Page last updated at 12:13 GMT, Monday, 29 December 2008

Hay considers Brecon Jazz rescue

Alec Dankworth at Brecon. Photo: Roy Edwards
Brecon Jazz turned 25 in August 2008

Wales' top literary festival is looking at whether it can help rescue the Brecon Jazz festival.

The Hay Festival, held every summer just 18 miles away, already has ties with the music event and its director Peter Florence says it wants to help.

Brecon Jazz announced earlier this month it had ceased trading after suffering a "substantial loss".

Mr Florence said Hay was having "a good look" at what it might be able to do to help its near neighbour event.

He said that the literary event, held at the end of May in the market town of Hay-on-Wye on the Powys-Herefordshire border, and Brecon Jazz, were "sister festivals that had grown up together over the last 25 years."

Hay which has attracted international literary and political figures, including former American president Bill Clinton, has long had a close relationship with its smaller neighbour, and last year operated its box office under contract.

Every festival in Britain last year has a really hard time because of the weather, because of the downturn in the economy
Peter Florence

"We have known them for ever, so there's a huge degree of fellow feeling and sympathy," said Mr Florence.

While primarily a literary festival, Hay has increasingly included a live concert element with figures including Sir Bob Geldof, Nicky Wire and Van Morrison taking to the stage.

The jazz festival, held every August, celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2008, and in the past has attracted stars ranging from George Melly, Humphrey Lyttleton and Jools Holland to Amy Winehouse and Wynton Marsalis.

But it ran into financial difficulties after poor weather hit ticket sales.

An insolvency expert has been appointed, with a creditors' meeting called for next month, while the Brecon Jazz festival company has ceased trading and is being wound up.

Mr Florence said he had spent much of his Christmas speaking to Powys Council and other authorities to "see how we can eliminate some of the costs."

"It's a great festival. We would like to be able to pick it up and run with it," he added.

Visitors at the Hay Festival
The Hay Festival attracts a range of writers and personalities

Hay already organises six festivals around the world and he would love to be able to add another to its stable.

But Mr Florence also acknowledged that staging a jazz festival, and transporting bands, also involved large costs.

He said: "Every festival in Britain last year had a really hard time because of the weather, because of the downturn in the economy."

But he said he believed Brecon Jazz could bounce back with the help of the "phenomenal support" that people in Wales give to the country's many festivals.

"There is no reason why Brecon could not recover some of the summer fun it has always had," Mr Florence said.

'Gobsmackingly beautiful

He said part of the attraction of Brecon Jazz was the way the town had received it and the great setting it had.

"If you don't live in the Brecon Beacons, coming to the Beacons is gobsmackingly beautiful."

Brian Hennessy, a trustee of the Welsh Jazz Society, said the organisation is also looking at whether it can come forward with a plan to save Brecon Jazz.

He said most most successful jazz festivals are held in large towns or cities where there are better communications and larger venues for acts to play.

Mr Hennessy said the society was initially involved in helping set up Brecon Jazz.

But he said they would like to see a return to more mainstream jazz performers away from trend of including "pop" acts like Cerys Matthews.

"We should be able to save this festival, because its respected worldwide and had always attracted some great artists," Mr Hennessy said.

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