Jazz festivals all about timing

COLIN WILLIAMS
Last updated 11:01 14/11/2012

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The return of an annual Jazz Festival in Wellington, and the lack of any consultation with Upper Hutt which runs its own festival around that that time, has been criticised by the chair of the Expressions Arts and Entertainment Centre Peter Richardson.

A Wellington Festival in the second week of July will potentially allow it to attract artists from a just completed Melbourne festival.

However, its scheduling will be close to the well-established four- night Upper Hutt festival which finishes on June 1, ahead of the Queen's Birthday holiday.

Mr Richardson says while the timing might present problems it could be advantageous to both events.

However, he is upset about a lack of any communication from Wellington City.

Upper Hutt's Festival - and a similar event in Palmerston North - has run for six years.

It was "deliberately focused on trying to contribute something constructive to the Wellington region" says Mr Richardson.

"We work with the Palmerston North Jazz Festival to get economies of scale, enabling us to bring in some very talented overseas acts and each year the festival has been growing quite nicely," he says.

"The festival is a quality event in a great venue," carried out with a "modest budget" of $20,000 from the Rimutaka Licensing Trust.

"Unfortunately Wellington City has now decided to stomp on us and Palmerston North," Mr Richardson says.

"Clearly having to compete against a [festival with a] bigger budget, it is going to make it very difficult for us to survive."

People in Upper Hutt have shown a very clear concern about the way they will be treated if we are absorbed into Wellington City . . . this is an example of why we should be afraid," Mr Richardson says.

"From where we sit it just comes across as a blatant abuse by the 'big guy'."

The timing of the events is "close, but not head on and we are not against getting together but I feel we need to have some formal talks, there is no point in going head-to-head on this," he says.

Informally Upper Hutt's concerns have been carried to the Wellington organisers by Rodger Fox, the jazz supremo who largely organises the acts for the Upper Hutt and Manawatu festivals.

He largely welcomes any move by Wellington to re-instate a festival but shares concerns about the timing of all the events.

"I'm mindful of the fact we have had six years of fostering jazz here [in Upper Hutt] and now we are going to have to compete, conceivably on the same weekend, in the years ahead."

Rather than viewing the unexpected development an obstacle, the challenge is to turn it into a positive, Mr Fox says.

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"I think we need to look at an overall strategy a combination of what's happening and make them a Wellington regional event.

"While the two events will be separate and will have individual funding perhaps their promotion could be under the one umbrella," Mr Fox, a big fan of the Expressions' Genesis Theatre as a venue for live jazz.

"And, before things go too much further, Wellington has to have a conversation with Expressions," he says.

"The 2013 Wellington Jazz Festival is planned to take place on 6-8 June, the weekend following Queen's Birthday Weekend," Sue Paterson, spokesperson for the festival says.

"Though the proximity of the events does mean there is a lot on for jazz fans in the region over the period, the Wellington Jazz Festival intends to work in partnership, not in competition, with other presenters," she says.

"We look forward to progressing discussions with our colleagues at the Queen's Birthday Jazz and Blues Festival at Expressions over the coming months."

The rescheduling of the Wellington Jazz Festival was a "relatively recent decision" following talks with Wellington City Council, a major funder of the event.

"We look forward to working closely with the Expressions team from this point forward and we're confident jazz, blues and music fans will have a wealth of events to enjoy across the region next June," Ms Paterson says.

- Upper Hutt Leader

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