The Mayor of Wangaratta, Cr Dean Rees, was quick to respond to these questions, put to him today (February 5), about the future of the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues, which has been postponed by a year until 2020:
Ausjazz: In the Wangaratta Chronicle you were quoted as saying that the council would be staging a music festival in November this year that would be “just as big or better for the community”. Given the difficulty faced by the board in continuing to hold a music festival that has been running for 29 years, how realistic is it for the city to stage a totally new and “better” festival in the time available, starting from scratch?
Mayor Rees: The festival board’s decision was obviously very recent, so our Events team will start planning now for something to fill the gap on that weekend. We’re confident it can be something big, but the planning really begins now.
Ausjazz: You also suggested this new festival would perhaps involve “a new genre of music” and said “it may be time to steer away from jazz”. Does this mean the end of council’s support for the festival and effectively the end of the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues?
Mayor Rees: The jazz festival board have said there will be a 30th Festival in 2020 and Council will consider support for that event when the detail of that event has been developed by the board.
Ausjazz: If the city does decide to support another kind of music festival, possibly one that would attract more visiting fans than those drawn to jazz and/or blues, what would the council consider supporting?
Mayor Rees: This is still being developed, but we’re welcome to all ideas.
Ausjazz: Festival chair Miriam Zolin said that after the festival AGM in March there would be a “total re-think” and this would include a decision on whether the festival should continue to be held on the weekend before Melbourne Cup Day. What other options have been suggested, and why?
Mayor Rees: This is best answered by the festival board.
Ausjazz: Finally, a lot of regular patrons have an annual booking with an accommodation provider in Wangaratta because they come every year. What do you advise people in this situation to do now that there will not be jazz or blues happening in November and
the future of the festival is uncertain?
Mayor Rees: I’d encourage people to visit Wangaratta. There will be something on on the long weekend and it is the perfect time to visit our region and enjoy the natural surrounds and gourmet food and wine on offer. Stay up to date and watch this space for an announcement.