Blues Festival organiser calls for more funding

Blues Festival organiser introducing the CHAIN awards at this year's event. Mr Bell says the festival needs more financial support.
Blues Festival organiser introducing the CHAIN awards at this year's event. Mr Bell says the festival needs more financial support.

The Blues Festival can’t continue “running on the smell of an oily rag” and needs a monetary injection, its organiser warns.

Geoff Bell will press this point in an address to Goulburn Mulwaree Council’s meeting on Tuesday night. It follows a report revealing the 2017 event returned a meagre $1,120 net profit.

In a letter to the council the Laing Entertainment owner also criticised the fact the council staged the Hockey NSW Indoor Masters event on the same February weekend as the Festival. It resulted in a $1000 increase in artists’ accommodation expenses due to motels’ higher tariffs, he said.

“We need more money to keep in the game,” Mr Bell told The Post.

”Costs are going up and I’ll be telling the council how little we have – under $50,000 to run the festival – compared to other major Blues festivals that have up to $270,000.”

Mr Bell said he wasn’t “having a go at the council.” In fact management and staff had supported the event. However the money had to come from somewhere. He told The Post it was becoming increasingly difficult to source sponsorship and grant funding.

Mr Bell has been running the festival for the past seven years. The council pays him an annual $20,000 management fee as part of the contract. But as in past years, the 2017 event barely turned a profit.

Venues contributed $29,150, for total income of $49,150. However expenses, including performance and marketing totaled $49,029.

“While our crowd numbers were again very strong, we have anecdotal evidence that some people were unable to attend due to a shortage of accommodation as a result of demand from those attending a hockey tournament,” Laing Entertainment wrote to the council.

“It is very disappointing and a little disconcerting that Council actively pursued an event on a weekend that has hosted the Blues Festival for 21 years.”

But a staff report stated that while the council enticed the Masters to Goulburn, the date was outside its control. It noted that a large number of participants attended the Festival, “suggesting the two events could run alongside each other “quite successfully.”

Mr Bell said the festival was a significant money spinner for Goulburn and it would be a shame to lose it.

“The point I’m making is that if we want these events, we need to get fair dinkum and fund them...We just need some certainty,” he said.