A Note from Declan, 16 April


Dear Grif-friends,

This edition of our e-newsletter is a doozy. There are some really exciting things happening at Griffin (check out the columns below my note!), but at the same time, these past couple of weeks have also been a huge shock to the system.

It’s incredible to think that when I last wrote to you, just four weeks ago, I was sitting in my office on Craigend Street, with a show playing in our theatre next door.

Now, our theatre is closed, our office is shut, and—most alarmingly—under the cloud of COVID-19 panic, the Arts and Entertainment industry in this country is being quietly dismantled by our government.

In the last 8 days:

–  The government refused the $650 million targeted support package requested as a matter of life and death by the LPA—assigning, instead, $27 million.

– The government voted against extending JobKeeper to cover the majority of arts workers, whose contract-to-contract work life renders them ineligible for it. Our Arts Minister Paul Fletcher was among those voting against.

– The Australia Council, badly bleeding out after years of small cuts, has been forced to de-fund 49 essential small companies at the worst possible time—including Australian Theatre for Young People, Shopfront, The Blue Room Theatre, and La Mama (Griffin, thank goodness, is still funded).

Screen quotas have been suspended on local drama, documentary, and children’s TV—which means broadcasters now have no obligation to hire Australian creatives to produce scripted work of this nature.

This has happened because the government knows how little leverage the arts and creative industries possess. As a workforce, we are some 650,000 writers, actors, camera people, set builders, tailors, road crew, box office staff, lighting technicians, gaffers, set designers, web programmers. Cultural activity represents a $111.7bn contribution to the economy, and 6.5% of Australia’s GDP. But after decades of caricature by the right-wing press, our massive, highly skilled labour force sits in the public imagination as a tiny cabal of champagne-swilling bludgers. Because of this, by and large the Australian public will not protest for our survival – despite so many getting through lock-down by consuming Australian-made entertainment.

I am horrified to think of what will happen when we emerge from this crisis—and what else will be sacrificed with the justification of rebalancing our post-COVID budget. The Australia Council? The ABC?

If you’re reading this, you care about the arts. So please, make some noise for us while you still can.

In less dire news… With Griffin closed, our staff members have each adopted an office plant. Just one remains: our beloved Philodendron-in-a-teapot, Gregor Green, holding the fort alone. And while you won’t see the Griffs for a while, you can watch Gregor whenever you like on his livestream—and know that both of us are growing: slowly, quietly, but surely.

(Of course if Gregor starts to get a little wilted I reserve the right to break this whimsical metaphor and say Gregor in no way represents our very-much-alive-and-hydrated company.)

When Karen and I made the heavy decision to close down the Stables, we asked you to please consider donating back the value of your tickets to the company. Amazingly, 84% of you have helped us in this way—whether it’s through a partial or full donation, or a credit. This is so far beyond what we could have expected, and we are incredibly grateful.

We also owe a massive thank you to our friends at the SBW Foundation, owners of the Stables Theatre and our office on Craigend Street, who have paused our rent. I hope all of you have landlords that generous (but for those of you who don’t, Joshua Badge has a useful template for negotiating a rent reduction).

This has all helped us retain our staff and honour our contracts with artists—and we’ve also had some amazing assistance to keep us working on new projects in this time. Google Creative Labs have jumped in to help us put together Griffin Lock-In (launching in just five days!). With support from our mates at Sydney Theatre Company, director Shari Sebbens joined us for a week-long script development on Mark Rogers’s Superheroes over Zoom, along with actors Christian Byers, Brenna Harding, and Nikita Waldron (you can see them over on the right living their Brady Bunch fantasy).

Yikes—this was a long one. Well, what can I say—I’ve been alone for a month in my new home/office/glorified cupboard (I’m not saying it’s small, but if I leave one t-shirt on the floor it looks like I’ve had a 20-person trash-orgy).

I hope you’re all doing OK. If you’re watching a screen all day, in the evening it can help to read a book, or listen to a podcast, or call your loved ones on the phone instead. If you’re feeling horrible, it’s amazing how much a walk outside in the sunshine can help. And if you’re still feeling horrible, there are people you can and should call to talk to.

See you soon,
Declan x