Leo Schofield says short-sighted State funders means curtains for 2015.

Hobart Baroque has announced that next year’s festival has been cancelled due to a lack of State Government funding.

Following outstanding results for revenue and audience attendance at this year’s events, Festival director Leo Schofield had asked for an increase in funding to sustain growth into the future. That application it seems was turned down today.

Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman said the State Government supported the event but that it wasn’t prepared to offer the Festival an amount that he maintained was in the region of $3 million over three years. “In the context of the current tough fiscal environment the Government determined it was appropriate to offer Baroque Festival organisers the same amount as last year, $300,000 from the state, and $100,000 from the Commonwealth,” he said.

Hobart Baroque however tell a different story. “The Tasmanian Government has announced it is reducing the funding for Hobart Baroque,” they said on their Facebook page earlier, maintaining that the government would only commit to the 2015 festival, with no commitment beyond.

Responding to Hodgman’s offer Schofield said that it was an insulting amount and that as a result he had decided to quit the state and take the popular festival with him. “I’m feeling a bit pissed off of course at being treated like some kind of serf but the reality is if one is not appreciated, one doesn’t hang around,” he told the ABC. “If you’re subject to a kind of almost vilification, what’s the point of staying here? I’ve been a tireless advocate for Tasmania.”

The two-year-old Festival has enjoyed outstanding success in its first two years, both financially and especially artistically. In its first year it hosted the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden’s first ever visit to Australia with Haydn’s L’Isola Disabitata and this year it followed that up with a superb staging of Handel’s Orlando from America’s Glimmerglass Opera. Soloists have included Catalan countertenor Xavier Sabata and the Australian debut of coloratura sensation Julia Lezhneva. In statistics that any Festival would be proud of, 41% of the audience who attended this year’s festival were from outside of Tasmania, and on average stayed 5 nights, providing a significant return on the Tasmanian government’s investment.

Asked if he could understand the government’s reasons for its decision, Schofield replied, “Ignorance perhaps. You know, Tasmania gets left off the map on a Commonwealth Games swimsuit and there’s a furore. We were trying to put it back on the map, culturally.”

Signing off on social media the Festival’s final broadside was to say: “We are not done. Stand by for more updates. Long live Baroque!”

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