SAMPLE RESEARCH, 2003
THE LAUGHING AUDIENCE REVIEW OF A PARTNERSHIP BETWEEN BRECON INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL OF JAZZ AND THEATR BRYCHEINIOG
The well-reputed annual Brecon Jazz Festival was founded in 1984 by Tony Elston and was managed successfully by Brecon Jazz Festival Limited (a private company limited by shares and incorporated 1986; later a non-profit company limited by guarantee) until three-years of financial difficulties in 1999, 2000 and 2001 led to a deficit. This threatened to close the Festival, for it could no longer survive as a standalone operation with year-round costs for an intensive weekend event. In order to stage the Festivals in 2002 and 2003, Theatr Brycheiniog, the town’s year-round presenting theatre and arts centre led by Andrew Eagle, was approached to manage them. The Board of the Theatre and Mr Eagle expressed a commitment and loyalty to the arrangements at the outset. The Theatre offered its services for an ‘at cost’ management contract, and two Festivals were successfully presented during this interregnum. The integration of the Festival into the programme of the Theatre presented challenges: the reconciliation of the functional management of the Theatre with the demanding activity of mounting a large one-off event caused new pressures. Nevertheless, two Festivals were achieved without any disruption to the programming output of the Festival or the Theatre, and despite a strain on Theatre resources it adjusted its management systems to support the Festival. The mixture of two differing organisational ‘cultures’ worked well.
A partnership between the Festival and the Theatre was endorsed by two key funding partners of both organisations: the Arts Council of Wales and Powys County Council. Indeed, the Arts Council made its Festival subsidy conditional on the good husbandry of the Theatre, and the Theatre Director acted as Executive Director of the Festival for these two years, whilst the Festival’s long-serving Artistic Director, the late Jed Williams, continued to curate the Festival programme. The Laughing Audience study contributed to a Welsh Assembly appraisal of management and artistic direction arrangements. Because the partnership developed tactically – the Theatre did not get involved with the Festival as part of any strategic business plan and the Festival might be said to have become associated with the Theatre for precipitous reasons as a last resort – the purpose of this report was to assist the partnership so that, primarily, the Theatre could make the right choices for continuing what might (under certain circumstances) be an effective relationship for renewing the artistic purpose, management and accomplishment of the Festival.
View the full external review: click here. See the Brecon Jazz Festival website for details of the programme - following new difficulties of independent operation, the Festival company was liquidated in 2008, but the festival in 2009 was run instead by the Hay Festival. See also this page about festivals and producing.