€850,000 in additional funding provided after small theater complaints

Minister of Culture Piret Hartman (SDE).
Minister of Culture Piret Hartman (SDE). Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

Protocols published by the Ministry of Culture reveal that some smaller theaters in Estonia who had been dismayed by reduced funding for 2023, compared with 2022 – in some cases a drop of around a half – have now had the difference made up.

On Thursday, the Minister of Culture Piret Hartman (SDE) signed a decree distributing a total of €4.57 million to smaller theaters, dubbed city theaters and private theaters.

These, it is argued, provide an alternative to the larger, state-run theaters such as the Estonian Drama Theater (Eesti Draamateater) in Tallinn, the Vanemuine Theater in Tartu, the Rakvere Theater, and the Endla Theater in Pärnu.

Recent public discourse has suggested that the public do care about theater funding, Minister Hartman noted.

She said: "In order for theaters to be more confident of state support and to be able to carry out their job in peace, we plan to start making funding decisions pertaining to several years in the future."

This year's call for applications was severely delayed, as was the completion of the grant protocols and explanatory notes was delayed, which prompted the minister to pledge that next year's process would start earlier, to enable performance institutions to plan their activities in advance.

Improvements to the regulation of the process would also be carried out, she said.

Last year, new legislation aimed at making the process more transparent led to a points-based system, linked to artistic criteria, I allocating funding.

This left theaters receiving different levels of funding than in previous years, which led those who received less than before to question why.

For instance, Tallinn City Theater (Tallinna Linnateater) received the lowest points tally at 72 – the points were awarded by an expert panel – and as a result, received about half the amount it had in 2022 (last year it got €900,000 for the year).

The ensuing resentment and protests from Tallinn City Theater and two other theaters prompted minister Hartman to allocated a one-off sum of nearly €850,000 in additional funding, to make up the difference.

Based on this, ERR reports, Tallinn City Theater will be getting €923,819 for 2023, not the €482,552 initially planned.

The VAT Teater in Tallinn will get €476,492 (up from €247,603) while the  Tartu Uus Teater (Tartu New Theater), which scored joint highest on the artistic points system at 96, only saw its sum rise a little over €5,000, to €482,552 once the additional funding is taken in.

The other high scorer, MTÜ Teine Tants, or the Kanuti Gildi Saal, located in Tallinn's Old Town, received a grant of €380,894.

The published protocol also reveals that the experts gave high points also to the Paide Music and Drama Theater House (Paide muusika- ja teatrimaja - 86 points), while Interaktiivsele Üksus and Sõltumatu Tantsu Ühendus got 90 points each.

The explanatory note to the published protocol said the Tallinn City Theaters' offerings had remained "average", while the Tartu New Theater had taken "significant creative risks" and is characterized by "a peculiar repertoire composed with good intuition and topical issues, which has been carried out excitingly and at a high level."

This meant the theater provided a viable alternative for audiences to the well known, state-level Vanemuine Theater, in Estonia's second city.

The decree Minister Hartman signed was for €3.72 million plus to €850,000 additional funding, totaling €4.57 million.

The base support for 2023 has been bumped up by €544,696, to €3.72 million, the culture ministry says, though applications for the same round have been submitted to a total of €9.7 million.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

Source: 'Aktuaalne kaamera', Ministry of Culture

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