St Kilda Festival’s Future Uncertain Over Council’s Budget Blowout Pre-Election

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St Kilda Festival’s Future Uncertain Over Council’s Budget Blowout Pre-Election

The future of one of Melbourne’s most beloved and successful music events looks uncertain, with news that St Kilda Festival could be in trouble for a 2013 appearance due to budgeting issues from local council.

The Port Phillip Leader reports that Port Phillip Council is reconsidering next year’s music event following budget blowouts with councillors voting on St Kilda Festival’s fate next week on September 24, a mere day before the council enters election caretaker mode.

Deputy Mayor Frank O’Connor first raised the issue at a meeting last week calling for an urgent review after hearing that the bill for the 2013 iteration of the festival would be budgeted at $1.2 million.

According to the Port Phillip Leadersponsors of the two-day music event – which saw over hundreds and thousands of people flocking to the St Kilda foreshore earlier this year to see the likes of Boom Crash Opera, British India, Big Scary and Alpine play – would only be adding $144,000 to the council’s $730,688 budget.

The gulf in funds however, leaves a black hole in the budget of more than $350,000 for the incoming council, meaning that the costs of the festival have more than doubled in two years – reflected in St Kilda Festival’s increasing popularity, which in 2011 saw a record-breaking 420,000 people attend.

Deputy Mayor O’Connor said there needed to be a discussion about other means to “achieve the council’s objectives regarding live music and cultural development”. One consideration would be the cancellation of the music event on Sunday and instead keep budget costs lower on Saturday’s activities.

The Sunday festival is the main drawcard of the event, with The Age pointing out that a 2010 review of the festival conducted by consultants Cultural Value found that 85% of attendees lived outside of the municipality. Meanwhile O’Connor told the paper that “80% of the cost of the festival is tied up in the Sunday… It’s an untenable burden for ratepayers.”

The increase in popularity, says Councillor Serge Thomann, has meant a direct increase in the cost of infrastucture. “When you have 300,000 or more people coming to your streets you have to provide toilets, security, police. Since 2001 people have become much more conscious of security and things have become much more expensive as a result,” Thomann says.

Meanwhile Fitzroy St Business Association President Roger Wyndham said that if Port Phillip council had been more open-minded about potential sponsors for the event, it wouldn’t have led to the blow-out in the budget; saying: ”Don’t get me started on wasted time and money.”

The main problem is that the festival lacks a major sponsor. While Foxtel injected $1 million into the festival from 2007 to 2010, but no other major sponsor has stepped in to fill that significant financial hole.

Additionally, the news comes just as Port Phillip Council is about to enter election mode, and any concerns of the budget going into the red for an incoming council has potentially made St Kilda Festival’s uncertain future an electoral hot potato – attempting to deal with its budget blow outs before the new council is elected.

It’s not the first time that Port Philip council has butted heads with live music in the suburb, but it seemed that local council had experienced a change of heart following the encouraging news that the City of Port Philip’s Mayor ordered for greater communication between live music venues and the community to help develop local music culture.

It certainly helped balance out the issues over St Kilda venue-come-record store Pure Pop Records, who previously seemed to the target of a witch hunt by residents and local council, with Fun Police tacts designed to close the venue over noise complaints. As well as the upward turn for the Prince’s new bandroom, the Public Bar re-opening.

If St Kilda Festival were to be cancelled due to budgetary constraints, it would be an enormous step back for Port Phillip City Council after a few, small encouraging steps forward in regards to their dealings with live music.

Pulling the plug on their biggest and most successful live music event may leave some money in the budget, but it would leave an even bigger black hole in the city’s music calendar and cultural currency.

In related news, the DIY bomber that tragically marred last year’s St Kilda Festival, was recently jailed for at least 15 months with no parole.

23-year-old apprentice baker, Sam Aniello Castellano pleaded guilty to eight charges of eighteen last April - and was recently sentenced after he set off two DIY devices, injuring five people – two seriously - at St. Kilda Festival in February, 2011.


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