Arts body goes it alone on funding
Theatre Ensemble will stop taking public money to gain more freedom
One of the 10 major performing arts groups subsidised by the government is to break from the funding scheme to seek more flexibility in its development.
Theatre Ensemble, a non-profit group that has been subsidised since it was established in 1993 - currently to the tune of HK$4.6 million a year - will not receive any more government funding after the end of this month.
It will be transformed into an enterprise called PIP Cultural Industries, which will have nine subsidiaries focusing on areas such as theatre performance, arts education, film, music, books, lifestyle products and a cafe.
The group's associate artistic director, Jim Chim Sui-man, said that although the government had been increasing its subsidies, the funding system no longer fit the group's development.
'Under the government subvention policy, there is a system to monitor our spending, and it's important because it is public money. But such a system does not necessarily correspond to our needs, especially if we want to make a decision quickly,' said Chim, a popular stage actor and comedian.
'We would rather dedicate our resources to doing real development work than filling in forms.'
The new company had no solid financial backing yet, but Chim said PIP Cultural Industries would inherit Theatre Ensemble's artistic spirit.
Theatre Ensemble has been relying mainly on box office receipts, which account for more than half of its total expenditure. The government subsidy accounted for 12 per cent, and the rest came from an arts school run by the group and other commissioned projects.
Chim hoped the new company could help to change people's concepts about the arts and make working in the field more competitive.
'A freelance actor can make HK$5,000 to HK$10,000 - for three months,' Chim said.
'People always think that artists can afford to make less money because satisfaction is more important than cash.'
The Home Affairs Bureau, which has been funding Theatre Ensemble, welcomed the group's decision. The bureau said it would be an important case study for the future review of government funding policy for the performing arts.
'PIP Cultural Industries' operation will provide us great insight for the development of the West Kowloon project,' said Angus Chan Man-bun, general manager of the Chung Ying Theatre Company.
But whether such a model would be applicable to other groups was debatable, as 'each group is different and we are all faced with different limitations and artistic dreams'.
Theatre Ensemble began to get money from the Home Affairs Bureau when funding responsibility was shifted to the government agency last year.