WANGARATTA FESTIVAL ON FURLOUGH

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Adam Simmons, third from left, takes a bow on stage at the Wangaratta Performing Arts Centre Theatre during the 2018 festival. He has now bowed out of his role as co-artistic director.

BREAKING NEWS

There will be no Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues in 2019.

This esteemed festival will take a break before celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2020.

In a media release embargoed until 10am today — Friday 1 February, 2019 — the festival board announced it had voted to postpone the festival’s 30th anniversary celebrations.

The 30th festival will now be held in 2020.

“It was not an easy decision to make, but we all voted with the best interests of the festival in mind, and we will be working towards delivering a landmark festival in 2020,” said Festival Chair Miriam Zolin.

The news release went on as follows:

While the 2018 festival was widely enjoyed and praised for its exciting program of local and international jazz and blues, the organisation, like many small arts organisations, has faced a number of operational pressures in recent years.

The recent resignation of co-artistic director Adam Simmons, and departure of long-term festival managers Nolan Media Events last year, has underscored the need to look strategically at the festival’s operating model, and its long-term sustainability.

“The board is committed to ensuring the future of the festival, and for now that means taking some time to look at the way we operate and plan for the years ahead,” said Zolin.

In the lead-up to this decision, the festival has held discussions with its funding partners, including the Rural City of Wangaratta and Creative Victoria. In December the Board took part in a strategic planning day which pointed clearly to a need to look at the festival’s operational and fundraising models.

“The Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues has always been resilient in the face of change, and this decision will offer an invaluable opportunity for us to take a breath and revisit the festival’s structure,” said Zolin.

The Festival Board will work closely with its partners and the community to map out a future for the festival that ensures the festival’s vision and purpose stay strong.

“Just like the music that this festival celebrates, we’ll continue to be creative,” said Zolin.

“In 2019 we will develop a sustainable model for delivery of the festival into the future, and we need time to make sure we get it right. We will build on the success of 2018 and previous years to make the 30th festival one that celebrates all that Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues has contributed to the jazz and blues scene in Australia and in bringing the local Wangaratta community together.”

“We acknowledge and thank all of those who have played a role in our extraordinary story to date and look forward to working together on this next chapter for Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues.”

As well, festival chair Miriam Zolin’s media release provided some background about the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues:

In 1989 a group of Wangaratta business people suggested the idea of a music festival to Wangaratta Council. Council funded a feasibility study which concluded that a festival in Wangaratta could offer a point of difference from other music festivals, with a program based on modern and contemporary jazz. The first festival took place in 1990. The festival also hosts the National Jazz Awards with its associated prizes and prestige. The professional careers of previous winners and finalists have been significantly boosted, making the NJAs a hugely important in developing a future for Australian jazz and improvised music. Programming for the first 27 years was overseen by the inimitable Adrian Jackson OAM, who was honoured in the 2019 Australia Day Honours List with an Order of Australian Medal acknowledging his services to music. Since its inception, the festival has been a huge influence in the Australian jazz scene, as well as a significant contributor to artistic and cultural life and economic development in the Rural City and the broader North East of Victoria. The festival continues to work in close partnership with the Rural City of Wangaratta.

This news will be a huge shock to many dedicated fans who have travelled to Wangaratta for many years on the weekend before Cup day to enjoy this feast of music – jazz and blues, featuring national and international artists – available at venues in one location and accessible via a daily or weekend pass.

It is a bold move to postpone such a festival for a year just as it prepares to celebrate 30 years in which many, many musicians have created memorable and often unexpectedly exhilarating moments for so many patrons.

Will this be a hiccup that opens the way to a brighter future for this annual gathering at which fans mingle in the streets with musicians and the anticipation of experimentation is often in the air? Or will this signal a parting of the ways for rusted on fans? Let’s hope it is the former.

And what will the streets of Wang be like on that weekend in early November, without the buzz, without the crowds and queues, without the blues marquee and without the bustle and hustle of patrons heading for yet another gig?

Quiet.

Bring on 2020 and the 30th Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues.

ROGER MITCHELL

PS: Those who have a regular booking for accommodation, remember to touch base with the local providers so they know you’ll be back, albeit a year later than anticipated.

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