18 minutes ago
THIS year’s 18-day Darwin Festival will be cancelled unless the Territory Government forks out nearly half-a-million taxpayer dollars in the next few days.
Festival general manager Emily Mann issued the NT News a statement late last night saying the event would “not go ahead unless the Government makes good on $450,000 worth of remaining contract payments owing to the Festival this year”.
The festival, scheduled to run from August 4 to 21, posted a $342,906 deficit last year which had been growing over a number of years as a result of funding cuts, rising delivery costs and decreased ticket sales.
“In response to this deficit the new Festival management stringently interrogated the budget and reduced all possible discretionary spending,” the statement said.
“The Festival has met with the Government numerous times to request an alteration to the existing payment schedule and for additional funding, in order to address this deficit. The Government has not responded to this request.”
Festival board chairwoman Clare Martin told the NT News last night: “Sadly we’re coming to the crunch point we’ve got the festival at the start of August.”
“So unless we’re able to contract artists and make the payments that need to be made the festival won’t be able to go ahead,” she said.
“The festival injects more than $9 million into the Territory economy each year. It would be a tragedy to lose it this year. I understand the director General of Licensing will make a decision in the next day.”
She said if the festival was cancelled this year it was unlikely it would be reinstated.
In a brief statement last night, a spokesman for Arts Minister Gary Higgins said: “He is absolutely committed to paying the staff; and contractors and he’s committed to the festival in August.”
He did not directly answer whether he would pay the $450,000.
Last month, the NT Government provided the festival $94,000 so staff and contractors could be paid.
Deloitte recently conducted an independent audit on the festival. “Despite being the subject of the report and contributing significantly to its content, the Festival has not received or seen a copy of the report and has not been briefed on its recommendations,” the festival statement said.
The Festival engages 120 production, ticketing and bar staff annually and employs nine core staff year round.
Source : NT News