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Fringe Festival feels John Hargreaves’ axe

johnboy 20 August 2009 76

Here’s some video of just how much John Hargreaves liked the Fringe Festival in February:

Today he’s announced that he’s getting rid of it and giving $30,000 dollars to a rather surprised National Folk Festival to do something Fringey.

Now have a listen to just how surprised the Folk Festival’s Jared Wilkins was when asked about this on 666.

But for real excitement, wrap your ears around Jorian’s Gardner’s anger over the manner, timing, and nature of the announcement.

Also fear not. Beer And Meat On A Stick Day (BAMOASD) is pretty much going to be the sole survivor of the reductions to the multicultural festival.

UPDATE: The ABC brings word that a startled Jon Stanhope is trying to hose down the fire as he edges John Hargreaves away from it:

    Mr Stanhope has apologised to Mr Gardner for how the situation has been handled.

    But he denies taking over responsibility for the event is a veiled rebuke of Mr Hargreaves.

    “It’s just a reflection of the reality of the changing structure and the changing nature of the way in which the Fringe Festival would in the future be funded,” he said.


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76 Responses to Fringe Festival feels John Hargreaves’ axe
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Anna Key Anna Key 7:36 am 27 Aug 09

Can’t the arts community foster the local talent. At least people attend sporting events. And I think you will find that the govt does fund the arts, they’ve just decided not to fund the fringe to the same level

Deadmandrinking Deadmandrinking 12:12 pm 26 Aug 09

Free movie tickets, free Alice Cooper tickets, returns on tax spending…

What you’re all missing is that most Movies and Alice Coopers don’t come from Canberra. The fringe festival was about fostering local talent. Keeping it free meant more exposure.

The government funds sports, so it should fund the arts.

andybarty andybarty 9:36 am 26 Aug 09

George is totally right. Can you really blame the politicians for not wanting to give funds to someone that would generate bad publicity and be a constant pain in the neck? Don’t despair…this debate was needed. The Fringe was not really a proper Fringe as those types of festivals normally pay their own way…this was like an amateur showcase paid with money destined for a multicultural celebration…one thing I don’t get is why is the minister for multicultural affairs giving money to an arts event? Who is advising him? I would have fired that person weeks ago….he or she is probably on a salary of 100K…I can think of better ways to use that money!

George D George D 5:35 pm 25 Aug 09

Canberra, you are killing yourself when you do things like this

Indeed. This city is pretty dead, and the Fringe and Multicultural Festivals were some of the only things that make this place even remotely lively. I heard awful things about Canberra before I came here from overseas, and lately I’ve been telling people that it’s not all bad here, there are some sparks of life.

There are few venues for creative arts in Canberra (thanks to the NCA and the Burley Griffin fan club). The Multicultural festival is being attacked with a knife as we speak. How much more likely is it that everybody who hasn’t already left will find themselves in Sydney and Melbourne?

Jorian has pissed too many people off, and it was inevitable that something like this would happen. Also agree that it needed to be separated from the Multicultural Festival. Still, we’re all suffering now.

I blame the bloody Greens too. They chose to stay on the cross benches, despite a mandate from the people, and now Hagreaves and Stanhope can get away with this shit.

TheObserver TheObserver 2:33 pm 25 Aug 09

Thanks Deye – as I see it though there is a lack of detail from a number of sources on all sorts of things, and that detail would be helpful to have – to put things in a better context. But having the stats – the good news stuff – that would help Mr Gardner’s cause – as well as the Territory’s – when it comes to parting with public monies.

WanniAss WanniAss 12:13 pm 25 Aug 09

multi-kulti said :

One of the major problems has always been that both the Fringe and the Multicultural Festival are administered through those well-known party animals, The ACT Dept. of Disability, Housing & Community Services – seriously! How can you expect them to run either a festival or a fringe? These are Arts festivals and should have been considered as such a long time ago, and administered by people who understand how events should be run. Now it’s probably too late.

What a sad loss for Canberra.

I agree keep government out of it altogether, including funding

deye deye 10:13 am 25 Aug 09

The last two years a lot of the money raised during the night went to charity. The food stalls just outside the tent were also run by charities.

