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Galway International Arts Festival builds buffer to ensure future is bright

Galway International Arts Festival has introduced a reserves policy to buffer the company from unanticipated drops in income due to national and global economic shocks.

In the wake of Covid-19 and war on Ukraine, directors of the company tasked with delivering the annual festival decided to introduce a reserve of a minimum of €250,000.

The reserve would allow the company to “undertake projects required to ensure the future development of the organisation” in the event of an “unanticipated drop in income”.

The new policy was highlighted in the annual report and financial statements of Galway Arts Festival CLG. It relates to year ended December 2021, the latest published accounts.

The festival that year was still feeling the effects of Covid-19. It was moved from its usual July slot and took place between August 28 and September 18. There were 34 shows in the 2021 festival, with the highlight being John Gerrard’s Mirror Pavilion, Leaf Work in Connemara.

According to the company accounts, total income decreased in 2021 by €153,557 to €1.75m. It made a small surplus of €25,421.

The financial statements highlighted that “the general economic conditions in Ireland and beyond pose the greatest risk and uncertainty as the company is dependent on continued public funding, box office receipts, sponsorship and fundraising income to fund it in undertaking its principal activities”.

“The impact of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic on the Irish and global economies and the associated inflationary pressures makes the current environment a challenging one for the organisation,” the report said.

It also cited the “challenging economic climate created by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine on the economy in general and in particular the culture sector and events industry”.

It said the Arts Festival board had reviewed the risks and taken action to mitigate them, including a reserves policy.

“The review concluded that to allow the company to be managed efficiently and to allow the annual festival continue without interruption a general reserve equivalent to a minimum of €250,000 should be maintained,” it said.

Financial statements in the year ended December 2021 show Galway Arts Festival generated more than €1.3m income from grants and donations.

This included some €807,500 from the Arts Council grant; €73,000 from Galway City Council; €204,633 from Fáilte Ireland; €118,760 from Galway 2020 European Capital of Culture; and €146,593 from “sponsorship, friends and donations”.

Other income included “government supports” of €156,967; and box office income of €223,989.

Galway Arts Festival spent over €356,000 on publicity and marketing in 2021; as well as €565,024 on its artistic programme; €404,598 on production costs; and €345,370 on management costs.

According to the accounts, the average number of staff during the year 2021 was ten. “In addition, twelve people were employed over the period of the reduced 2021 festival as production supervisors and crew staff,” it said.

Total staff costs in the year, including social welfare and pension costs, were €453,688. There was one employee in the €50,000-€60,000 benefit range; one employee in the €70,000-€80,000 range; and one employee in the €80,000-€90,000 remuneration range.

Nobody in the company had remuneration higher than €90,000, the statements said.

There were no directors employed by the company during the year and there were no fees paid to the directors during the year, the accounts said.

The financial statements, approved by the directors in June 2022, showed there was cash in bank and in-hand of €991,077, with €107,500 in debt due after one year. This related to a loan to the “GIAF Production Fund”.

Among the stated objectives of the Galway Arts Festival Company are excellence (“to be one of the best festivals in the world presenting dynamic, exciting and innovative programme of the highest international standard”), access (“to present the best possible arts experience to as many people as possible”) and artists (“to encourage, support and facilitate artists with the development of their work”).

Pictured are Galway International Arts Festival CEO John Crumlish; Artistic Director Paul Fahy, artist David Mach, and Maureen Kennelly, Arts Council at the Gallery off William Street.
Photo:Andrew Downes,

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