left with the departure of Festival chief executive Karen Bryant. It was revealed yesterday that Bryant had resigned to move interstate for family reasons, and will finish up on May 12.

Potter said the board was currently in discussions to appoint an interim chief executive, who would hold the role until after the 2017 Adelaide Festival. A decision is likely to be made either this week or next week.

“For the needs of the organisation, we need to pedal quickly.”

In February, Bryant confirmed to InDaily that the Adelaide Festival had been notified by the State Government of a $1 million cut in funding for the 2016-17 year.

She said at the time that there was no doubt the cut would have an impact, but that the Festival’s priority was to maintain the quality of its program and its reputation for excellence.

The 2016 Adelaide Festival – the fourth and final program presented by artistic director David Sefton – reached its box office target ahead of opening, and achieved record total ticket sales worth more than $2.8 million across 27 events.

National arts leaders Neil Armfield and Rachel Healy were last year appointed as the new Festival co-artistic directors, and will present their first program next year.

Potter, who was also appointed last year as board chair but took over the role only last month, said that in addition to seeking “efficiencies” through a restructure, the Festival was also looking at ways to increase revenue from other areas, such as corporate sponsorship and philanthropy.

“Like many arts organisations, we are just going through a period of some change at this time.”

Last month, members of the South Australian arts community rallied on the steps of State Parliament to protest anticipated significant cuts to the arts budget which they believe threaten the diversity and vibrancy of the sector.

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