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Darwin Festival Threatens To Cancel 2016 Event If Government Doesn’t Pay Up

Written by Tom Williams on June 7, 2016

UPDATE 08/06/16 6:15pm AEST: As the ABC reports, Darwin Festival has been placed into administration and its board has been sacked. It is still unclear if this year’s Darwin Festival will go ahead.

UPDATE 07/06/16 6pm AEST: The office of Gary Higgins, the NT Minister for Arts and Museums, tells Music Feeds that a decision on Darwin Festival’s funding situation will likely be handed down tomorrow, Wednesday, 8th June. The office believes the decision will likely be to put the festival into administration, but says the event will still go ahead in 2016. Darwin Festival General Manager Emily Mann tells Music Feeds the running of the event is still hinging on tomorrow’s decision.

ORIGINAL STORY: Darwin Festival organisers say the 2016 edition of the event — set to include performances by the likes of Peter Garrett and Sarah Blasko — will not go ahead unless the Northern Territory Government provides almost half a million dollars of funding in the next few days.

As the ABC reports, Darwin Festival chair and former NT Labor Chief Minister Clare Martin says the event needs the Goverment to bring forward $450,000 worth of remaining contract payments very, very soon.

“Very sadly it is not an exaggeration,” Ms Martin says. “Unless we have that cash in the next few days we can’t pay the artists’ contracts and simply we will be in an insolvent position.”

Gary Higgins, the NT Minister for Arts and Museums, said last week that Darwin Festival had received a “not very complimentary” financial report from auditors Deloitte. “Skills are lacking there, they haven’t been able to manage it, they haven’t been able to cut their expenses,” Mr Higgins said.

Ms Martin and Mr Higgins have met to discuss Darwin Festival’s current position, but Ms Martin remains unsure if the Government will release the extra funding in time for the event, which is scheduled to start on 4th August.

On Friday, Mr Higgins said a decision to either fund Darwin Festival or put it in administration would be taken “soon”. Music Feeds has contacted Darwin Festival and Mr Higgins for comment.

Deloitte’s audit of Darwin Festival reportedly shows the event approved six extra full-time staff for the 2016 financial year, which cost $350,000, despite the festival not having funding for the additional salaries.

Mr Higgins has also questioned why Darwin Festival booked former Midnight Oil frontman and Labor politican Peter Garrett over local artists.

“Why have we got Peter Garrett coming up, I mean why in the hell are we paying that much money — I don’t know how much — but I presume we are paying a lot of money for him to come up and perform … when we are in a financial hole? Is that a responsible step to take?” Mr Higgins said.

Darwin Festival says the Government cut the event’s annual funding in 2014. “Last year, Darwin Festival posted a $342,906 deficit which had been growing over a number of years as a result of funding cuts, rising delivery costs and decreased ticket sales,” it says in a statement.

“In response to this deficit, the new festival management stringently interrogated the budget and reduced all possible discretionary spending.”

The festival says the Government has not responded to its requests for additional funding and for changes to be made to its existing payment schedule.

Darwin Festival 2016 is currently set to take place from the 4th to 21st August. For more information about the event, head to the festival website.

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