Theatre-makers mobilise to create a more secure future

Writer, performer and technician, Emma O'Grady, whose most recent show was What Good is Looking Well When You're Rotten on the Inside? is a founder member of Theatre57.
Writer, performer and technician, Emma O'Grady, whose most recent show was What Good is Looking Well When You're Rotten on the Inside? is a founder member of Theatre57.

If Róisín Stack were in the public service or in private enterprise, she’d be making a comfortable living while forging ahead in her career.

Instead, she works in theatre as an independent artist. So, while she is making her mark career-wise, both creating her own work and advocating for other independent artists, the financial rewards don’t reflect that.

She’s not alone. That’s the situation for many talented, creative people who work in Ireland’s independent arts sector.

That was borne out in a survey this week showing that one third of performing artist and creative practitioners earn less than a third of the national minimum wage. The survey was carried out by Theatre Forum, the organisation for Ireland’s performing arts community

Now a new Galway group, Theatre57, is aiming to change the story locally and improve conditions for those working in a tough and often lonely business.

“Galway has a reputation as Ireland’s cultural capital and it’s deserved but if you’re not connected to an arts organisation, it can be difficult to feel acknowledged or valued,” Róisín explains. “And it’s something a lot of people struggle with.”

Hence the establishment of Theatre57, which arose out of a meeting of arts groups last May.

“There’s a feeling of a rising tide that’s lifting all boats, but it’s not happening for people in the arts,” she says.

However, rather than bemoan the lack of funds and support-structures, some of Galway’s finest independent talent – ranging from Máiréad Ní Chróinín of Moonfish Theatre to Maria Tivnan of Fregoli Theatre, Emma O’Grady (formerly of Mephisto) and Little John Nee – joined forces to instigate change.

Members want more resources and investment in their professional development. They also want to create a network that will allow them to support each other and become a more visible part of the Galway community.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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