One of Australia’s much loved regional music events, the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz & Blues has been presenting an annual Festival since 1990 and after more than 30 years, the volunteer Board of the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz Inc has taken the difficult decision to wind up its operations after presenting a final reduced event in November.
Whilst 2022 lead the Festival to return a positive balance sheet, this decision is seen as prudent and fiscally responsible on the basis of continuing financial constraints, and a shifting and uncertain outlook for music festivals generally across Australia. Diminished resourcing for the Board, and its volunteer base also contributed to a decision to go out on high note.
The Board will present the “Last Hurrah” in Wangaratta 3-5 November 2023 as a final celebration for jazz lovers and the people of Wangaratta. Our 2023 event, whilst reduced in capacity and scope, will be a celebration of over three decades of showcasing jazz and blues to local, state and interstate audiences, as well as supporting emerging new artists with our programming and our coveted National Jazz Awards.
In a nod to the much-loved elements the Festival has produced over some three decades, we will host a Gala Dinner on Friday 3rdNovember with a featured band and guests. The evening will be an acknowledgment of the wonderful work our volunteers have contributed and a salute to the integral support our major funders like Creative Victoria, the Australia Council for the Arts and the Rural City of Wangaratta, and a high note for the life members and community contributors over the years.
Bookending the National Jazz Awards presentation of our top five finalists with Bass as the featured instrument, will be a collaboration of local and emerging artists, as well as a special performance. The Festival Board and the Rural City of Wangaratta will host an awards presentation Saturday evening for invited guests, with prize money totalling $13,000, including $7,000 from the Rural City and a recording opportunity with Pughouse Studios awarded to first prize.
For the Jazz aficionado there will be a Saturday evening session at the Wangaratta Performing Arts and Convention Centre, featuring a double act, with a headline programmed by Festival stalwart Scott Solimo in consultation with recent former artistic directors Eugene Ball and Zoe Hauptmann. The Festival is continually grateful of the partnership between the venue, their team, and the Festival itself. From September 8th, they will provide a ticketing service for the gala and the two sessions held at that venue, and their wonderful staff and volunteer ushers will continue to provide a smiling welcome to the many expected visitors and locals celebrating the event. We will also host a Jazz Mass on Sunday 5th November, across the road at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, where thanks can be given for the contribution this historically great Festival has played in our community.
Other great partnerships to be acknowledged during the weekend will include some of the local venues that will host their own Jazz or Blues events, as well as favourites like the Oxley Bush Market on the Saturday and other art events including the Centre Quilters at the Uniting Church Rowan Street, and King Valley Art Show at the King Valley Brewery. These events will highlight terrific local talents and draw more visitors to the region for the Cup Day weekend period.
Festival Chair, Dave Fuller noted, “it’s this exploration of all the terrific elements that make up our region and its art and culture offering in conjunction with food and wine that excites me after thirteen years being involved with the Festival. I started as a volunteer, and across the many years have seen memorable collaborations between the jazz community, the local community, great businesses, and many helping hands at the Board and volunteer level. Equally amazing is the ongoing loyalty of some of our patrons, who continually book year on year to attend, we thank them – and deeply appreciate their support.”
The culmination of the community celebration will be an outdoor nod to Reid Street – but not in Reid Street, instead we will land in a scenic green space with elements of local music, food and wine, and a final chance in this format for a gathering of community to wind up more than 30 years of tradition. Mr Fuller, added “we will have opportunity for many to share their connection to the festival, whether it is financially through our 2023 sponsorship and ‘friends’ options aiming to ensure a successful celebration. Or across the weekend with a final art contribution in the planning – it is likely to be quite emotional for some, including myself, as we all look back over the many years. We look forward to sharing this celebration with you!”