Monday, 1 December 2008

Dancing at the Crossroads - The Sunday Tribune doesn't like it

I was expecting the article. I knew some time ago that a journalist had submitted a freedom of information request to Dublin City Council to find out the details of my residency. Of course all the information was already in the public domain (how much the residency offered, how much the Arts Council awarded me) and I’ve kept this blog for anyone find out what I’ve been up to – so I wasn’t fearing an exposé. But I was disappointed by the tone of the article that implies rather than asserts that something untoward was going on.

The journalist gave me an opportunity to contribute to the article so at least I was able to correct the misapprehension that I’d received €75,000 for the year, though that didn’t prevent an enthusiastic sub-editor from writing a headline that made it seem that way. I was disappointed also that the article didn’t mention the many tangible achievements of the residency.

So here is an extract from the email I sent him outlining those achievements:

The outcomes of the investment of the Arts Council and of Dublin City Council have been very positive.

I have brought dance artists from China to Dublin to create artistic links between our different cultures. The visiting artists returned to China with a high opinion of Irish work and of the infrastructure of support for the arts in Ireland. Such supports do not exist for independent artists in China and creativity is not as readily expressed as a result.

Bringing Chinese artists to Dublin resulted in a new dance piece, the first collaboration ever between an Irish and a Chinese choreographer (with a Chinese composer). That work, Dialogue, will be performed again in Europe and in China in 2009.

I have created a 20 minute dance film with James Kelly of Feenish Productions, The film, Three + 1, was projected on to the side of the DCC building in Barnardo Square for Culture Night. The purpose of the screening was to make the publicly funded work available to the public for free.

The film will also be shown in film festivals across the world making sure the profile of Irish art is raised internationally.

The funding also allowed for the research and development for a new work called Niche, that premiered to critical acclaim in Project Arts Centre last month.

The funding allowed for the creation of a blog (www.bodiesandbuildings.blogspot.com) that shared the research and development process with the public, locally, nationally and internationally.

The funding helped create a project that attracted media attention and feature articles (Irish Times, Irish Independent, Sunday Tribune, Herald, RTÉ) thereby raising the profile of dance in the public imagination.

I was able to pay six dancers through this process who in turn spent their money in Dublin. I was able to pay other artists (director, a film-maker) , other Irish companies such as Feenish Productions, Dance Ireland, and Project Arts Centre.

I was able to draw public attention to the impact of the changing urban infrastructure on the way people live their lives in the city.

I was able to create high quality dance work and share it freely with a public who might not usually experience the arts in their proximity.

In addition to all this tangible, measurable benefit, my development as a choreographer was furthered immeasurably by the support of both the Arts Council and of Dublin City Council. Their investment allowed me time to research and refine work of high quality. It allowed me to work with other artists and performers of high calibre. It also helped me communicate my ideas at a local, national and international level. The benefits of this investment in me is ongoing as the work I developed during the residency continues to be performed across Ireland and internationally.

As the Irish economy faces difficulty, I think there is something of immense value to be learned from the investment of the Arts Council and of Dublin City Council in the arts in general and in my work in particular. The number of outcomes, the range of employment, the raising of the profile of Irish creativity and innovation abroad are examples for how much can be achieved with limited resources.

These achievements were possible because of the way that partners in the arts work together creatively and generously. They were possible because artists are resourceful and innovative. It is right to invest in these skills. I am proud of these achievements and hope that I can take what I have learned to future projects. The arts are an important resource in Ireland, for Ireland and for all Irish people and I intend to keep finding ways to encourage investment in them.

Thank you again for the chance to clarify my position. I hope it helps your article.

3 comments:

annette said...

Oh Fearghus - how depressing - what on earth is the point of that article apart from highlighting prejudicial reporting and a massive degree of ignorance

Omaniblog said...

Perhaps there can be some good things arising from the article? For one, some people who knew nothing of your work might become curious about it and find out more. Also the article provoked responses in your defence. People enjoy controversy and may be drawn into thinking more about the role of Dublin Council and the Arts Council. An adulatory piece might not have sparked off as much interest. Artists thrive in adversity perhaps...
Thank you for doing all that. I'm impressed with how much you've achieved for so little money.

Fearghus said...

I'm sure you're right that a positive piece might not have provoked the same debate. My concern is that the debate be conducted without misrepresentation.

However, I do think that if we belive in the value of our artistic endeavour then we need to be prepared to defend it.

Civil society works with that democratic friction and the press certainly have a part to play. So do artists and the organisations that support artistic practice and we need to make sure our message is communicated as loudly and as widely as anyone elses.