I was saddened but not surprised to hear the Jazz Festival is no longer. I was involved as a steward from the 1990s and contributed on the organising committee and latterly as Chief Steward for some 4 years to 2013.
The Marlborough Jazz Festival became the town’s leading community event and despite its ‘international’ branding, was largely and strongly enjoyed by the local community. It became larger than the sum of those involved and brought together many individuals whose voluntary efforts, whether organising the stages and equipment, security, first aid or helping with the stewarding greatly enriched the town.
Nevertheless, its demise was inevitable. It became apparent to me soon after joining the committee that executive control of the event took place through a sub group of trustees. The result was that the main committee experienced a revolving door of very capable contributors who became disillusioned with the event’s seemingly opaque direction.
Some three years ago, it was suggested that the event’s future should be reviewed – providing an opportunity to put in place a next generation organisation. But for several reasons this initiative foundered.
It is a sad epilogue that questions have been raised about how the event’s income was spent, but the real obstruction to progress was the trustees’ apparent resistance to any kind of format change.
Despite what some may believe, the issue of road closures was irrelevant to the future of the Jazz Festival. This wider and ongoing issue affects several popular and unpopular events and needs assertive direction (not so easy to achieve) at local government level.
It is great news to read that a new, alternative event is now being proposed and that the entertainment scope might – at last – be widened. The town needs an inclusive, high profile event to highlight its position as the region’s major tourist focus, and this represents a major opportunity for the local hospitality industry.
Mantonfest’s meteoric growth over the past five years shows what can be done when community support is strong. A well organised, value for money, transparent town event can be well supported and can become a high profile contributor to worthy local causes.
Peter Morgan, Manton