One of Canberra’s premier cultural and tourist events, The Australian Theatre Festival, has been cancelled this year because the ACT Government and the Australia Council could not guarantee funding in time.

The chairman of the Canberra Theatre Trust, Jim Leedman, said he regretted the cancellation, but it was the responsible thing to do. The trust would concentrate on the 1993 festival.

The Minister for Arts, Bill Wood, said Robyn Archer has been appointed artistic director for the festival in 1993. Ms Archer, from Adelaide, is a noted singer, writer, actor and director. She starred in üLe Chat Noir at last year’s festival. The show was a sell-out and had to be extended.

The festival began in 1990. Last year, under the artistic directorship of Anthony Steel and produced by David Gration, it boomed with a 150% increase in attendances. It ran from October 26 to November 8. Among its successes was the erection of a huge tent in Civic Square in which üA Thousand and One Nights was performed.

The theatre community and the public hoped it would take off as an annual festival of the best, newest and most exciting Australian theatre.

The festival sought $80,000 from the Australia Council and $150,000 from the ACT Government. The trouble with the Australia Council is that it prefers to give its money to individual events rather than a whole festival. The question with the ACT Government was not so much the amount of money, but the timing.

The festival had not got a firm commitment from either organisation by the end of last week, so it in turn could not give firm commitments to commercial sponsors who needed this sort of lead time to commit sponsorship in October. The festival could not sign contracts without firm funding, so the trust had to stop the event.

A very disappointed Mr Gration, who is general manager of the Canberra Theatre Centre and who would have produced this year’s festival said, however, that the festival would not die. In 1993, Robyn Archer as artistic director would be a great drawcard.

It was important to get proper funding to put on a first-class festival, he said. He agreed with the ACT Cultural Council which said the festival needed three-year funding.

Security of funding was essential to get corporate sponsorship.

Mr Wood said, “”The ACT Government has undertaken to provide seeding funding for future festivals.”

The festival was an excellent and exciting venture that was highly appropriate for the national capital, he said.

Mr Leedman said, “”Tough economic times and incongruous local and federal government funding processes have left the trust with no responsible alternative but to cancel this year’s festival and concentrate on the festival for 1993.”

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