Open Arms Festival.
Open Arms Festival.

Open Arms may not return

ONE of the region’s iconic events may not return next year.

That’s the grim reality coming in the wake of a muddy Open Arms Festival last weekend that suffered significant losses.

Promoter Jeff Moss said more support from Coffs Harbour City Council could save the event.

“I know other events get supported by council but I’ve put my case to council and they don’t even return my calls,” Mr Moss said.

“It sort of eats at me a bit that new, little festivals get $10,000.”

Calls to Coffs Harbour City Council revealed Open Arms Festival did receive some assistance

“Council gave $4000 to the Open Arms Festival this year, comprising $2000 of funding from the Council Economic Development Unit and $2000 from Coffs Coast Marketing,” a council spokesperson said.

“We do have a program available called event seed funding, which is only available to new events and Open Arms isn’t eligible for that. However, on average, the people who received funding from this seed funding received $4000, so we’ve matched that funding amount.

“Last year, council ran a community bus for the festival, at a cost of $900, so this is not the first time council has offered support to Open Arms. We aim to support events in the area.”

Mr Moss feels the contribution was inadequate.

“They gave nothing the first year, $900 of in-kind support the second year and $4000 this year,” he said.

“Over three years that equates to nothing. Good on the other festivals but I know council aren’t going to change their tune. I’ve been beating my head against a brick wall and Open Arms has probably pumped a couple of million dollars into the local economy over the years.”

About 3000 people held tickets to the Open Arms Festival this year, a significant drop on the 5000 attending last year, an event which broke even financially.

Of those, about 500 held free tickets, which were given away in regional newspaper and radio station competitions and to band entourage members and supporters.

Mr Moss attributed the loss sustained this year to three factors – rain, ticket prices and the line-up.

A week of patchy weather and a wet, then overcast, start to the day impacted on local ticket sales. In previous years, 1000 tickets were sold in the last week and 300 more bought at the gate. Only 100 walked up to the showgrounds without tickets on Saturday and pre-sales during the week were poor. Ticket prices rose by $10 on the previous year, which Mr Moss conceded may have affected sales.

“The line-up might not have been appealing enough to a regional market. A lot of these bands sell out in the cities. Hungry Kids of Hungary are a newish sort of band and Horrorshow are not that well known yet, so maybe that was it,” he said.

While not disclosing the extent of the loss, Mr Moss said: “I’m literally now in a fair bit of debt. People will get paid, but not this week.”

His involvement in backing four other regional festivals and a Melbourne festival, as well as his sub-contracting work on further festivals, are his other sources of income.

In direct contrast to the festival, the “official after party” at the Park Beach Hoey Moey attracted 300 more punters to their late night event than in 2009. Charging an entry price of $10 and offering a ‘surprise’ band from the festival attracted almost a third of the numbers who attended the festival.

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