18/02/2020 - 09:59

EY, WASO mark a milestone

18/02/2020 - 09:59

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When their first sponsorship arrangement was introduced 25 years ago, EY was an accounting, tax and corporate finance business and WASO was part of the ABC.

EY, WASO mark a milestone
WASO violinists Christina Katsimbardis (left) and Lucas O’Brien with EY managing partner, western region Fiona Drummond and WASO chief executive Mark Coughlan. Photo: Gabriel Oliveira

When their first sponsorship arrangement was introduced 25 years ago, EY was an accounting, tax and corporate finance business and WASO was part of the ABC.

Two-and-a-half decades later both EY and WASO have evolved, but their partnership remains.

“Now we have completely diversified; we have an advisory business, we have economists, we have environmental scientists, we have all sorts of different service lines now that you never would’ve imagined before,” EY managing partner western region Fiona Drummond told Business News.

WASO chief executive Mark Coughlan said WASO had gone from being fully government funded 25 years ago to a position now where just less than half (48 per cent) of its funding came from the state.

“It’s become a company, a private company, and we have had to have a much more commercial focus on what we do,” Mr Coughlan said.

“But that sharpened our approach in all aspects of our business.

“It’s been a great growth period for WASO artistically and in terms of how it is engaging in the community, but it’s been a challenging time to figure out how to keep 135 people on salary with diminishing levels of government funding.”

After providing WASO with an $800 corporate hospitality sponsorship in 1996, EY’s commitment to the orchestra has evolved so it is now an overture partner.

“That financial commitment has given us great security going forward and enabled us to grow as a company while government investment has been diminishing,” Mr Coughlan said.

Ms Drummond said EY chose to support the arts because they made Perth a vibrant and creative place to be.

“A creative community is an innovative community and I guess a lot of our focus at work is around innovation; the way it can bring diverse thinking, (and) give opportunity to people,” she said.

“It [WASO] is a world-class organisation with amazing musicians; they are innovative, they are always looking at ways of doing things differently.”

This year, EY is sponsoring ‘Naked Classics’, a series to increase WASO’s younger corporate audience.

Mr Coughlan said the idea for the event came about when he was talking to one of EY’s senior staff about how some of the younger staff didn’t engage with WASO.

“It’s a shorter series, one-hour concert, 6:30pm on a Thursday,” he said.

“You come straight from work, you can have a drink, be sociable, take the drink into the hall, the pieces are really popular.

“It’s tailored for a different level of engagement, a different vibe than our normal Friday, Saturday night concerts.”

WASO, ranked as the fourth largest arts and cultural organisation in Western Australia on the BNiQ database with revenue of $21.2 million in 2018, is sponsored by a number of other corporates including Wesfarmers, MACA, and Singapore Airlines.

Mr Coughlan said discussions around the sources of sponsorship were important, given the benefits to the arts and corporates involved.

His comments follow the debate sparked at Fringe World last month when some artists protested the festival’s partnership with Woodside.

Mr Coughlan said WASO had talked about the types of businesses that funded the orchestra.

“I think the conversation is an important conversation,” he said.

“Artists will raise those issues and companies will respond to them.”

However, he said the arts couldn’t survive without support from WA’s big business.

“But not just the arts; how would the community go if we didn’t have the business world of Perth contributing what they contribute to the economic development of the state?”

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