Working groups had been discussing what a newly-imagined broad, not-for-profit performing arts advocacy body might look like. But a conference convened for March had to be cancelled due to the pandemic lockdown and “survival” became the focus. Ms Capps said the reduced capacity of organisations to fund advocacy made companies cautious about committing to the next stage.
“The way is cleared for a new unified voice,” Ms Capps said. “How broad that is is TBA, where it will sit is TBA. There’s certainly a lot of goodwill and enthusiasm for creating something new.”
AMPAG’s 29 members include state theatre companies, Circus Oz, Bangarra Dance Theatre, Bell Shakespeare, Malthouse Theatre, Sydney Symphony Orchestra and Opera Australia.
Options include advocacy through Live Performance Australia, Theatre Network Australia, which lobbies for the interests of small to medium companies, or a new body entirely.
“Clearly the ability to speak with one voice is very important,” said one source who spoke on the condition of anonymity and expected some consensus to emerge in the next six-to-nine months. “While the increase in speciality organisations is useful with peers at some point, the sector needs to come together in a larger capacity to argue for the intrinsic value for arts and entertainment – which is what we’ve seen with COVID-19.”
AMPAG was at the forefront of sector efforts to convince the federal government of the need for financial support to counteract the impacts of pandemic lockdown. While JobKeeper and the $250 million support package for the arts may have failed to go far enough in some respects, these had been a lifeline for many and were far better than was originally on the table, said Ms Capps.