On Friday 6 September, as we prepared to send the 158th issue of Island magazine to the printer, we learned of our failure to win a renewal of our four-year funding arrangement with Arts Tasmania. Until now, that support has underpinned the magazine’s financial viability. By the time a very impressive Issue 158 appears, from 30 September, we anticipate having a clearer understanding about the implications of our failure to win a renewal.
Before taking a decision to suspend operations, which is a likely result, we have accepted an invitation from Arts Tasmania to meet and review the situation. We appreciate the department’s gesture and its acknowledgment of Island’s contribution to Tasmania over the past 40 years. We also acknowledge that, under the government’s peer review system, all funding applicants participate in a highly competitive process.
In 2015, when Island succeeded in its previous funding submission, it declared the ambition to be an exemplar of Tasmania’s growing richness as a centre of culture and creativity. Since then, the breadth, quality and visual appeal of the magazine has flourished; average subscriber numbers have almost tripled and total sales grown to compare well with comparable Australian publications. Across the four-decade life of Island, it has published more than 1,900 emerging and established writers and enjoyed the support of a loyal community.
To maintain that quality print model, we have depended on government grants for about half of the magazine’s operational budget, along with earned income (sales, advertising, etc) and some philanthropic grants. That mix has become more challenging to maintain, not least since budget cuts to the Australia Council, which have resulted in even more intense competition among small arts organisations bidding for grants.
This year has been especially difficult for Island. From March, Island has maintained its publishing activities by substantially reducing its cost base and benefiting from reader donations and several grants. For these, we are grateful.
The board also acknowledges the huge contribution of unpaid days and weeks made by (part-time) staff, contractors and volunteers. Of particular note has been the commitment of Managing Editor, Vern Field, and Business Manager, Adelaide Reisz (who joined the organisation in the course of this year).
We all look forward to the launch of Island issue 158, details of which will be announced soon. And we shall communicate further with you once our situation clarifies.
Chair, Island Magazine Inc.
Board members: James Hattam, Alison Wells, Dr Bastian Seidel, Vern Field.