The MJC has planned an impressively ambitious 30th Anniversary Project to celebrate this occasion on the Australia Day long weekend. Therefore, we were disappointed that the Australia Council did not increase our funding for 2013 to support this Project (it remains at $50,000). However, on December 14, the MJC was notified by Arts Victoria that its second funding application (in the Arts Development category) was also unsuccessful (following the earlier rejection of its Annual Operations application).
Therefore when the MJC commences its 2013 Program on January 13, it will have no State funding support at all. In 2012 we received $40,000 in the Annual Operations category, while in Sydney, S.I.M.A. received $90,000 in State support for its core of two-weekend performances per week, and the Jazzgroove Association $40,000 for its one weekly performance (levels which were maintained for 2013). Arts Victoria produced a similar decision for our 2009 program, but some State funding ($17,500) was eventually secured for the last six months of the year after a time-consuming protest campaign was mounted.
This result of A.V.’s decision will be an approximate 50% cut in the number of paid performances in our proposed 2013 program, and will clearly impact in the scope and quality of the program (with the MJC unable to support some of the special projects which are financially risky: larger ensembles, new projects, interstate ensembles, emerging artists, international collaborations, etc.). Melbourne’s contemporary jazz artists, who are notoriously underpaid (especially when it is considered that they compose new Australian works, as well as rehearsing and performing) will again bear the main brunt of these ill-informed and short-sighted decisions.
The Government spokeperson’s defense of these results has been that, “The Victorian Government has been a very generous supporter of the Melbourne International Jazz Festival, which received over $500K in support this year. Similarly, a number of jazz artists have benefited through the contemporary music grants in recent years”.
The MJC, of course, strongly supports the MIJF (having been a sponsor in 2012, and having played a major role in the 2002 protest campaign when it was not funded by A.V. and the City of Melbourne).
However, in a meeting with the Parliamentary Secretary and Ministerial Adviser in 2011, and subsequent correspondence in 2012, the MJC had consistently stressed the distinction between the concepts of a Festival and an on-going year-long music scene (two very different entities, which can be mutually exclusive, and often are in some overseas cities with successful festivals, but no significant local jazz scene). If this distinction cannot be grasped by our art bodies, it is a worrying situation. Crucially, the MIJF is funded by Major Events, so – like the Grand Prix and other Major Events – its main aims and assessment criteria are primarily the generation of box office returns, and bringing visitors to Melbourne via the predominant presentation of international artists (not to provide infrastructure for the local jazz scene, nor encourage a very significant generation of new Australian compositions). While support for the MIJF is significant, it pales in comparison to Victorian Opera’s current annual government funding of $3.75 million per annum through Arts Victoria.
With January 2013 marking the completion of 30 years of continuous Annual Programs (as well as 20 years at Bennetts Lane Jazz Club), this on-going lack of significant State support for – and ‘under-valuing’ of – the Melbourne jazz scene (via the work of the MJC) is extremely disappointing (especially in view of the major level of support given to other musical artforms which do not present original Australian work as their core objective). We will notify jazz supporters in our next eNews about the most effective platforms for expressing dissatisfaction with these results.