Jazz Fest cancelled

Lack of funds cited

What was to be the sixth annual
Cayman Jazz Fest has been cancelled this year.

A statement issued Monday by Cline
Glidden, chairman of the Ministerial Council, Tourism Development, gave the
reasons for the cancellation.

“Given the current austere fiscal
conditions the government has inherited, we were forced to cut CI$4 million
from the [Department of Tourism] budget and take corrective measures, such as
restructuring the workforce in the US and laying off some 12 staff. We were not
able to allocate the CI$1.4 million previously allocated and spent on the 2009
Jazz Fest.

“We did however reallocate $250,000
from other areas and from as early as May this year [and] we were actively
inviting private sector participation to produce the event. While there was
some interest, unfortunately, less than one-third of the required funds were
committed.”

The statement went on to add that
the government had consulted extensively with the private sector through the
Tourism Advisory Council and the Cayman Music and Entertainment Association and
they unanimously agreed that it was best to proceed without a Jazz Fest 2010
and instead, focus on reviewing the Jazz Fest event concept.

Earlier in August, the Department
of Tourism said they were unable to say if a Jazz Fest was being held this
year. Officials explained that they were waiting on the Ministry of Tourism to
decide, adding that the show could still be executed despite a considerably
later start than last year on planning and promotions.

Last year’s Jazz Fest was announced
on 13 May and included a star-studded line-up, with Alicia Keys, Keith Sweat
and Pebo Bryson – among others – performing.

The cost of staging the 2009 event
was $1,149,092, according to a response to a Freedom of Information request.
Another FOI request revealed that the total revenue from last year’s three-day
event totalled some $405,686.83.

“This amount represents net and
would defray the cost to the tune of that amount,” said DOT Information Manager
Christopher Linton. 

Of the more than $1 million set
aside for Jazz Fest, $409,537.50 goes toward paying the foreign acts on the
bill.

Jean Eric ‘Notch’ Smith, president
of the Cayman Music and Entertainment Association, commented on the
cancellation,

“I think the festival was about a
half a million dollars over budget last year, and we could have been better
served by having the Association and the expertise of its members assist in the
planning and decision making for Jazz Fest much earlier than we were approached,”
he said. “Because so much equity had gone in to the show, a cancellation would
only negate this. I feel it would be better to simply postpone the show and
save face.”

Mr. Smith noted that the first Jazz
Fest took place in June and he said he felt it should revert to that date.

Camana Bay holds the contract to
host the Jazz Fest on its grounds for five years. Camana Bay Senior Manager of
Events Nikki Callender commented: “While we are disappointed that Cayman Jazz
Fest will not take place in 2010, we fully understand and are in full support
of the government’s rationale for the cancellation. We look forward to being
part of the discussions for the 2011 event.” 

The Jazz Fest was launched in June
2004 and later moved to a time slot in early December. Initially held at the
Pageant Beach site, the show was moved to Camana Bay for the first time last
year. The Department of Tourism said it was designed to “increase tourist
arrivals in the shoulder periods of the tourism year, to add to the
diversification of the perceived activities on Island, to increase awareness
for the destination, to have credible jazz talent that reflects the
multinational community [and] to embrace and showcase local performers,
artisans and crafts”.

How much tourism the event attracts
has been questioned, but there has been an attempt to quantify the awareness of
the Cayman Islands it creates.

According to a Freedom of
Information response from the Department of Tourism, there were television
broadcasts of the event on the new BET and MTV network Centric, which airs in
31.5 million households and targets African Americans ages 25-54. The
Department added that there is also the radio campaign for the Jazz Fest, which
it said reaches millions with the message of Cayman and the allure of its Jazz
Fest.

The public relations plan for the
2009 Jazz Fest stated: “The extensive media coverage helps to keep the Cayman
Islands at top of mind for potential visitors and also positions the
destination as a leader in the Caribbean for large-scale, meaningful events.”

The value of the media exposure has
been quantified by the Department of Tourism’s public relations firm.

“…The total advertising value to
date for the Jazz Fest media exposure derived from blogs, articles, use of
social media, etc., by visiting journalists for jazz fests 2006 to 2009 has
been calculated by our PR agency at more than US$2.6 million,” Mr. Linton said.

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Alicia Keys receives an anward from the Premier at 2009 jazzfest.
Photo: File
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1 COMMENT

  1. Very sad indeed. I understood that they had over 7000 attendees last year to see Alicia Keys. If Mike adam and Mckeeva bush have their way, there won’t be a Pirates Week, either. I feel both of these events bring a lot of money to Cayman. I certainly know I send several of my clients there during these events. I already had one client who claims if they do away with Pirates week, she’ll have no reason to go back and she’s been going there since it began.

    Editor’s note: We can confirm, weather permitting, that Pirates’ Week 2010 will occur. Cayman Free Press is one of the sponsors – Arrrrgh, mateys!

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