The artistic director who helped build the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz and Blues into an internationally-recognised event has been dumped from his role.
Adrian Jackson held the position for 26 years, since the festival was founded, but after a discussion with board chairman Paul Squires this week, he announced the news himself on Facebook.
“May as well accept the writing on the wall: the board of the Wangaratta jazz festival is looking for a change of approach, new ideas etc etc, so I am no longer artistic director of the festival,” Mr Jackson said.
Mr Squires made his own announcement on Monday, confirming the contract had not been renewed because, after reviewing the artistic director role, the board “felt the time was right to explore other options”.
“Adrian has been with the Wangaratta Festival of Jazz since its inception and his contribution to its growth and development is unrivalled,” he said. “He leaves the festival with a strong legacy of having developed one of the great jazz festivals in Australia and establishing international acclaim.”
Mr Jackson told The Border Mail he was warned before the 2016 event, the board was considering a change.
“I was hoping to continue in the role, but it wasn’t to be,” he said.
The former jazz reviewer for The Age started in the job after he was approached by a group of Wangaratta council and business people who wanted to create a festival. Despite being thrown in the deep end, he helped attract big names over the years such as Joe Zawinul, Betty Carter and Dave Holland.
The festival was forced into changes of location around Wangaratta in recent years with less money to spend.
“It’s always a challenge to try to maintain the level of what you had in previous years when you have a smaller budget,” Mr Jackson said.
“I hope there’s been a few converted jazz fans in regional Victoria.”
His next career move is unclear, but said he hoped to return to the Wangaratta festival as a music fan.
Mr Squires said the festival would still have a high standard of jazz and blues and announce a new artistic director by the end of February.
Melbourne Jazz Co-op founder Martin Jackson paid tribute to Adrian Jackson’s work, particularly in recent years with small budgets.
“The success of this event has been a partnership between the festival and the jazz community, which greatly values the event – although it is not always seen this way by the festival,” he said.
“They cannot underestimate the level of expertise required to produce a first-rate artistic event.”