Performing groups get HK$10m fund boost

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 30 May, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 30 May, 2009, 12:00am

The government has launched a HK$10 million scheme to boost small to medium-sized performing arts groups during the financial crisis.

But some in the arts community worry that such measures will only benefit a fraction of the arts groups in need, as some of the major measures are targeted at groups currently under the Venue Partnership Scheme and those receiving two-year grants from the Arts Development Council.

Details of the new scheme were announced yesterday and it is expected that more than 150 small to medium-sized performing arts groups will benefit.

The government handout will include extra advertising dollars for performances. The Leisure and Cultural Services Department also hopes to boost the number of shows at department venues in the New Territories and non-LCSD venues such as the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre and Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity.

Booking priority for certain venues will be given to performing arts events. Groups will be encouraged to conduct more community and student sessions to cultivate new audience bases in the New Territories.

The LCSD will encourage performing arts groups of high standard, including those receiving one- and two-year grants from the Arts Development Council, to plan for the future.

Groups receiving two-year grants from the council will be able to reserve venues two years in advance.

The department will also offer better event promotion to 26 small and medium-sized performing arts groups under the Venue Partnership Scheme, which offered selected arts groups closer working relations with performance venues and priority booking at such venues.

Measures to ease arts groups' cash flows, including delayed deposit payment for Tsuen Wan and Tuen Mun town halls and Yuen Long Theatre, and earlier clearance of box offices, will also be implemented. Darwin Chen, chairman of the Home Affairs Bureau's committee on performing arts, said that since the financial crisis began last year, smaller performing arts groups had felt the pinch and the committee had set up a group in February to gauge smaller arts groups' needs.

'Small to medium-sized performing arts groups play an important role in the local development of arts and culture,' Mr Chen said. 'Therefore, special arrangements to help them get through this difficult time are needed.'

Ko Chi-sum, convenor of the committee's ad hoc working group on support for small and medium-sized arts groups, said that compared with last May when the performing arts scene was still vibrant, box office takes had dropped by at least half and many groups had become very cautious about staging shows. 'We need to put out these measures before they leave the performing arts scene for other jobs,' Mr Ko said.

Arts groups welcomed the measures in general. Gladys Wong Yee-mun, executive committee member of the Federation of Drama Societies, said moves to ease pressure on arts groups' cash flows were great news, but she hoped the government would clarify application details, especially relating to reservation of venues.

Ms Wong said many groups worried about working at non-LCSD venues, which might not meet their needs. Ms Liu said the department would invest more resources to increase arts groups' confidence in non-LCSD venues.

Alex Lam Pui-lek, programme manager for the Class 7A Drama Group, said small arts groups were most worried about ticket sales and venue charges, and that some relief measures only benefited groups under the Venue Partnership Scheme. 'But we are not under this scheme, so we cannot benefit,' he said.