TheObserver TheObserver 10:07 am 25 Aug 09

Actually, what DID happen to all the money the Fringe got? Who paid the bills, how much were they, where did the revenue for ticket sales go, how much were the artists paid, what was the Director’s fee. Important questions. One wonders if Mr Gardner doth protest too much?????

trevar trevar 7:20 am 25 Aug 09

Jorian Gardner’s Facebook status is spruiking “an announcement / protest” this Thursday at 1pm in Civic Square.

andybarty andybarty 4:37 pm 24 Aug 09

The so called Multicultural Fringe, (There is nothing multicultural about it), does have an audience and it is a good thing that alternative artists get a chance to perform however the money to fund it should come out of the arts ministry coffers not out of the small multicultural pot. Once the money is provided, if it is public money, we must ensure that it does not go to support a money making enterprise like a bar put in a square to sell beer, lots of it. Who gets all that money? So far, the event has managed to alienate many people and tarnished the brand so I would find it hard for a private company to agree to give money to an event that generates so much negative publicity. Many people just don’t get it…Of course Canberra should have an arts festival and a fringe can be a part of that but leave the Multicultural to continue to do what it does best: bring vibrancy and colour to the city…we need a lot of that….if the arts program relates to the multicultural experience it should be welcome but if it doesn’t then it should go somewhere else…The Folks at The Folk Festival should think this gift through as it may become more of a headache..

housebound housebound 11:02 pm 23 Aug 09

In relation to OBDM:

sepi said :

… Is it someone’s job in ACT govt to find stuff that actually works and that people like, and to ruin it? EG – Tharwa Primary, Griffith Library, now the bus depot markets.

And now part of the arts scene.

sepi sepi 8:46 pm 23 Aug 09

Didn’t the Multicultural Festival itself actually get rolled into the Canberra Festival a few years ago (maybe quite a few years.)

I-filed I-filed 6:03 pm 23 Aug 09

Jorian may have revivified the Fringe Festival, but i don’t think he established it. Fringe ran in the late 1980s and the 1990s in Canberra, didn’t it?

multi-kulti multi-kulti 5:41 pm 23 Aug 09

The Minister’s most recent pathetic decision comes as no surprise. I’ts hard to know who’s been more incompetent – the Minister’s Dept. or Nic Manakis’ Office of Multicultural Affairs, which has overseen both the Fringe and the Multicultural Festival.

Despite the enormous amount of dedication put in by Jorian, former Multicultural head honcho Domenic Mico and the entire festival team (including quite a few volunteers), there’s always been constant interference from government and bureaucracy. Despite that, some wonderful events have taken place in past years – The Fringe, Latin Carnivale, the huge Food & Dance day, lunchtime concerts, myriad theatre events, club gigs, exhibitions, workshops etc. – and most of it for free!

Domenic and most of the core team left in disgust in 2008. Jorian hung in there.

And now, having gone half a million dollars overbudget(!) this year, the Minister and Manakis have reduced the Multicultural Festival down from two full weeks of events (just a few years ago), to the meagre 3-day weekend that it has become – basically just the Food/Dance Day now, with minimal involvement from either international or national performers.

One of the major problems has always been that both the Fringe and the Multicultural Festival are administered through those well-known party animals, The ACT Dept. of Disability, Housing & Community Services – seriously! How can you expect them to run either a festival or a fringe? These are Arts festivals and should have been considered as such a long time ago, and administered by people who understand how events should be run. Now it’s probably too late.

What a sad loss for Canberra.

Gungahlin Al Gungahlin Al 4:18 pm 23 Aug 09

I think it’s all a bit bizarre. The multicultural festival is bleeding money , so Hargreaves cuts Fringe instead. He says it’s an odd fit with that festival (and it may well be) so he tried to jam it into the Folk Festival (just as odd a fit methinks). And he takes a free attendance event in summer and shunts it off into a high-ticket price autumn event. And then claims his hope is for it to develop into a strong free-standing event…

All smacks of trying to make it disappear to me.

As for the way he ambushed Jorian, one could well understand why the bloke who established Fringe in the first place is majorly cheesed off. Hargreaves angrily accused me of ambushing him in the media a couple of years ago (which I didn’t – he dug his own hole and jumped right in while the TV cameras were running) – but it seems ambushing is something he’s adept at…

simbobloke simbobloke 12:04 am 23 Aug 09

It should be pointed out, too, the main-stage bit of the artistic component of the Multicultural fest (the international dance troupes, Greek drama performed in Greek, that sorta stuff) is usually reasonably heavily sponsered by the originating-country’s embassy. So it’s possible a lot of this stuff is cost neutral… Unfortunately, the fringe festival, was … well, not spectactularly related to the theme of multiculturalism.

