Castlemaine State Festival funding in limbo

Federal Member for Bendigo, Lisa Chesters and State Member for Bendigo West, Maree Edwards, today joined Martin Paten, Director of the Castlemaine State Festival, to call on Senator George Brandis to end uncertainty about future funding for the Castlemaine State Festival.

“I am shocked that the funding for the Castlemaine State Festival is in doubt. 

“The Abbott Government’s Budget decision to strip $105 million from the Australia Council sent shockwaves through the arts community and has left the Castlemaine State Festival, and many others, grappling with an uncertain future. 

“Such is the secrecy and chaos surrounding this Government’s decision that the Australia Council has been left unable to confirm if the Castlemaine State Festival’s funding is secure,” said Ms Chesters. 

The biennial Castlemaine State Festival started in 1976 and is Victoria’s longest running arts festival. Last year the Festival received a multi-year funding commitment from the Australia Council’s Regional Festivals Fund for festivals in 2015, 2017 and 2019. The Festival received $160,000 for the 2015 festival but a question mark hangs over funding for the next two festivals. 

Maree Edwards said that while communities across regional Victoria like Castlemaine will benefit from the $20 million State Labor Government regional arts and creativity fund, they now face great uncertainty about funding from the Federal Liberal Government who seem determined to see the arts and creative industries in Victoria crumble. 

“This is outrageous and I condemn the Federal Government and Senator George Brandis for this attack on regional festivals, regional artists and regional communities,” said Ms Edwards. 

Mr Paten said the Castlemaine State Festival had put in place commitments to a broad range of regional arts, community and business stakeholders on the basis of recurrent funding. This includes converting the Heritage-listed Goods Shed at Castlemaine Railway Station to make it the Festival’s permanent home and a regional cultural hub. 

“These relationships and partnerships are integral to the Festival’s ongoing success and have been built on an understanding that the festival has the support and security of future funding from the Federal Government and the Australia Council. We are stunned that the Australia Council has been left unable to confirm whether recent announcements by the Senator would impact the Castlemaine State Festival,” said Mr Paten. 

Earlier this week Ms Chesters wrote to the Minister seeking clarification – so far no response has been received. 

“I am calling on Senator Brandis to publicly honour existing funding commitments for the Castlemaine State Festival, and secure the future for our premier regional arts event,” said Ms Chesters.