Today, in the second part of my week-long series on the State of the Fringe, I interview David Jordan, the Executive Director of the Vancouver Fringe Festival.
RC: Tell us a bit about the Vancouver Fringe.
DJ: This is our 26th year for the Fringe in Vancouver. It’s our tenth year on Granville Island. There are 83 shows and over 600 performances over 11 days.
RC: Who is David Jordan? And how did you end up here?
DJ: I came to Vancouver fresh from graduating with my Master’s degree in Directing. The Fringe was my first job here in
Vancouver. I worked there for about a year and a half in various capacities, and then when the ED job came along, I applied for it, and here I am. This is my fifth year as Executive Director.
RC: How does this year’s Fringe compare to previous years?
DJ: Last year, there were 68 shows, so we’re up by about 20%. The trend that we’re seeing with the Fringe is that there are more BYOVs and found venues. For example, Boca Del Lupo is doing a show out of their office with an audience of 14. Someone else is doing a show on a pedicab. Origins Coffee has kindly let us use their space, and we are converting it into a 60-seat venue. We also have a professional development series: talks, and a Clown Conference. Our goal is to make Granville Island explode with theatre.
RC: How were you affected by the first round of cuts last summer?
DJ: We were lucky. We were in the first year of a three-year funding agreement. That money was originally taken away, but they restored it. So we have some time to plan and restructure. This government has systematically replaced operating funding with short-term project-based funding, so we have to seriously look at ways of running our organization with less funding from the government. As the Provincial Government proved to us over the past year, we can’t rely upon them for support.
RC: How have subsequent cuts affected you?
DJ: Our BC Arts Council funding was cut by 60%, down to $12,700 from $32,500. Basically, by 2012 we stand to lose $70-90,000 worth of provincial funding. That alone is the cost of running our venues, which is something that can’t be cut. Our greatest challenge will be to maintain critical mass in the face of all these cuts.
RC: Despite the current cuts, it looks as if the Fringe will go ahead as normal this year?
DJ: Yes, we are in fact finding room to grow a bit. That’s what keeps me hopeful in the face of arts cuts. We were born out of needing to find a way, and we will always find a way.
RC: How about future Fringes? What kinds of plans are you working on?
DJ: Next year, there will have to be significant changes. We don’t know exactly what it will look like yet, but we have to cut expenses and increase revenues. That’s hard to do. We are a very efficient organization as it is. Maybe site specific work in MLAs offices…? One thing we are considering is introducing tiered fee structures. Right now, all artists pay the same fee, whether they are in the Waterfront (300+) or a smaller venue of 50. We may start charging more for the larger theatres, less for the smaller ones. Operating venues is a huge expense for us, so we are looking at ways we can create more site-specific, outdoor venues and found spaces.
RC: Final words?
DJ: We did a survey with members of the community, and the feedback that we got was clear: the Fringe is necessary. Not just for emerging artists (although they are a very important part of the Fringe), but also for more established companies who have moved beyond the Fringe. Some companies want to do new stuff, edgy stuff that they maybe can’t take to their core audience, so they come to the Fringe. The Fringe’s roots come from a place of flexibility and experimentation. It’s artist-driven. And those are all things that we will remain true to as we move forward into the future.
RC: Thanks, David!
Read David’s interview with The Georgia Straight.
Read the Vancouver Fringe’s Press Release