Gaming branch denies $42,500 application from producer of Victoria Fringe Festival

The primary B.C. government arts-funding organization, the provincial gaming policy and enforcement branch, has denied an application from the Victoria Fringe Theatre Festival.

The Intrepid Theatre Society has been producing the popular Victoria festival for 23 years.

Intrepid's general manager, Ian Case, told the Straight that his organization applied for $42,500 in gaming funds.

In a June 17 e-mail to Case, the branch declared that funding is available to programs that "enhance performing arts, media arts, or visual arts, literature, heritage or culture for youth 18 years and under".

"Fairs and festivals that do not reflect the community, regional or cultural characteristics of a community are ineligible for a grant," the branch added. "Your programs do not appear to fit within these criteria."

The Victoria Fringe Festival describes itself as the largest theatre festival on Vancouver Island.

Last year, the festival attracted 23,000 people, including tourists who contribute to the Greater Victoria economy.

"We do so much more than the Fringe, and that's where the impacts are going to happen," Case said, noting that Intrepid is intent on protecting the Fringe Festival.

Intrepid also runs the 13-year-old Uno Festival, which is Canada's only festival of solo performance. He said that the Uno Festival enjoyed a 20-percent increase in attendance this year, with 13 sold-out shows.

"We are going to have to make some very, very hard decisions in terms of scaling it back," Case said.

He noted that theatre-goers will also face an additional seven-percent fee on tickets after the harmonized sales tax takes effect on July 1.

Case suggested that B.C. Liberal government arts-funding cuts could have an impact on federal funding.

"The federal government looks to what provincial investment is," he noted. "All of the sudden, we have been reduced to a mere ghost of what we used to receive in provincial funding."

Meanwhile, the B.C. Liberal government has still not shed light on how it will spend the $10-million arts portion of the the 2010 Sport and Arts Legacy, which was announced in the March 2 budget.



Deb Pickman

Jun 18, 2010 at 2:27pm


Keith Higgins

Jun 18, 2010 at 4:19pm

The Gaming Branch, on what I assume are the orders of Minister Rich Coleman, is revealing a very skewed understanding of what "community" means. If a festival which has taken place in a community for over a decade is not part of that community, then what is? It is not the place of an analyst in the Gaming Branch to determine who can be part of a community and who cannot.

The acute problem with Gaming Direct Access grants is not just a symptom of a culture war-by-proxy being waged by the right wing of the BC Liberals (with the consent of its "moderate" elements). It is also a symptom of the chronic underfunding of the BC Arts Council. The 2008-2009 funding levels, which the Campbell government heartily congratulated themselves for, were in fact nothing to boast about: Campbell, Krueger, Coleman and company did not even succeed in raising per-capita levels of support high enough to take BC out of its last-place finish within Canada.

The BC Liberals apparently felt that nobody would complain, or that it wouldn't matter to the public at large, or that all arts supporters vote NDP anyway. They are now surprised to learn that they have been wrong on all three counts: the pressure over arts cuts is not letting up; public support for arts funding is solid; and as for the Liberals voters who support the arts, they will quite likely stay home next election.

Oh, and Coleman's aspirations to become premier? The odds on that are getting longer every day.