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Last Updated: Friday, 8 August, 2003, 06:20 GMT 07:20 UK
Funds row clouds jazz event
Jazz band at Brecon
The festival takes over the streets of Brecon for a weekend
As many as 50,000 people are expected to travel to mid Wales for the annual Brecon Jazz Festival, which starts on Friday.

The event - the 20th - looks like breaking all previous records, but a row over funding is threatening the future of street music in the tiny market town in future years.

Although this year's event looks like being bigger and better than ever before, organisers are still concerned they may have to abandon many of the key attractions after Powys County Council refused to help with a grant.

Just a few weeks ago, organisers of the festival claimed it might have to move because of a row over funding, when the council withdrew an 11,000 annual grant towards the cost of the event .

Earlier this year, the festival was given more than 380,000 by the Welsh Assembly Government to secure its future.

Festival director Andy Eagle said the council's withdrawal of the grant raised some serious questions about its location.

George Melly
George Melly has been a staunch supporter
"At the end of the day, does the town want it?" he said.

"Does the local authority want it? These are the sorts of things that make us think, why are we bothering?

"It is a huge international festival - a unique festival where the whole town has a party for the weekend."

Other towns are known to have courted the festival in previous years, and there have been hints that it could move if the right offer is made.

The money previously provided by the council went towards providing free jazz on the streets of Brecon during the festival.

Defending its decision, the council said it had had to write off debts of 6,600, and pointed out that the festival had not provided accounts in connection with the application.

The festival also been given the use of council premises free of charge.

Andy Eagle
Andy Eagle questioned whether the town wanted the festival
In view of this, and because funding had been received from the Welsh assembly and commercial sources, the council decided to withhold the grant.

A spokesman said that a letter had been sent to the festival organisers explaining the decision.

Brian Hennessey, Secretary of the Welsh Jazz Society, said that, although he did not know the full reasons behind the council's decision, it had surprised him.

"I think it is a little short-sighted - the festival has a tremendous reputation worldwide," he said.

"It is quite remarkable such a fine festival has been produced in a small market town in centre of Wales.

"It is something they should be appreciative of and want to retain.

"It brings a lot of commercial interest to shops, pubs and restaurants - it is a benefit to the town and a benefit to the county

"I wouldn't be surprised if there are other places anxious to attract the Brecon festival, with far greater facilities and potential for bigger audiences.

"It would be a great pity and a loss to Brecon."

Mr Hennessey added it was possible that the festival could leave Wales.




SEE ALSO:
New tune for jazz festival
25 Jun 03  |  Mid
Cash boost for Brecon jazz
18 Feb 03  |  Wales
Brecon jazz draws bigger crowds
12 Aug 02  |  Wales
Jazz to lift rural gloom
09 Aug 01  |  Wales


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