Monday 16 March 2009

A new Cairns festiVAL

Following the abandonment of the annual Cairns Festival - or the European version 'Festival Cairns' - by local Toyota car sales businessman John O'Brien due to his financial woes, the new Mayor is keen for some big changes.

Val Schier has been a vocal critic of the former festival, however failed in a vote last year to open up Council's tender process to other parties to take over manage and the annual event. Many criticised the lack of organised local events. The events calender was largely a collection of things going on already from the SportFest, films at the Botanic Gardens, or plays at the theatre. It was a lack-lustre, tired and needed and wake up, no matter what which you looked at it.

You had to question the event management experience of the previous organisers - they may have been well-meaning, but the final product was a big yawn. There's no doubt we could have done it ten times better, and it's not all about money.

However, Val Schier's plan to reform the festival as a signature local event on our calender is getting another step closer to realisation. Under her direction, an advisory group has been formed to create an 'innovative vibrant vision for festivals and celebrations.'

"This group will give advice and feedback to Council on the development of festivals throughout the region,” Mayor Schier says. “The committee will look at how festivals are funded by Council and seek to develop new and alternative events across the region.”

Schier will chair the committee that includes Olive Tau Davis, Sarah Collins, Tony Hillier, Chris Pascoe, Ursula Lyons, Fred Lizzio, Jillian Causer, Ken Dobbs and David Hudson. All come with experience in festival organising and planning. Councillors Alan Blake, Linda Cooper, Diane Forsyth and Julia Leu, are also on the committee, that will meet monthly.

"The former festival has not reflected the talent and diversity in this region," says Tony Hillier. "It's time for a change and I'm delighted to contribute."

Hillier, who was the former editor of Cairns' street press Barfly and columnist for London Evening Standard among others, is also an accomplished local musician with well-known local bands Snake Gully and Kamerunga.

The committee's formation comes as Council adopt a new Cultural Plan. Themed ‘Strengthening our Cultural Vitality’, it sets a direction for future cultural development in the community and identifies the assets of the newly amalgamated region, according to Val Schier.

“After amalgamation, the Arts and Cultural Plans from the previous regional bodies needed merging and revision,” the Mayor said today.

“The input from public engagement on specific areas has given Council a clear idea of the community’s values and aspirations and the issues currently surrounding cultural life in the broader community,” the Mayor said.

“We want to create and promote cultural tourism, redevelop the School of Arts Building, produce a city heart strategy and identify an agreed use for the Sugar Wharf in line with the Port Douglas Waterfront Plan.”

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