THE Great Southern leg of the Perth International Arts Festival (PIAF) will no longer operate in its current form, leaving a void for the arts community to fill.
Rod Vervest has been the PIAF Great Southern program manager for 15 years and said he regarded this as a positive move, as it would clear the way for a new local festival.
“It’s up to us now to forge our own direction and bring a festival that is very much about here and what it is that we want to say to the world now,” he said.
Mr Vervest said he attended an “encouraging” meeting of about 20 people in Albany on Monday, where it was confirmed PIAF would no longer operate in the Great Southern.
Albany MLA Peter Watson, representatives of PIAF, the City of Albany, Great Southern Development Commission and local arts organisations were also present at the meeting.
Mr Vervest said the region’s cultural landscape had changed with the development of the Albany Entertainment Centre and the steady stream of high-end arts events that were held.
“The case around delivering a festival such as PIAF has been reduced to a degree,” he said.
“They’ve suffered quite a heavy funding hit themselves, and one way and another after 15 years it’s felt that the program as we have known it is no longer a sustainable model here.”
Mr Vervest said he was confident money could be found to fund a new festival.
“We’ve put together a draft plan of how we think a new Albany festival could look, and we have commitment from all our major stakeholders that they will continue to support this idea,” he said.
“Whilst it potentially still has that international gloss coat sitting over the top of it, everything that falls underneath that will have a distinct Albany story and message behind it.”
Mr Vervest said PIAF would still have a role to play.
“We’ll still negotiate with PIAF on bringing acts down here,” he said.
“They will do all that sort of heavy lifting in terms of bringing the international product to Western Australia by paying all those flight costs and transfers.
“All we’ll have to do is basically find the performance fee and accommodation costs on the ground here.”
Mr Vervest likened PIAF to a “parent” and the Albany festival to a 15-year-old teenager that needed to start entering adult life.
“I think the important message is it becomes an Albany-driven event and that we negotiate with PIAF now for the sort of things that we want to curate,” he said.
Member for Albany Peter Watson said he was disappointed PIAF had pulled out of Albany.
“We’ve supported it for so long and the community’s supported it, so I have expressed my disappointment,” he said.
“It’s a sign of the current times; money is tight everywhere.”
However, Mr Watson agreed it was important to maintain a relationship with PIAF so Albany could continue to host international artists.
“We’re obviously not going to get the full bang we used to get before, but at least now we’ll have the opportunity to pick the acts we want,” he said.
“Now we can pick the eyes out of PIAF, and the fringe festival too.”
Mr Watson said the next step was to form a group that would host a local festival and seek funding.
“We’ve got to do something fairly soon, but not much is going to happen until after the budget in September,” he said.
“I’ll be talking to regional development minister Alannah MacTiernan about ways we can help get acts down here.”
In the meantime, Mr Vervest said he now had no official role in the process.
Besides program-managing PIAF Great Southern for 15 years, he has also coordinated Pinjarra’s Fairbridge Folk Festival for the past three.