NEWS: Orchard Media ends its Brecon Jazz involvement

Adamant Marching Band at Brecon Jazz. Photo Credit: Ruth Butler Photography.

The Orchard Media and Events Group has announced it is calling time on its running of the Brecon Jazz festival.

Set in its attractive Welsh market town location, against the magnificent backdrop of the Brecon Beacons, the festival has grown in stature since its inception in 1984, pulling in an impressive array of top UK and international performers, as well providing an arena for local talent with its varied fringe programme.

Despite its popularity with dedicated jazz fans who have keenly descended on this established festival with its distinctive, rural, holiday atmosphere, Brecon Jazz has (especially in recent times) been beset by financial difficulties which have put its existence in doubt. As recently as 2012, Orchard was appointed by the Arts Council of Wales to run the festival, and a renewed optimism brought big names to Brecon – including Dionne Warwick, Burt Bacharach, Gregory Porter, Laura Mvula and Jools Holland – over four festival seasons. However, the annual summer celebrations now have another dark winter shadow cast over them.

Orchard director Pablo Janczur’s statement reads: “It’s unfortunate that we have to end Orchard’s involvement in Brecon Jazz as we’ve had a great four years and attracted some glowing accolades for our work on the festival. But the reality is that despite great support from the Arts Council of Wales, Welsh and local government, Orchard as a business has effectively subsidised the event on an annual basis since 2012, and we are not prepared to sustain that any longer. I think we gave it a really good shot, and I genuinely hope someone out there can take it on, because it has a great reputation internationally, provides a terrific platform for Welsh Jazz talent, and is a real boost to the mid Wales economy.”

“People see many thousands of visitors on Brecon’s streets and the pub tills ringing on festival weekend each year and think the event is in rude health. But the reality is they are not swelling the festival coffers, even though we bear a lot of their costs. To bring in the big names that jazz lovers desire relies on ticket sales, and the Brecon venues are just not set up to enable enough of those sales to happen. Despite the valued public sector support we have received from the start, Orchard has not been able to take a management fee each year, and so we have effectively subsidised the event for four years. As Wales’ leading independent promoter and communications group, we simply can’t sustain those losses.”

Reviews of Brecon Jazz 2015 were glowing, with JazzWise saying, “Brecon stands apart from other UK jazz festivals”, and Jazz Journal stating, “It is a pleasure to report that Orchard promoters have this important festival back on track after a few difficult years. The emphasis again is on attractions with strong appeal to jazz fans.”

But already, as the year draws to a close, there will sadly be renewed concerns as to its viability for 2016 and beyond.

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