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Keeping the arts alive

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WHEN Andrew Goodyear was 11 he was cast as Willy Wonka in his school play of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Arts Centre chairman Andrew Goodyear in the midst of a Junior Drama rehearsal. Picture: DAVID FERGUSON (21604404)

It was a role that he loved as it meant he got to ‘wear a massive hat and show off’, but little did he know then that it would help spur a lifelong passion for performing and the arts in general.

Now nearly three decades later, the father of two has starred in amateur productions and was recently re-elected as chairman of the Jersey Arts Centre for his fourth term.

However, it is not his acting that has put him in the limelight recently but rather his vocal criticism of the government for what he says is its failure to properly fund arts and culture in the Island.

He recently wrote an open letter, along with ArtHouse Jersey and the Opera House, asking election hopefuls to support each of their organisations and the creative sector as a whole, which they claim is under-funded.

For Mr Goodyear, supporting arts and culture is critical for a healthy society.

‘The Island has a responsibility to ensure that there is access for everyone to arts and culture, whether that is professional productions or getting involved in theatre groups, to education in schools,’ said Mr Goodyear.

‘It is not just about commerciality but about show diversity, that there is the ability to watch dance, listen to classical music and see new theatre groups from outside the Island.

‘It is also about supporting the local arts scene as well.’

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However, he believes the government has not been pumping enough funds into the sector and he points to the fact that while the Jersey Arts Centre received government funding of £455,000 in 2012, this year that has reduced to £450,000.

‘The cost of living has gone up by about 20 per cent [since 2012] and government expenditure has risen by more than 15 per cent but our grant has gone down by one per cent,’ Mr Goodyear, who was chief executive of Jersey’s Chamber of Commerce between 2004 and 2007, said.

‘In real terms the buying power has deteriorated. In addition to that we look after this building, which belongs to the government. It was built 35 years ago. It is in need of serious capital investment to maintain its integrity.’

The organisation has now asked for £200,000, to be paid at a rate of £50,000 a year over the next four years, to keep the Arts Centre building in Phillips Street – which they do not pay rent on – running.

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‘It’s to fix the suspended ceilings, to sort out the plumbing issues in the toilets, to sort out the sound system and to modify the air unit in the auditorium,’ the 42-year-old, who lives in St Aubin with wife Anna (37) and daughters Amelie (5) and Rowan (1), said.

‘These are not luxury spends. We are not potted up with money. We are acutely aware we don’t balance the books every month. We are slowly and increasingly eating into our cash reserves both to maintain the building and to operate the Arts Centre on the basis we expect.

‘Any spend we can delay or defer we try to so we don’t find ourselves in the position that we run out of money.’

Mr Goodyear said the fact that the administrative offices of the Jersey Arts Centre has moved around in the last couple of years – from St James to the Old Magistrate’s Court at the Town Hall and now to a temporary office space – combined with the financial issues the organisation is facing, ‘cumulatively show that arts and culture have not been a priority for the government’.

‘We used to have an assistant stage manager position, which was a trainee position. A lot of those people went on to go to college to take further education in that and are now working in professional theatre,’ Mr Goodyear, who graduated from the University of Warwick with a degree in management science before returning to the Island to work at RBS, said.

‘But due to our diminishing finances that post has been frozen for a year.’

But what are the arts organisations themselves doing to try to keep afloat?

‘We look for alternative funding routes,’ Mr Goodyear, who is to star in the Samarès Players’ summer production of the Crucible, said. ‘We seek grants and sponsorship from other foundations, such as the One Foundation.

‘We try to generate more revenue from our membership by trying to promote being a member of the Arts Centre. We are consciously looking at ways we can increase our audience.’

He added that the Jersey Arts Centre had ‘outsourced its finance function’ and ‘frozen posts where we can’ to help save money.

However, he stressed that a lot of activities that the Arts Centre undertook were not-for-profit but to support community groups.

‘We have to be conscious about our costs profit,’ he said. ‘We don’t want to put off community or small groups that can’t afford a significant hire charge.’

Mr Goodyear also said there have been a number of cultural reviews carried out looking at how arts organisations were run in the Island, including one undertaken by BDO in 2015.

‘That articulated that the existing arts organisations were run effectively and there were no obvious cost savings and there was a good amount of evidence to show they were under-funded.’

He added that another review was carried out last year and although the results have not yet published, an early indication from the consultants was that arts and culture have been underfunded compared with any European country.

Despite being concerned about the Arts Centre’s future, Mr Goodyear said that following the open letter there had been some signs of ‘positivity’.

‘At the AGM, whilst we articulated that we were at the most critical position we’ve been in during our 35-year history there is reason to be positive,’ he said.

‘We’ve since had meetings with the government and within that Dan Houseago, head of service at the Economic Development Department. In the new reshuffle he has taken personal responsibility for working with us and other arts organisations to identify what our short-term requirements are in order to stabilise our operation.’

While being pictured for this interview, one of the young members of the Arts Centre’s Junior Drama group recognised Mr Goodyear from a previous Samarès Players show.

It was obvious as he talked to her that his passion to be on the stage is still as keen as his drive to make sure the Island’s arts and culture sector is as diverse and strong as it can be.

So what is it about being on stage?

‘It’s the adrenaline, it’s the sense of community within a group where you are all relying on each other to remember the lines,’ the former Bel Royal pupil said.

‘As much as it is terrifying and you sometimes feel: “Why am I doing this?” there is that buzz of performing in front of an audience – and sometimes they enjoy it.’

Krysta Eaves

By Krysta Eaves
author

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