Controversy arises over Mermaids funding proposal

Photo: Sammi McKee

On 22 November, the Joint Councils, which includes the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) and the Student Services Council (SSC), held a three-hour meeting that included an hour of debate over formal changes to Mermaids procedure.

The changes, proposed as part of a general update to Association Laws by Association Chair Sigrid Jorgensen, would formally allow the Mermaids Performing Arts Fund to prioritise resources for plays over performing arts such as musical theatre, comedy, and a cappella.

The suggested language stated “that Mermaids shall prioritise the funding of plays first proposed to Mermaids. […] The fund can then be approached by affiliated societies looking for additional funding.”

Jamie Jones
Photo: Jamie Jones

Annabel Ekelund, performing arts officer and Mermaids’ president, emphasised that this language merely formalises what has been Mermaids’ practice for the past two to three years and would cause “absolutely no change in how Mermaids operates.”

More than a dozen members of the Mermaids committee and its affiliated societies attended the meeting to voice their thoughts to the Joint Councils.

Mermaids Production Coordinator Joanna Bowman and Vice President Laura Antone provided details about the current production and funding processes, supporting Ms Ekelund’s point that the proposed language only formalises what is already practiced by the fund.

Tommy Rowe, president of the Just So (Musical Theatre) Society, spoke out against the changes.

“If [Mermaids] are putting emphasis on plays before anything else, they are effectively saying that plays are more important,” Mr Rowe said.

Mr Rowe suggested that a new Plays Society be created in order to remove any bias Mermaids has towards an individual performing arts medium.

During the debate, members of the Joint Councils questioned the motivation for the proposed change and potential implications for performing arts at the University.

Multiple public commenters and council members, including Director of Representation Jack Carr, endorsed Mr Rowe’s idea of creating a separate society focused on the production of plays. This society would then affiliate with the Mermaids Fund similarly to the rest of the performing arts societies.

Currently, the Mermaids committee is tasked with producing plays in lieu of a dedicated society.

[pullquote]”…they are effectively saying that plays are more important.”[/pullquote]

However, this idea was tabled when SRC Senior Officer and temporary Chair Lewis Wood constrained debate to the proposal at hand.

At the suggestion of Debates Officer Beckie Thomas, questions regarding Mermaids were struck from the original motion. Joint Councils informally agreed to reopen discussion next semester.

Ultimately, the rest of the changes to Association Laws were passed with no opposition.


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