Theatre Forum began back in the late ’90s. At that time, companies and artists felt that they were working in isolation, and that the sector was fragmented. Many felt that the community needed to get organised.
A group of theatre practitioners met and connected more by networking and sharing. They met informally for four or five years, moving around the country gathering members with great energy. Everyone agreed there should be less separation between the presenters of work (venues and festivals) and the makers of work (artists and presenters, touring companies). The sector wanted a collective voice to advocate for the performing arts to government as well as supporting the Arts Council’s advocacy.
In 2003, Theatre Forum was incorporated. Its mission was to be the collective voice for the performing arts, to represent the disparate views of members including theatre, dance and opera production companies as well as venues, festivals and individual artists. Support for each other and to improve circumstances for people making work was part of the thinking at that time too.
Membership was always available to individual artists and in 2018 the cost of this was greatly reduced in line with a commitment to keep artist issues and concerns to the fore. The following year, a Strategic Review confirmed Theatre Forum’s purpose as the membership organisation that highlights the needs of artists, arts workers and organisations to secure the resources needed for a sustainable performing arts sector.
Today translating this strategy into a programme of events and activities involves being a Forum, a place for working group discussions, exchanging ideas, sharing resources, forging and strengthening connections – all to achieve the systemic change members want to see in the sector.
Theatre Forum goals
To this day, Theatre Forum is driven by its members and their concerns.
Members determine the company’s strategic priorities and set the agenda. The company works with members and partners in order to build and sustain a stronger performing arts community.
Our aim is to provide organisation members with in-depth resources and relevant supports to lead their organisation. This includes being the go-to source for Arts Centre Directors for up-to-date information and providing resources required to plan and manage strategically. For individual and artist members, we want to be where everyone shares and exchanges information, finds resources and the support of arts organisations as well as other artists to make, present and produce work. We work alongside members to achieve the systemic changes required to make the sector a sustainable one.
Here’s an overview of our goals in 2022:
- Keep the connectivity between members, artists and other organisations and stakeholders that grew through the adversity of Covid times by continuing to be a performing arts hub.
- Maintain existing and develop new collaborations to represent sectoral interests in order to secure resources and support for the sector.
- Convert interest in and free membership to increased member numbers and subscription income. Achieve greater diversity in Theatre Forum’s membership.
- Having adopted exemplar democracy and EDI principles in Theatre Forum’s policy, embed those principles in Theatre Forum’s 2022 actions and activities.
- Continue to deliver high quality artist development programmes.
- Support members to explore the further possibilities of digital and production and hybrid presentation models.
- Raise awareness of Green Arts issues further and support more member organisations to reduce their carbon to help build a green Irish arts community.
- Adopt a hybrid work model that works for people with access needs and care responsibilities and encourage organisation members to do same.
- Continue to highlight the need to improve pay and conditions in the sector and advocate to extend the Basic Income for Artists model.
- Identify the artist mobility and cultural exchange framework that will remove the barriers resulting from Brexit.