Music festival ‘in precarious position’

Tuesday, 9 April 2024 00:09

By Alexander Brock, Local Democracy Reporter

Organisers of a popular music festival in Birmingham have issued a heartfelt plea after the city council said it could no longer provide financial support.

Those behind the Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival say the event has been left in an “incredibly precarious position” due to the situation and have recently launched a fundraising campaign ahead of its 40th year.

Jim Simpson, festival director, says Birmingham City Council has supported the event for more than three decades but warned the ability to organise the festival now hangs in the balance.

The council recently approved an alarming wave of cuts to local services, with cultural venues such as the Birmingham REP, Birmingham Royal Ballet and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra all being rocked by planned grant cuts.

On his fundraising page, Mr Simpson says Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival has been a “beacon of music, entertainment and culture” in the city.

“However, this year, we face an unprecedented challenge that threatens the very existence of this significant event,” he continued.

“Birmingham City Council, currently grappling with financial difficulties, has announced drastic cuts to its budget for arts and culture and is unable to give any support whatsoever to The Jazz & Blues Festival.

“Each year since 1985, the festival has had to apply to the council for one year’s funding at a time.

“For 39 years, the Birmingham City Council has been a crucial supporter of our festival and their decision to withdraw all funding puts the festival in an incredibly precarious position.”

He added: “Without this support, our ability to organise and present a festival of the quality we have all come to expect hangs in the balance.”

According to the fundraising page on GoFundMe, which has a target of £20,000, donations will go towards helping sustain the festival and covering essential costs, preserving free access and marking the event’s 40th anniversary.

“We understand that times are tough for many, but we believe that together, we can overcome this challenge and ensure that the Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival continues to inspire, entertain and unite us for years to come,” Mr Simpson said.

Council leader John Cotton previously said culture cuts were an emblem of the difficult choices they have to make amid the need to also deliver frontline services to vulnerable people.

“In an ideal world I’d prefer not to be in this position but we are having to cut our cloth accordingly,” he said earlier this year.

“We’ve got lots of investment coming into this city, lots of people locating businesses and jobs here,” he insisted. “I think there’s conversations that we need to have around how we work together as a city as a whole, not just the city council, around protecting and supporting some of our cultural institutions.”

A spokesperson for the council said on Monday, April 8: “The council has supported this event for a number of years.

“Sadly, given our current challenges, it is not possible to offer financial support this year.”

The council’s bleak predicament is down to several issues including Birmingham-specific factors, such as a huge equal pay liability and the disastrous implementation of a new IT and finance system, as well as the rising demand for services and the impact of years of austerity.


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