Music festival halved, Peelman won’t say why

todayAugust 29, 2023 5

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Roland Peelman in action. Photo: Peter Hislop

THE Canberra International Music Festival will go ahead in 2024, but at about half this year’s size, encompassing just one weekend.

News of this dramatic change to one of Canberra’s most prestigious arts draw cards was made quietly in a newsletter from the organisation, which has also recently lost its general manager and is searching for a replacement.

This year’s CIMF ran from April 27 to May 7, but next year’s will run from May 1-5.

A spokeswoman at the office of the festival said that they “wanted to try a more condensed format”.

Retiring artistic director Roland Peelman, speaking by phone from Belgium, confirmed the change, but was tight-lipped on the move, saying “I’d rather not comment on it”.

However, he was prepared to say: “We’ve had to deal with covid, we’ve had to deal with the aftermath of it, and a certain amount of audience reticence, which is widespread, others in Canberra like the CSO have had to deal with the same thing.

“In the aftermath of the pandemic, audience behaviour has changed somewhat and we haven’t quite got a good handle on how to adjust.

“But I want to hand over to my successor with the utmost respect and on a positive note.”

He confirmed that after a nationwide search conducted by arts consultant Mary Jo Capps and around 60 applications, an announcement would not be far off.

The number of applications, he said, indicated that the profile of the festival had risen—”that’s a good thing, isn’t it?” he asked.

Looking back over nearly 10 years at the helm, Peelman reflected on the strides made by the festival, cleaning up a deficit, achieving four-year funding from the Australia Council and growing audiences well until covid hit.

But, he said, the ACT government’s funding body’s attitude to what he believed was a significant event “had not been helpful”, strange in light of its avowed aim to run the city into the nation’s “arts capital”.

Another problem, he said, was that the central location of the festival, The Fitters’ Workshop in Kingston, while it had a “great sound and an unique atmosphere,” came at a cost that had become prohibitive and would in any case be unavailable, with a year of site digging about to begin for the long-awaited Kingston Arts Precinct.

Music watchers are speculating on the likely central venue for the 2024 event, perhaps the ANU or even the new Snow Concert Hall, but again Peelman would not comment, saying this was “in negotiation”.

Whatever the final location, the decision to abandon at the very least the two-weekend format for a festival, one likely to attract interstate visitors, has music lovers scratching their heads.


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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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