Hong Kong Arts Festival

New funding formula for Hong Kong Arts Festival could deliver a bigger pie

Under pilot scheme government reduces grant for 2017 event but will match money organisers raise from sponsors and donors; if continued, future festival budgets could go up - or down - according to city’s economic fortunes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 July, 2016, 4:11pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2017, 2:58pm

A new funding arrangement for the 2017 Hong Kong Arts Festival could increase its income – but also risks reducing it.

For the past six years, the annual cultural extravaganza has received HK$33.18 million (or 30 per cent of its total budget) each year from the Hong Kong government’s Leisure and Cultural Services Department.

In 2017, the department will provide only HK$17.18 million. However, under a pilot scheme to provide matching grants for arts sponsorship, announced recently by the Home Affairs Bureau, the government will match, dollar for dollar, a proportion of money the festival raises through private sector sponsorship and donations up to a maximum of 20 per cent of the festival’s audited total income in 2016.

The idea is that the more the festival can raise from the private sector, the bigger its income “pie” will be, according to Flora Yu, the Arts Festival’s development director.

“It works both ways. If the economy is slow, then the downturn would have an impact on sponsorship and donations,” she said.

Yu added: “The festival is very grateful for the continuous support of its long-term supporters. We are also very confident about the programmes we offer, as reflected by the strong box office performances in the past.”

She said the festival had set a “conservative target” of generating HK$36 million through fund-raising for the 2017 event. Its annual budget is around HK$110 million.

Executive director Tisa Ho said a bigger budget would allow the festival to be more creative.

“We need to grow,” she said. “We’ll get creative [in getting around obstacles like a lack of venues in the city]. We need to be strong, to continue what we do, what we believe in and [offer] audiences what they want. We need to keep moving.”

Headlining the 45th Hong Kong Arts Festival will be the National Theatre Brno, San Francisco Opera, Bavarian State Ballet, Oslo Philharmonic and the Public Theatre from New York.

The San Francisco Opera will bring Dream of the Red Chamber, a new work and co-production with the festival by David Henry Hwang and Bright Sheng.