Award cash diverted to struggling artists

PERTH’S five-day Covid lockdown is being sharply felt by local artists, with Fringe World shows cancelled or running at reduced capacity. 

This week the annual arts festival cancelled its awards, using the cash prizes to help affected artists through the Fringe Fund. 

Perth based artist Chelsea Gibson performed in Prismatic and said Fringe’s decision to cancel awards and reviews put shows at a disadvantage for next year’s festival. 

“We only had one reviewer come in for the entire season which really sucks for an emerging company, because reviews are something we 

can use when we make future applications to do shows so that people take a chance on us. 

“With arts it is so hard for us to justify to people outside of our discipline that we are worthy of financial backing, the only way we can do that for people who aren’t in our industry is to tell them about awards,” Gibson said. 

Fringe publicist Sian Collins acknowledged the importance of awards to artists. 

“It was a difficult decision to not present awards at the conclusion of the festival, but we felt that it was the only fair one given that judges were not able to see many of the shows due to the lockdown and the subsequent capacity restrictions.

“We felt that re-allocating awards money to the Fringe Fund was the fairest way of supporting the shows who were impacted by circumstances beyond their control,” Ms Collins said. 

Local performer Reece Horne commended Fringe World’s decision.

“A lot of shows got shut down and they’ve got to try and make that money up somehow, so I think Fringe giving that money back to support them is a really good idea.

“The show going on is the core element of Fringe and that was taken away from so many artists. 

“Giving them the support is more important than giving an award to another show that still had people come and enjoy it,” Horne said.

Writer and performer Eliza Smith’s show was cancelled due to the lockdown. 

Her play If You Need was due to open a day after lockdown but the student collective running the show decided to cancel rather than risk racking up bigger debts. 

“There is that feeling of guilt that you are letting people down by making the decision to cancel the show,” Smith said. 

“Ultimately doing all that work and getting right up to the 11th hour and having to decide to cancel it was incredibly difficult.” 

Smith said they were reimbursed the money they had put into the show by Fringe World and all involved in the show plan to put it on in future. 

Ms Collins said the lockdown had a “considerable” financial impact on Fringe World, its artists and venues, but the organisation was working with the state government and Fringe Fund to support artists.

by ASTRID DAINTON

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