Big West Festival  

Statement 18/7/2016

Overview of Maribyrnong Festival Limited as at 18 July 2016

  • Maribyrnong Festival Limited (trading as Big West Festival) is an independent public company limited by guarantee. 
  • There is one class of membership known as ‘ordinary members’. The ordinary members of the organisation are the voluntary Board of Directors. 
  • Current members have more than fifteen cumulative years on the Big West Festival Board. 
  • Currently there are no individual/s in the role of Chief Executive Officer or Artistic Director. Since the completion of a six year tenure by the former General Manager and a four year tenure by the former Artistic Director. 
  • The Board of Directors has not delegated any of its duties to a committee.
  • All authorities sit solely with the Board of Directors. 
  • At the point the Board took the decision to retire the organisation, the organisation had applications being assessed by both Creative Victoria and Maribyrnong City Council. As part of informing funding partners of the decision to retire the organisation on 23 June 2016, the Board withdrew applications from these funding rounds and this occurred ahead of any awareness of the application funding outcomes, and ahead of any funding announcements. 
  • As at 30 June 2016 the organisation has reserves of $49,568. There are costs associated with closing the organisation including readying the Big West archive for donation to a collecting organisation. Remaining reserves at the close of the organisation will be transferred to a sustainable organisation/s, with similar values to Big West including supporting art and artists in Melbourne’s West. The Board’s responsibility is outlined in the rules of the organisation and it is at the Board’s discretion. The Board will make a further announcement about the process later in the year.

The decision to retire

The decision to retire the organisation was taken diligently by the Board in line with our directorial responsibilities. Over more than two years the Board considered and trialled numerous strategies to address the sustainability and contribution of the organisation in the future. However, the current environment and available resources were unable to adequately support organisational transition of the magnitude required. Unfortunately, the challenges faced by the organisation cannot be mitigated by the energy and brilliance of the artists and communities who support the work of Big West. 

Primary considerations  for the Board to retire the organisation are outlined here. 

1. The organisation’s purpose

  • In reviewing the purpose of the organisation and the changed environment since Big West was formed, it is clear that there are now many active arts organsations in the West that provide diverse opportunities for artists and for communities. Eg Footscray Community Arts Centre, Women’s Circus, Substation, 100 Story Building, Co-Health Arts Generator, Snuff Puppets, Western Edge Youth Arts. In addition to the work of the local organisations, Festivals from outside the region are also working in the West including Melbourne Fringe, Melbourne International Jazz Festival.
  • The decision was not a reflection of the value of the arts or of artists’ work. 

2. The organisation’s viability 

  • The funding environment is currently significantly constrained, particularly for independent artists and small to medium companies. This consideration included the organisations ineligibility for one off project funding from Creative Victoria. This makes it more difficult to attract resources for work in the festival.  
  • Over a series of meetings a core funder (Maribyrnong City Council), articulated their need for Big West to move from a biennial festival to present an annual festival. This was a significant shift, as they have previously funded the development year as well as the biennial festival. 
  • The new priorities expressed by Maribyrnong City Council competed with those of the organisations philanthropic partners, who sought long, deep engagement between artists and communities. These conflicting expectations would create an untenable strain on the organisation. 

3. The organisation’s duty of care for workers and communities 

  • The organisation has operated at the limit of its capacity for a long time, over a number of festival cycles. 
  • Increasing stress on the organisation’s capacity challenges the ability to adequately care for workers, artists and communities into the future. This presents an intolerable risk for the organisation.
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