It was a high-quality selection of the best of the local arts scene, with no particular regard at all to the covering brief of multiculturalism .. one might argue that was what was good about it, but still, it doesn’t actually do what it says on the tin.

Given that it wasn’t spectacularly multicultural, it’s a pretty easy target to be lopped off the side if the rest of the enterprise is having fiscal problems. If it’s a fringe, it isn’t core.

Frankly, Canberra’s vibrant and active arts scene deserves its own festival, not to be tacked onto the side of something else. And .. .well, hopefully some of the momentum and anger about this will get something moving. Whether Jorian Gardner is the man for the job… I have major doubts (I’ve walked away early both times I’ve gone to multicultural fest events, largely due to finding the physical organisation of events a bit disastrous – the location is lovely, simiarly the acts booked are great, but the actual execution of a flowing performance seriously lacked). But certainly, getting the cream of Canberra’s artists together in one place (music, theatre, stand-up, dance, etc) and engaging each other’s audience is a good thing to have.

Anna Key Anna Key 7:33 am 22 Aug 09

Fully agree with TheObserver. No other sponsor would put up with the kind of behaviour discussed here from an event’s organiser. While Hargreaves’s behaviour may not have been ideal, what would have been achieved in discussions, other than a indignant Jorian.

If people want to go see it, pay for it themselves, or set up a fundraising arrangment. It seems that most of those here who seem to say the enjoy it, but won’t pay to go see it. Can we get a subsidy for cinema tickets too? I love the movies but can’t afford $17 for a ticket too often.

I-filed I-filed 12:55 am 22 Aug 09

GB said :

Like Jorian, Mico’s reputation is a curious mix of admiration for events pulled off, vs alarm at the number of trampled bodies.

Indeed. During the TAU Theatre days in the 1980s Mico had the run of a publicly funded theatre, and he milked the opportunity, putting on his own very mediocre shows with no apparent regard for conflicts of interest. Unfortunately, the theatre burnt down along with all the records – presumably a coincidence that it was just before an audit was going to be conducted, which was particularly unfortunate as there were quite some murmurs about the management of the place.

kakosi kakosi 7:44 pm 21 Aug 09

From the point of view of someone who only just discovered the Fringe Festival, and now realises it was probably the last one that will ever happen, this feels like a tragedy.

The last one was held spectacularly during a summer heatwave in the centre of town. It had atmosphere and it felt like nothing I’d ever been to before.

The ACT Government doesn’t seem to be able to budget or plan and quite frankly this proves we should never have been given self-government. The place was much better money managed before we got our own set of “would-be if they could-be” mock politicians.

I wrote to Hargraves and received a very polite but “no joy” response about changing their minds regarding what they are doing with the Fringe. It may be they were considering cutting it completely and the modest funding is some kind of way to try and “keep people happy”.

If the Fringe is put into the Folk Festival with it’s steep entry fee I think definitely we will never see the event in full “glory” again. It certainly won’t have that centre of the city atmosphere I was lucky to witness.

What a crappy city this is sometimes…

GB GB 4:38 pm 21 Aug 09

Regardless of whether Jorian is the right person to run it, we’ve lost the Fringe as it was. Or more particularly, the tax money to fund it. Many will mourn, some will cheer. And its important to give the anarcho-capitalists something to cheer about occasionally, otherwise they’ll get sulky and want to privatise the health system.

A fringe event within the folk festival will satisfy none of the same goals (though it might be a bonus for people who are attending); and if they try to run an event outside the folk fest it will be inefficient and outside their charter. I agree with Theobserver that the folk fest is a great example of treating people well — but many have serious disagreements with them about their focus on quality (including well-paid overseas highlights) vs inclusiveness (paying local musos). I think its good that they don’t try to be everything.

The multicultural fest was a bad fit to fund a fringe primarily because it was not an arts festival, but a ‘cultural’ one; and thus was in Disability, Housing and Community Services; rather than Arts. Stanhope should give artsACT the money to disburse to someone who can do a fringe; instead of pissing it up the wall in a shotgun marriage with the folk festival.

And meat on a stick day should be preserved at all costs, of course.

BTW with a certain degree of irony I note that today it was reported that Dominic Mico thinks Hargreaves decision is great. Like Jorian, Mico’s reputation is a curious mix of admiration for events pulled off, vs alarm at the number of trampled bodies.

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