Friday, 24 February 2012

Festival fallout - Holowacz quits over budget cuts and lack of resources

Jesse Kuch
Friday, February 24, 2012
© The Cairns Post

Cairns Festival producer Eric Holowacz has quit, citing budget cuts, the shutting down of Festival HQ and a lack of management support behind the decision.

The shock move puts a cloud over this year’s event, one of the biggest annual celebrations in the city. Last year’s 17-day festival in August attracted an audience of about 110,000 people with an economic impact of more than $5 million for the region across 106 events.

Mr Holowacz said after such successful 2010 and 2011 events, including last year’s Cairns Festival 50th anniversary celebration, it was a shame Cairns Regional Council had cut support for the city’s flagship community and cultural festival. "Given the decreasing internal council support for the festival and the good work of our small team, it was the right time to move on," Mr Holowacz told The Cairns Post.  "I just didn’t have the energy to keep fighting for decent resources, program support, community engagement ideas, and a more co-operative work environment."

The Cairns Festival 2011 Evaluation Report, released last year, shows Cairns Festival’s 2011 event ran $131,760 over its projected budget of $606,313. "Recent budget adjustments have diminished capacity in the current fiscal year, and will impact seasonal staffing, technical production, marketing, and scope of events for the 2012 festival," the report said.
The council’s Community, Sport and Cultural Services general manager Ian Lowth declined to comment on Mr Holowacz’s resignation.

But he said "Cairns Festival has always been a team effort and a combination of internal and contracted staff will work together to ensure the 2012 festival goes ahead without disruption". "The budget for the 2012 Cairns Festival remains in the vicinity of $600,000," Mr Lowth said. "As in all areas of council at the introduction of the last budget, reductions in operating costs have needed to be implemented. "This is not expected to impact on the quality of the festival, as it is more aimed towards increasing efficiencies and streamlining operations throughout council as a whole."

He also addressed the closure of Festival HQ in City Place. "When the botanic gardens visitor centre was completed, the festival team joined their branch colleagues in the new offices," Mr Lowth said.

Mr Holowacz said he planned to stay in the region to "develop a few new projects for Far North Queensland into the near future". Among Mr Holowacz’s accomplishments are the Opening Notes project, the Man vs Fascinator exhibition, free concerts and film events at Fogarty Park.
                                            _____________   |   ____________


  1. Neither of the Holowacz-planned festivals increased the engagement with the community - instead favouring quirky ideas and events that the public turned away from. Being an outsider, he had little understanding of the "Cairns Way".

    And any good manager is required to stay within their budget. These are tough times for everyone, and Holowacz thought he could defy the city manager's requirements for departments to stay on budget. Holowacz should have been sacked for insubordination.

    The festival will be better with a local in charge rather than hiring another foreigner.

  2. I agree with Clark's assessment which should have been covered by Jesse Kuch. In addition, it was known by some that he left Kiwiland under similar circumstances.

    In addition, Holowacz stuffed-up big-time by scheduling the parade on a Sunday night for the first time, instead of Saturday. This resulted in not only a vastly diminished crowd (being a school night), but the merchants who previously offered financial support demurred.

    So much for having a Kiwi? Yank? running an Australian festival.

  3. He resigned because the alternative was the sack. 'Nuff said.


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.