Things are getting exciting at Festival HQ, with the ‘brains trust’ behind the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues, working on a double-time reboot of the city’s favourite weekend. New venues, new audiences; more accessible events and strong community participation, will set the tone for this year’s Festival. A reimagined and relocated Jazz Street & Laneway program will see a shift from Reid Street to the Ovens Riverside Precinct, where the spirit of jazz, blues and other musical influences will fill the streets, laneways and green spaces.
Chair of the Festival Board, Paul Squires explained that a fresh bold vision for the Festival aims to keep the event fresh, relevant and meeting the future aspirations of its community.
“After 25 years it’s time to hit refresh and get the Festival fit and ready to deliver another 25 years of musical and momentous offerings across the creative and community landscape. It’s about exciting the next generation, bringing them into the Jazz and Blues story and reawakening their care for the Festival, by asking them to invest in its future,” Mr Squires said.
“We have asked ourselves the awkward questions about viability; listened to the community tell us they are ready for a Festival that embodies change and growth and been encouraged by the popularity of recent events in Riverside Square and King George Gardens, bringing the city together in cultural and communal celebrations. In taking the pulse of the community we have found a shared vision for the Festival as a future-maker for our city,” Mr Squires continued.
This year’s Festival promises to push boundaries, deliver diversity and encourage, not just musical, but social exploration. Responding to the ‘big picture’ thinkers who are successfully reshaping Wangaratta’s CBD, organisers have decided to rethink the Festival’s footprint by bringing new venues into the Festival family at Riverside Precinct and King George Gardens.
Rural City of Wangaratta Administrator Irene Grant commented “With the Riverside Precinct fast becoming the beating heart of Wangaratta, it is only natural that this much-loved outdoor space provides the backdrop and inspiration, for the Festival Community Village. We are very supportive of the Festival Board in making these changes and utilising the space along the Ovens River precinct which we have invested heavily in. The changes also open the door for businesses to get involved and feature performances and activities that invite the many thousands of visitors into their businesses”.
Still taking shape in its format and program, the new riverside venue will present unforgettable experiences from music, dance, street art, visual arts, buskers and community groups bringing their take on various musical themes – think cyclists with ‘jazz pimped’ bikes; fashionistas rocking a jazz-inspired wardrobe; jam sessions; ‘pitch perfect’ slams and more. Plus opportunities to get creative with instruments in random places, just waiting to be played.
And then down at the new ticketed venue, King George Gardens, expect a creative collision of Spring Sounds that are on everyone’s playlist! This will be the place where Jazz gets deconstructed, shaken up and unpacked! All the best surprises will happen after dark, so by night the moonlit gardens will house a starlight salon; dance zone; genre-hopping musical combos and chill-out lounges.
Paul Squires explained that a new ticket price structure designed to provide greater flexibility and an unforgettable 3-day experience. “With accessibility at the very core of the Festival, we want to activate new audiences to buy into the Festival experience, to appreciate the power of music and its ability to entertain, delight, inspire and transform. It’s time to get amongst the music, try something new, take a risk along with these amazing artists, by exploring the adventurous music embedded throughout our rural city”. Squires continued.
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