Funding culture

2008-09-08 00:00

The failure to live up to expectations of two Women’s Month events supported by the municipality at considerable cost has rightly prompted the Msunduzi Municipality to rethink its policies and procedures. It is one of the functions of local government to support and subsidise deserving initiatives, cultural and other, that serve the public good, but more rigorous criteria for assessing applicants, and more businesslike procedures for allocating grants, will be welcomed by hard-pressed ratepayers.

For local government, of course, the public service aspect must override competitive business considerations. The key factor, indeed, must be that the motivation for the event is to serve the public interest and not to reap profits for some enterprising entrepreneur. After that, some obvious questions must be answered. Is the proposal feasible and practical? Is the time-frame realistic? Is there adequate provision for advertising and ticket sales? Does the applicant have a proven track record, or at least re-spectable credentials? A comprehensive business plan must be a requirement. Once granted, funding can hardly be reclaimed, but a postmortem review would help guide future decision-making — as, indeed, seems to have happened now.

A little belatedly maybe, the municipality has come up with more objective and businesslike procedures for allocating funding to a regular calendar of special events. Perhaps, too, it should look more carefully at the assistance it offers to well-established cultural organisations that have long and often impressive records of service to the community. Big one-off events such as stadium concerts are all very well, but the backbone of the community’s cultural life is surely made up of the organisations and societies — often small, amateur and voluntary —that work steadfastly year after year to sustain cultural activity and awareness in the region.

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