Reflection on a year.

05 October 2017

It was a Thursday, much like this, exactly a year ago that things changed for Slingsby.

The Australia Council for the Arts notified us that we’d lost our multi-year relationship with the national peak funding body.

Since 2007 Slingsby had enjoyed a tremendous climb up the slippery ladder of arts funding. We may well be the only company in Australian arts funding history to have secured triennial funding (from Arts South Australia) before we had even made our first show. Arts SA’s bold investment backed a team of South Australian artists coming together with a clear vision. We delivered on that early promise. Within a year of securing Theatre Development Strategy funding we had toured our first show to regional South Australian and metropolitan schools and welcomed audiences to seasons at the Odeon Theatre and Space Theatre at Adelaide Festival Centre. We’d also started making our second production in regional SA, launched ourselves into the international community at the ASSITEJ Festival and Congress in Adelaide in 2008 and were preparing to commence our first international tour.

By the beginning of our third year we had secured Emerging Key Organisation status with the Australia Council. From 2010 to 2016 we enjoyed an ability to plan that only multi-year funding affords. We also made more and more ambitious shows, toured to ten countries, won 14 awards and built a passionate and loyal audience near and far. It turns out the last bit is the most important. Thank Dionysus.

When the budget hit in 2015, the Australia Council was slashed and we all knew the future would look different. Everyone had told me that Slingsby would be fine. But in the end despite a bright and promising start we were still too small. Receiving that call a year ago…”I’m afraid I have to have a difficult conversation with you…” really did hurt.

But on this day a year ago a lot changed. Yes we lost our funding but we also, kind of, found ourselves. Building a company in a very unstable funding environment can be befuddling. It is not the sort of thing a Business Plan or Strategic Plan can really safeguard you against.

Perhaps our Federal funding had gone but it seemed our loyal audience had not. These loyal and passionate people here and around the world see the value in small offerings. These beautiful individuals stepped forward and gave of their time, gave of their resources and invited us to perform for them. Last year we aimed to raise $15,000 in personal donations. We raised $71,300. Our State stood behind us too. Arts South Australia remembered the promise of the little company they had backed in 2007 and doubled down, increased their funding, and gave us the breath to prove ourselves. One more year, let’s see what they can do.

In 2017 we are emerging from a period of deep reflection, looking to how we can capitalise on the art making processes we have honed over the past nine years. We will be who we have always been, heartfelt romantics hoping to lead our audience through the darkness to the light of hope. But this time we won’t be so small, we’ll spread our wings, share our art with more hungry children, parents and grandparents.

In 2017 we will:

  • Triple our audience
  • Double our turnover
  • Premiere our production of Emil and the Detectives in Adelaide
  • Perform The Young King Internationally and at the Sydney Opera House
  • Produce the Opening Ceremony for the world’s peak Astronautical event
  • Present our 10th Birthday Concert (a decade of Quincy Grant’s music)
  • Support emerging and independent artists
  • Host six work experience students and an International (Norway) Residency
  • Run five school residencies
  • Share our theatre making with a range of organisations to grow our income

This is our response to being deemed expendable. We’re working harder, making more art and sharing it with more people. This is our best response. This is the right response.

So we turned to our audience about a month ago and said slightly shyly ”we need to ask for your help again…we’ve got this Plus 1 donor campaign”. We really did not know if we would make the ambitious target of $25,000. Last year we were in crisis. This year we have needed to appear strong. We have to show the world our bravest face.

So did we reach that target? Go take a look; amazingly we have passed it. So having reached that target you’d think that would be it, fundraising job done for 2017. But we forgot we are now in the arms of our audience. And they keep finding new ways to tell us we are not expendable to them.

A family has stepped forward on the eve of the anniversary of that horrible news last year. This family said… you know that target you set and reached… why don’t we push it out a bit? Why don’t we – personally – double every donation up to another $25,000? We’re floored.

People. See. People are beautiful.

A year down the track Slingsby is not out of the woods. We won’t be for some time. But that is ok. We kinda like it in here. It’s dark and mysterious, full of life and wonder and good friends. And the sun keeps rising.

In the past year we’ve also had to learn to not be too proud, so I know it is okay for me to say that if you’d like, you can join our Giving Circles too, and have your generosity doubled by a wonderful family. Together we can do good things in the world.

Andy Packer