We don’t want to be constantly shaking our metaphorical cans in your face, so after March we stepped back from our first month’s membership drive and concentrated on getting things done. But it’s time for another campaign.
It’s EOFY (the End of the Financial Year, for those not up on their acronyms): the perfect time to become a Witness member. especially if you’re a professional in the performing arts. Did you know if you’re an actor, you can claim a deduction for journals? From the ATO website: “you can claim a deduction for the cost of journals, periodicals and magazines that have content specifically related to your employment as an employee performing artist, for example, the magazine Encore.”
So what you have got to lose, except the chance to read the amazing features we’ve got planned for the second half of 2018?
All our reviews, The Witness Podcast and the History Videos are free for anyone to read. But our long-form features, The Witness Interview series and the opportunity to come to our Live Nights and participate in the Witness community are members-only. (Although we do give you a few free views). We want to balance access for everyone with our aim of making criticism of the performing arts a sustainable enterprise.
Since we launched four months ago at La Mama (one of so many projects that have been welcomed by this wonderful institution), we’ve been working hard to show what Witness might be. So far, we’ve reviewed 42 shows, and have published 12 long-form essays, six videos and six podcasts. We are working in particular on writing thoughtful, longer reviews of smaller companies and independent artists that get little to no coverage elsewhere, and opening our space to voices that often don’t otherwise get heard.
Our review coverage isn’t dependent on whether a company slings us money, as is the case with too many media organisations (although we will enter very specific sponsored collaborations that include workshops, panels and discussions, as we did with Dancehouse around the Keir Choreographic Awards, because getting people talking is our schtick). The main reason we review a show is that we think it will be interesting.
We don’t accept advertising or sponsorship from theatre companies. The only material help we ask from our Stage Partners is to provide support and discount tickets to our members for our Live Nights. We’re depending on you, our readers. And we’re hoping that if you like what we do, you’ll support us.
At the moment we have two separate budgets for 2019.
Plan 1 is the Dream Plan. We take on our present First Nations Emerging Critic, Carissa Lee, as an editorial assistant, training and paying her appropriately. We continue with a second First Nations Emerging Critic working with us through 2019. We expand our podcast program with quarterly investigative specials that take the form and use it creatively (more on this later this year). We expand our interstate coverage. And we continue to explore how to open discussion and how to make the performing arts more accessible to everyone.
Plan 2 is the Sad Plan: we don’t have enough money to justify the amount of work we are putting into Witness, and we shut up shop, archive our material, and refund all our wonderful annual members.
Witness this year has been made possible by modest grants from the Australia Council, Creative Victoria and our Educational Partner, Monash University’s Centre for Theatre and Performance (you can read the details here). If we’re to get off the ground, we’ll be depending on this kind of support for a while yet, and of course we’ll be applying for grants for 2019. The problem with grants, especially in the current bleak climate, is that there is, and quite rightly, no guarantee that they’ll come through. And even if we are successful, it won’t be enough.
Our ultimate aim is to become completely independent in five years.
The only way we can be sustainable long-term is by building a strong membership base. The more support we have, the more likely that we’ll be around in 2019. So if you like what we do and would like to see more of it, have a look at our membership plans. You can pay monthly or annually, and prices range from $5 a month (which gives you access to most things, but not all) to $15 patron plans. Your membership is entirely under your control. You can cancel, vary or pause your membership at any time.
If you become a Witness you’ll win our undying gratitude, because that’s the kind of persons we are. So far we have 121 members, and we’re thankful to them all: each person who joins makes everything more possible. And we’d love to make it to 500 Witnesses by the end of 2018.