Festival funding: Far too little and too late, again

The organizers of the Festival of Ancient Olympia, who have been trying to maintain high standards in recent years, asked the Culture Ministry how much funding they would receive this year so that they could begin planning. The year before last, the festival received the equivalent of 175,953 euros and last year 234,604 euros, and they expected a similar amount this year. After four months of attempting in vain to get a response from the ministry, they finally heard on June 17 – just before the festival was due to open – that the ministry was to give them 58,651 euros. This incident is typical: The ministry may organize the busy Cultural Olympiad with events that cost a fortune – more than 120 million euros – but when it comes to the birthplace of the Olympic Games and its festival, it is suddenly short of money. This inconsistency and stinginess are characteristic of the ministry’s behavior toward various festivals which once again this year are holding their inaugural events without knowing how much funding they are to receive. This is the fourth consecutive year that the ministry has slipped back into its bad habit of arbitrariness and lack of transparency when it comes to funding festivals, a tactic they had abandoned for only a four-year period. From 1995-1998, under the successive leadership of Thanos Mikroutsikos, Stavros Benos and Evangelos Venizelos, the ministry maintained a high level of transparency, announcing every year which of the dozens of festivals that applied for funding would receive it and how much each would get. In 1995, of the 1,400 festivals that applied, 101 received funding of 1.6 million euros; in 1996, of the 809 applicants, 254 received 2.1 million euros; in both 1997 and 1998, with about 800 applicants, 190 received funding of 1.5 million euros. This tactic was abandoned the following year by the new culture minister of the time, Elissavet Papazoe, and it appeared to suit her successors. Instead of transparency being established, which would have helped the festivals improve, the secretive method of funding returned, based on criteria which nobody knows and which naturally cannot be checked. This year, the ministry has made no announcement about which festivals are to receive funding or how much each would receive. The Festival of Ancient Olympia doesn’t even have the good fortune this year to be the venue for one of the events funded by the Cultural Olympiad. The ministry told the festival organizers that «there was no money» to send them one of the events they had requested (such as «Zorbas» or «Medea» with Nuria Espert), and suggested some other events (such as concerts with Stamatis Kraounakis, Costas Makedonas, Dimitra Papiou, Lavrentis Mahairitsas and Thanos Mikroutsikos), which are not ones included in this year’s Cultural Olympiad. Apparently this is a matter of autonomous funding by the ministry for independent productions. Isn’t it time that this arbitrary manner of funding festivals was stopped? Electricity rates will increase by 3 percent from next Monday, the president of the Energy Regulatory Board (RAE) said yesterday.

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