Toodyay music festival postponed for a year amid funding struggles

Funding woes: Toodyay Music Festival committee members Tanya Stuart and Sharon Mills helped deliver the news that the event will be postponed until 2020. Photo: Eliza Wynn.
Funding woes: Toodyay Music Festival committee members Tanya Stuart and Sharon Mills helped deliver the news that the event will be postponed until 2020. Photo: Eliza Wynn.

Committee members for the Toodyay Music Festival have had to make a call to postpone the annual event for 12-months because of unsuccessful grants, despite a growing number of volunteers, performers and attendance. 

The one-day music festival, spread throughout parks and churches within the town, was scheduled for March 23, but the pin was pulled seven weeks before the event was due to take place. 

Event coordinator Tanya Stuart said the cancellation was not the result of a lack of trying.

“From experience we got organised really early,” she said.

“All our quotes were in by July 31 and then it was just a matter of applying for grants.

“Of course grant bodies don’t work over night and over the Christmas break.

“One grant we applied for twice and were unsuccessful.

“Lotterywest couldn’t give us an answer until four weeks before the festival and it was unfair to the performers, advertisers and stall holders to have just four weeks.

“As a committee we made the decision two months out to postpone it.

“Even if we got the Lotterywest grant we still would have been short.”

In 2017 the event had 26 band applications for 26 spots, with 70 applying for the same 26 positions last year.

The planned 2019 event had more than 100 musicians wanting to take part in the festival.

Organising committee member Sharon Mills said the grant application process makes it difficult for events to secure money.

“Probably the biggest thing with funding is that there is only so much money to go round,” she said.

“They’ve got so many applicants that they have to chose from.

“We’re all trying to get a little piece of the pie. It’s a very complex process.”

Ms Stuart said grants are not the only form of funding that community events like the Toodyay Music Festival rely on to go ahead.

“Kudos to our grants writer,” she said.

“He wrote furiously and we were unfortunate as we do work into Christmas.

“It’s the lead up time, it’s the competition.

“As we say that, we do rely on businesses in town.

“They aren't thriving enough to support us and everyone else who comes knocking on their door.

“It’s not fair on them.”

Ms Stuart said the organising committee prides itself on hosting a free community event.

“A lot of other music festivals charge entry and the performers play for free,” she said.

“Where we’re set up in our parks we can’t fence it off.

“Logistically it is too hard and expensive to do a ticketed event.

“We also like the idea of it being free.

“It loses the allure of it being in the parks and would move it further out of town where businesses don’t benefit from it as much.”

 She said despite this, moving into 2020 the committee will look at ways they can run the event cheaper.

“There are ways we can probably change to make it more economical for us,” Ms Stuart said.

“We may need to look at performer fees which make up about a third of our expenses.”

  Ms Stuart said the event will be missed in the community this year.

“Toodyay, like most small country towns, they really struggle to thrive but I think Toodyay is a thriving town due to its proximity to Perth,” She said.

“To keep those people here and attract more people we’ve got to have these events.

“It’s such a blow that the music fest is the start of the event calendar in March and we go straight through to Christmas in December.

“We’re the first one to kick off for the year.

“On a personal note it’s devastating to the eight to us because we have put in all this work.

“Like I said, we were totally organised and then waiting to hear about grant money.”

Ms Mills said the support from performers, stall holders and community members has been positive in response to the postponement. 

“It’s all been really supportive online,” she said.

“A lot of people have said to sign them up for next year already.”

She said the first focus will be to find a new coordinator for 2020.

“Tanya did give us plenty of notice that 2019 was going to be her last year as coordinator,” Ms Mills said.

“She’s done three years and numerous other community things as well.

“We’ve got a meeting on March 18 so hopefully we will be able to find someone to step in and then onward and upward.”