Drama director, ministry at odds over NCC finances

The Director of the National Drama Festival (NDF) and the Ministry of Culture are at odds over the National Cultural Centre (NCC), with the latter saying the facility is not earning enough to stay afloat and the former refuting this.

NDF Director Godfrey Naughton also questioned the wisdom in purchasing new sound systems for the NCC when the ministry has two new systems locked away in a room at the Guyana National Stadium, Providence, which are not being utilized.  However, speaking to Stabroek News yesterday, Permanent Secretary in the ministry Alfred King said that the systems stored at the National Stadium belonged to ministry and were not to be used at the NCC. “I would not contest with Naughton but the ministry has procured services to immediately fix what is damaged,” said King, referring to the NCC. He added that the ministry was aware of equipment that needed to be fixed and/or replaced.

But Naughton said he was puzzled as to why the ministry would want to buy new systems. “Why do they have to buy when they already have two complete systems locked away in a room? The only thing that needs to be bought is microphones,” he said, adding that the microphones that are being used are so brittle that they have lost all sensitivity.

Godfrey Naughton
Godfrey Naughton

And as regards the NCC operating in the red, Naughton pointed to the high cost to rent the building for productions and the taxes on tickets, which he said would be more than enough to pay bills. He noted that even though the number of productions had decreased last year, the NCC was still making substantial returns.

Last week, Culture Minister Frank Anthony had lamented that the NCC was not making money, not even enough to pay bills.

Rebutting the minster’s statement that the NCC was not making money, Naughton said the four major shows put on last year made millions. “The Cultural Centre has 1,975 seats. Most shows cost on average $1,000 and shows would run for days,” Naughton noted.

“‘The Link Show’ ran for 13 nights and it was almost sold out. ‘Uncensored’ was a sold out production running for four days. ‘Nothin to Laugh About’ sold out four nights… Now do the math if a ticket costs $1,000 and there are 1975 seats,” he said, adding that the NCC also receives monies for technical rehearsals.

He said too that the National Cultural Centre was not undercharging producers. In fact, producers are being asked to pay “what they can’t afford.” He argued that these producers are suffering because they are paying for services that are damaged. “We are paying for these services but we still have to fetch our own stuff,” Naughton charged.

“Therefore, they have no reason to misrepresent what is received from the producers. We are not to be blamed for what is happening at the Cultural Centre. But the money that is made from productions would swallow its bills comfortably,” he said, adding that producers can barely afford to rent the house.

“If we can’t even afford to pay the rent now much less with the market price,” he said. He also charged that equipment was collapsing because the centre has not had a qualified engineer on staff in three years. “These are the conditions that we are working under,” he added, “and the Cultural Centre is collapsing.”

Naughton lamented that lighting systems in the building have also collapsed and producers are using the panic switch to run shows. “The lights are the worst of all [they are] over 20 years [old] outdated,” he said, adding that only one air conditioning unit was functioning.

Meanwhile, King said “If there are issues they would have been raised by the mangers of the centre and it wasn’t raised so we don’t know about that.” However, he said, the ministry has been very open about issues at the centre and was seeking resolve same.

“We are attempting to fix these problems but they are tied to resources,” he said, adding that the ministry planned to buy contemporary theatrical sound systems for the NCC.

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