The Beaches International Jazz Festival received some good news late Wednesday afternoon as Ontario’s Minister of Tourism Culture and Sport, Michael Chan, announced the local event is on tap to receive a $75,000 grant from the Ontario Music Fund (OMF).
The new three-year, $45 million OMF, administered by the Ontario Media Development Corporation, is aimed at strengthening and stimulating growth in the province’s music companies and supporting this growing sector.
“As we’ve said all along, we value the contribution of the Beaches Jazz Festival and have been a proud partner in their success over the years by providing funding through our various programs,” Chan wrote in an email to The Mirror.
“In January, the Beaches Jazz Festival applied to the Ontario Music Fund and earlier this week was awarded a conditional grant of $75,000. This support will help the festival consolidate their performance stages and showcase a greater diversity of musicians and performers.”
Chan said this latest funding infusion “good news for the Beaches Jazz Festival” as it “will help attract tourists and support Ontario’s Live Music Strategy.”
He also said Ministry staff would continue to work with Beaches Jazz organizers to find ways to ensure the event’s continued success.
A formal announcement of all the successful Ontario Music Fund applicants is set to take place in the coming months.
“We’re pleased and grateful we’ve received a conditional grant from the OMF,” said Lido Chilelli, the festival’s executive director, Thursday afternoon .
“It’s coincidental that we got this $75,000 grant now.”
Earlier this month, Chilelli was shocked to learn his 26th annual event would not be receiving a different $75,000 grant from Celebrate Ontario, a provincial program that helps new or existing festivals and events in Ontario enhance programs, activities and services that will lead to long-term improvements.
The Beaches International Jazz Festival had been awarded this funding for six consecutive years.
“It’s a substantial hit, a big blow because all of a sudden we have to revisit our plans. With (Celebrate Ontario’s) decision not to continue their support it’s going to cause a lot of uncertainty,” Chilelli said late last week, adding they’d actually applied to receive $120,000 from Celebrate Ontario as this year the format changed allowing groups/organizations to apply for a grant representing up to 20 per cent of their operating budget.
At this point, the Beaches International Jazz Festival isn’t receiving a cent from Celebrate Ontario.
Despite receiving the $75,000 Ontario Music Fund grant, Chilelli said Beaches Jazz still needs to come up with at least $75,000 to go ahead with the stages and performances they’d planned for this summer.
“We’re still facing challenges,” he said, explaining the Ontario Music Fund grant must be used for specific areas, notably production.
Organizers of the Beaches Jazz Festival, which in 2012 was listed as one of the top 10 jazz festival in the world by MSN Entertainment, still have about three months to come up with a plan to mitigate the $75,000 shortfall.
Chilelli said he’s confident a solution will be reached.
“We’re working as a community to forge ahead and put on the best festival we can,” he said, pointing to corporate sponsors and donations.
“It’s obvious we have worldwide support.”
Beaches-East York MPP Michael Prue, who called on Wynne to reinstate the Celebrate Ontario funding during March 19 Question Period at Queen’s Park, said there have been no concrete assurances from the administrators of the Celebrate Ontario grant program that the $75,000 grant the Beaches International Jazz festival was counting on has been reinstated.
“In fact, the organizers met with senior Ministry staff yesterday (Wednesday, March 26) and were given no such assurances,” he said in a March 27 statement.
“Although Ministry staff commented that the Festival formed an invaluable part of Ontario’s music festival landscape, they were unable to comment as to why they felt that the festival did not fall within the parameters of their funding program – which was centered around bringing more and new tourism traffic to the city.”
Prue said the monies the province is referring to are from a separate fund; the Ontario Music Fund, which the Beaches International Jazz Festival had applied for and received.
“The Festival was successful in receiving funding through this grant – along with, I’m assuming, a number of other music festivals/venues,” he wrote, underlining the receipt of the Ontario Music Fund grant has “nothing to do with the issue at hand – the issue being the festival’s non receipt of funding through Celebrate Ontario.”
“It now appears to festival organizers and its supporters that the government has no intention of reinstating funding at whatever level for the festival for its 2014 season – and the issue remains outstanding,” Prue said.
Joanna Katchutas, the curator of exhibitions for multi-arts and photography programs for the Beaches International Jazz Festival, has created a petition calling on Premier Kathleen Wynne to restore $75,000 in funding to the festival so it can continue to support Canadian artists, the community and Toronto’s economy.
So far, upwards of 2,600 people have signed the petition, which can be found at http://chn.ge/Q8w70d