A number of initiatives will be adopted to ensure the survival of smaller performing arts groups after a venue partnership scheme is introduced next year. The scheme will assign one or two groups as partners to each of 10 performing arts venues run by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. These partners will enjoy booking priority of venues and the opportunity to collaborate with venue management to build the character and audience base of a venue. The department said it wanted to enhance support for budding and young artists, as well as small- to medium-scale performing arts groups, by offering more opportunities to stage shows at non-department venues, such as at tertiary institutions, the Jockey Club Creative Arts Centre and community or school halls. It is gathering nine small- to medium-scale performing arts groups together today for the first time to promote their works at department venues in the hope of creating a bigger collective impact on the public. The nine groups include Wan Chai Theatre, Trinity Theatre, Pants Production, Perry Chiu Experimental Theatre and TNT Theatre. Other groups are Class 7A Drama Group, Theatre Space, Prospects Theatre and Drama Gallery, which are funded by the Arts Development Council. During next year's official launch of the partnership scheme, the department will also consider extending its commitment for sponsoring productions by more established groups. This will allow groups to plan their programmes up to two years in advance to secure ideal venues. Sources close to the scheme said 18 performing arts groups, including eight out of the nine major groups receiving subvention from the Home Affairs Bureau, had been assigned a venue. The details will be announced in the last quarter of the year. Groups welcomed the initiative. 'This arrangement will be very useful for us because if we approach media organisations individually, the result might not be as effective and efficient as grouping all of us together,' said Alex Lam Pui-lek, programme manager of Class 7A. Gladys Wong Yee-mun, project co-ordinator for Pants Productions, said gathering the arts groups together would strengthen promotion. But some of the groups were also worried the scheme would reduce the opportunities arts groups had to secure venues. 'We panicked when we first heard of the scheme because we were worried about our chances to stage performances. But at least it's good that they are trying to be considerate to groups like ours,' Ms Wong said.