ARTS VICTORIA DUMPS MELBOURNE JAZZ CO-OP

Martin Jackson

Glass half empty? Martin Jackson faces a lean year in the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative’s mission to support musicians and live music in Melbourne.

There will be no Arts Victoria money for the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative next year, unless pressure can be applied to have this decision — described as “so obviously wrong” by Adrian Jackson — reversed.

As anger in the jazz community in Melbourne turns to planning for a public campaign to demonstrate that patrons and musicians are not happy, we are all being urged to take this issue up with Premier Ted Baillieu and our local MPs — of whatever political hue.

Let’s make sure the hue and cry starts immediately and does not let up until Arts Victoria and the State Government are embarassed into a backdown.

For any live music fans not familiar with how important the co-operative is for musicians and those who enjoy their work, MJC regularly supports gigs at venues such as Bennetts Lane, Uptown Jazz Cafe, ensuring that those who provide the creativity, inventiveness and, yes, music do not have to get by on door deals.

This decision is particularly galling as the co-op comes into its 30th year.

For any who are not on Facebook, I have taken the liberty of publishing the following comments that have followed the initial posting of the news by festival artistic director Adrian Jackson. (If anyone wants their views removed, let me know.)

Adrian Jackson: Hard to believe that whatever ‘music experts’ were on the advisory panel for Arts Victoria thought it would be a good idea to give the Melbourne Jazz Co-op zero funding in 2013. If the outcome is so obviously wrong, something must be wrong with the process.

Peter Rechniewski: There is something rotten within the body of Arts Victoria.

Aren Hill: Just terrible

Peter Rechniewski: Frankly, I think legal advice should be sought as to whether the “experts” knew anything about or were in fact sympathetic or hostile to this music.

Leon Gettler: Can that be re-negotiated?

Andrew Dickeson: Disgraceful. I wonder how much they’d be willing to disclose about the processes & decisions.

Adrian Jackson: Leon, Well, officially they don’t renegotiate funding decisions. But I suspect that this could be like the dumb decisions (by Arts Vic and City Of Melbourne) to withdraw funding for the Melbourne International Jazz Festival in 2002. They obviously thought they could pull their funding for a jazz event and no-one would care. Instead, they bought a shitstorm of negative publicity that money couldn’t buy, and rectified the mistake on the next funding round. I suspect this may be history about to repeat.

Adrian Jackson: Their justification ‘well, we did put over $500k into the Melbourne Jazz Festival’ doesn’t really cut it. It’s like the AFL deciding to cancel the home and away season, but still financing the grand final.

Barney McAll: In a culture which is increasingly all about profit, personal gain and self service, go see Martin Jackson’s record collection you can see a man that is all about music.

Shannon Barnett: Who should we contact to express dismay at this decision?

Niko Schauble: Lamentable! A petition?

Gianni Marinucci: This is unaccaceptable and we must fight it. I say we organize another rally like we did in 2002. I bet the mso still got their funding.

Nick Haywood: That is appalling. Could it (although this is ridiculous) be in part because the word “jazz” is so broad and means many different things to different people – not always positive. Would calling it something like “new music” for example make any difference? I know this shouldn’t matter as it it the substance of what the jazz coop puts on that is important, and it IS very important. I personally think jazz is the right word –
Maybe funding bodies need to be educated as to what this word actually means in 2012/13?

Nat Bartsch: Such a huge shame.

Adrian Jackson: Shannon, I would suggest that every musician/music lover who is a registered voter in Victoria should contact their local MLA. If they’re Labor, ask them to make an issue of it; if they’re Liberal, alter them that it could be a vote-changer at the next election.

Adrian Jackson: Niko, I expect a petition will be organised

Adrian Jackson: Nick, arguable whether the word ‘jazz’ is a factor or not. I expect the problem is that the ‘expert’ advisers on the panel either know nothing about jazz, or are actually hostile to music outside their own area of interest ; hard to otherwise explain why they would recommend totally abandoning support to the Co-op.

Roger Mitchell: It is a shock and a shame. Martin Jackson and the Melbourne Jazz Co-op perform such a vital role in ensuring that live jazz and improvised music is alive and well in Melbourne. As Gianni says, we must fight this, whether via MPs or on the streets or both.

Blue Keys: Wow, that’s bad news maestro. What on earth were they thinking? I can tell them what the importance is for international artists if you want me to.

Adrian Jackson: oj, anyone who would like to protest this decision, please contact your local member, as suggested above.

Also contact the Premier of Victoria, and Minister for the Arts, Ted Baillieu via Phone: (03) 9651 5000 Fax: (03) 9651 5054
Email: ted.baillieu@parliament.vic.gov.au
Website: http://www.premier.vic.gov.au

For further information, here is the text of an open letter from Adrian Jackson to Premier Baillieu:

Dear Premier
I am writing to you in your capacity as Minister for the Arts, to express my extreme disappointment in the recent decision by Arts Victoria to withdraw its funding support for the Melbourne Jazz Co-operative in 2013.

I understand that funding budgets are limited, and that not every worthy applicant can be funded. But I have to suggest, with respect, that the process that arrived at this outcome is seriously flawed, and needs to be fixed.

Those of us who are involved in the jazz community are proud of the fact that Victoria is recognised as the leading centre for jazz activity in Australia. This reputation is based on the ongoing success of events like the Melbourne International Jazz Festival and the Wangaratta Jazz festival (both of which enjoy significant support from your government), as well as events like Stonnington Jazz, the Melbourne Jazz Fringe Festival and the Melbourne International Womens Jazz Festival ; respected tertiary courses at Monash Uni, the VCA and NMIT ; venues like Bennetts Lane, Paris Cat, Uptown Jazz Cafe, Dizzys and more ; the national Australian Art Orchestra, which is based in Melbourne ; and the many outstanding bands and individual artists who are based in Melbourne.

The Melbourne Jazz Co-op, over the last 30 years, has played a vital role in helping create the vibrant jazz scene that Melbourne now boasts. Its ongoing performance series provide valuable performance opportunities for both established and emerging bands ; it provides guaranteed performance fees which, sadly, is not the norm on the local scene. It gives local audiences the chance to hear bands from interstate, or to hear local musicians collaborating with interstate or international artists. It has provided valuable support to help new venues and festivals become established.

The Co-op has been the major presenting organisation for 30 years, a fact made possible by ongoing support from Arts Victoria and the Australia Council for the Arts. Ironically, the Co-op was planning a major concert in January 2013 to celebrate its 30th anniversary. It now seems likely that this concert will become a focal point for a campaign of protest from musicians and music fans who find this withdrawal of support from Arts Victoria hard to understand. It simply doesn’t make any sense. I can only assume that the ‘expert advisers’ on the assessment panels concerned did not include anyone who has any understanding of how the jazz scene functions in Melbourne.

If anything, Arts Victoria should have been seriously considering an increased level of funding for the MJC in 2013. It is worth comparing the level of support for the major presenting organisation in Melbourne ($40k in 2012, $0 in 2013) with the level of support offered by Arts NSW to the two counterpart organisations in Sydney (in 2012, Arts NSW provided $90k to the Sydney Improvised Music Association, and $40k to the Jazzgroove Association ; these figures will be the same in 2013).

I urge you to reconsider this funding decision ; and at the very least, to review the process that made such a flawed outcome possible.

Yours sincerely,
Adrian Jackson
(artistic director, Wangaratta Jazz and Stonnington Jazz)

Ausjazz blog will do all it can to help fight this. More news as it comes to hand.

ROGER MITCHELL

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