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Storytelling festival to go on as planned

August 14th, 2011 12:16 am by Heather Richardson

Officials with the International Storytelling Center say its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing won’t affect the festivals programming this year.
ISC filed for Chapter 11 in December citing a combination of factors that led to its poor financial situation, including the hefty financial burden of the new center built in 2002, the gradual decline in festival visitors over the past several years and the economy. While the center has made cutbacks in its operational expenses since filing, ISC President and founder Jimmy Neil Smith said it was important that the festival stay strong.
“When we filed for Chapter 11, we made a commitment that ISC’s programming for 2011 would not be diminished in any way,” Smith said. “The line-up of featured storytellers, of course, has changed; otherwise, this year’s 2011 event is a mirror image of our 2010 event.”
According to tax documents, the festival, now in its 39th year, makes up about 60 percent of the center’s total revenue. The majority of that money comes from registration and admission fees. Smith said to accommodate the still sluggish economy, ISC has budgeted for a reduction in festival attendance from last year.
“The economy is still troubling and gas prices are higher. Unfortunately, this year’s festival weekend conflicts with the Jewish holy days, and Jewish attendees will not be able to attend. And we know the Chapter 11 proceedings could affect attendance.
“We have accommodated these possible negative conditions by budgeting conservatively and are currently within a few thousand dollars of our 2011 festival revenue projections.”
Smith said at this point ISC expects to reach those projections.
Early in ISC’s Chapter 11 process the partnership with the National Storytelling Network was ended allowing ISC to keep 100 percent of the festival revenue. Previously, NSN had received 18 percent of the festival’s gross annual revenue. According to a motion filed on behalf of ISC in February, the relationship between ISC and NSN no longer benefitted ISC and “in fact, harm and hinder ISC’s growth and influence in the storytelling community.”
NSN had initially tried to contest ISC’s motion but later decided to focus its efforts on its own mission and goals among the storytelling community.
Smith said ISC understands that breaking the partnership with NSN was disappointing for some people within the storytelling community but he doesn’t expect it to have a major impact on festival attendance.
“NSN’s current membership is less than 1,500; and according to our records, less than 10 percent of their membership were among the registrants of the festival last year. Of course, we will lose some of them this year, but we do not expect the impact on overall attendance to be significant.”
This year’s festival will be held Oct. 7-9.

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