Budget cuts threaten to send Devil’s Kitchen Literary Festival to purgatory

By Cory Ray |@coryray_DE |Daily Egyptian

The Devil’s Kitchen Literary Festival may need an angel for support in upcoming years if its budget is scaled back any more.

In the past two fiscal years, the budget for the festival’s visiting writer’s fund has been reduced by half because of state reductions, according to Jon Tribble, managing editor of the Crab Orchard Review Magazine at SIUC.

The visiting writer’s fund is a state grant that allows the festival to pay for the appearance and travel accommodations for writers. The fund also received a 5 percent recurring cut from the university, meaning the festival coordinators now have $4,750 to host visiting writers.

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Tribble said the festival costs on average $12,000 and $15,000 annually, with funds coming from the fund, Crab Orchard and Grassroots Literary Magazine.

Editor-in-chief of Grassroots Magazine Sarah Jilek said the event is partially funded by the student fee for fine arts. The fee charges $3.88 per credit hour and is capped at $46.48 per student. This source of funding has not changed, but Tribble said they did not know their appropriations from the fee until mid-September.

Tribble also said he did not know if the state would grant a visiting writer’s fund for this year until Oct. 9.

“It was more the delays that were difficult for us than the amounts of the funding,” Tribble said. “We can adjust our expenses based upon cuts, but when you don’t know if you’re going to have the money at all, that’s a different problem.” 

To compensate for the lack of funding, more than $6,000 was pulled from a Crab Orchard fund reserved for emergencies to pay the event speakers. 

Jilek said because of financial cuts, festival coordinators had to reduce the number of speakers at this year’s event.

“If we had not had the Crab Orchard money to at least ensure that we could pay the people we were bringing in, we couldn’t have invited people,” Tribble said. “We had no budgeting that told us for sure that we’d have money.”

For Alyssa Thomas, a sophomore from St. Louis majoring in English with a focus in creative writing, the event is way to connect with others interested in poetry. For Thomas, the possibility of not having the festival is personal.

“By maybe the time of my senior year I want to recite some of my poetry, and [maybe] I can’t because we no longer have Devil’s Kitchen or other the events we have for people to get their work out in the open,” Thomas said. “There’s overall less exposure for English majors, which is unfortunate.”

While Tribble attempted to find support from other on-campus sources for the festival, he found the process difficult because many university organizations are experiencing their own cuts; Crab Orchard Review received a $500 cut of its overall budget.

Coupled with over a 50 percent reduction in the visiting writer’s fund in the past two fiscal years, and the support provided from Crab Orchard, Tribble and others are uneasy.

“We prepare for bad times as well as good,” Tribble said. “It just means we’re a little less able to face other bad times if they come.”

Cory Ray can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @coryray_DE

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