Annual report from the President of the Cygnet Folk Festival for the AGM 2018/19

I am privileged as the current President to present this report for the 2018/19 AGM noting that I serve as a spokesperson for the collaborative work of many people and all contained herein is a testament to the work of those collaborators.

Huon Folk Inc, operating as Cygnet Folk Festival, built yet again on their marvellous 37-year history of producing the much-loved festival of folk music that occurs on the second weekend of January every year in Cygnet.  This year Jan 11-13, 2019  was the culmination of the 2018 work of a wonderful Festival Coordinator, our amazing Artistic Director and a dedicated, creative and hard-working committee, along with the absolutely essential support of the some very generous contractors who have worked with us both during the year and at Festival time, our fabulous crew, many of whom come back year after year, our regular and casual volunteers and our marvellous local billeting hosts.  Not to overlook of course the wonderful support and appreciation we get from those who are the essential ingredient of the festival-  the artists; the musicians, dancers, orators, story tellers who combine in such vibrant celebration and the patrons who come from far and wide to celebrate with us year after year.

As you may already know the Festival is a not for profit organisation and all money generated is used to cover Festival expenses including payment to artists and a small number of contractors and crew, as well as the annual salaries, albeit quite frugal, which are paid to the Festival Coordinator, Bridget Binnie and the Artistic Director, Erin Collins for their part time roles. Any profits above expenses are either redirected into the community or invested in Festival infrastructure or equipment.  More detail on this is available in the Financial Report.

The Festival of January 2019 was very positively received and a testament to the hard work of 2018.  I can confidently say “very positively received” as over recent years we have made considerable effort to seek out feedback from various stakeholders.  This includes but is by no means limited to, an annual Community Consultation meeting.  We also have invited and received feedback via, social media and the website, written feedback both during and after the festival and through specific meeting with critical stakeholders such as the Huon Valley Council, the local Community Hub, local businesses and our sponsors and partners, surveys of various groups such as the volunteers and crew as well as verbal feedback from artists, patrons and others. Also this year for the first time we have had been able to collect considerable feedback from stall holders throughout the festival.  A review of the summary of two past Community Consultation meetings demonstrated that we had made successful efforts to address almost all of the requests which were expressed at these meetings and were within our remit.

Here I would like to make particular note of, and convey my most sincere thanks to, the sponsors who have supported us over the past year.  Willie Smith Cider has again continued the sponsorship of recent years and we are both blessed and pleased to work with Willie Smiths as a partner in our Folk Festival endeavour.. This year we also received a small grant from Huon Financial Services [Huon Valley Community Bank] and this allowed us to support young performers in particular.

The Committee which has managed the Festival has had considerable stability over the past few years.  At the last AGM we welcomed new committee members, Ray Mainsbridge and Michael Russell and said farewell to Susan Appleton and for the second time farewell to the inimitable Joe Pickett. We also had a change of executive roles with myself Anne Foale and Vallorie Hodge effectively swapping our roles of Vice President and President.  This committee [see Financial Report for full membership details] has worked brilliantly as a team to deliver the Festival – noting, as above, all the outside support involved in that.  I can honestly say that it is unlike most “committees” people may have experienced in that nobody on this committee sits back – everyone is ready and willing to step into a role or a task and the distribution of various strengths and skills ensures that there is a person for every job – we genuinely like working together! I extend my heartfelt thanks to them. In particular I note the roles of Treasurer, Michael Thomsen and Community liaisons – Robert Durand and Sally Port – which have had a significant load this year.

The other new element introduced this year has been our new Festival Coordinator – who began as Bridget Nicklason-King but became Bridget Binnie.  Bridget has well and truly lived up to our highest hopes for a Festival Coordinator and I wish to express the gratitude of the Committee to her for her energy, expertise, skills and absolute enthusiasm in and for her role.

Also the committee would think me very remiss, as would I, if I failed to thank in profusion our talented Artistic Director who is integral to the superlative line up of artists and creative partners each year, thank you most sincerely Erin Collins.

On a sad note, in 2019 we will be saying a very sincere thank you and also a farewell from the team, to one of the absolute rock-like stalwarts of the Festival background crew.  Beryl Farrell has worked on 9 Cygnet Folk Festivals and has become our resident data base expert, manager of performers’ needs, billeting arrangements and many of the background details of the volunteer registrations and rostering, not to mention close and efficient scrutiny of volunteer contracts, insurance matters, work health and safety and a general eagle eye across many aspects of background management.  All this for a very small stipend relative to the hours she has committed.  Beryl will be hard to replace but she goes with our absolute gratitude and appreciation and we will find creative ways to ensure all the roles she managed will be covered in our strategic planning for the year ahead.

The committee despite, or perhaps because of, its current cohesion is very conscious of the need for succession planning and to protect against loss of social capital; this is on the agenda for our 2019 Strategic Planning.

One of the peripheral but significant changes to the Festival in 2019 was a new look to the lay out of the various stalls and vendors which have become a recognised part of the Festival. The CFF committee had a desire to see a more organic flow of human traffic through the Festival precincts and associated changes in location of stalls and food vendors. Especially we wanted to see less congestion in the lower section of Loongana Park and fewer people adjacent to the main street in this area. To achieve this the committee entered into negotiations with the Cygnet Community Arts Council. The final outcome of these discussions was that the CFF has taken over management and control of the “market” and in appreciation of the loss of revenue that this would mean to the CCAC the committee agreed to a donation of $25,000 over two years to be directed through the CCAC for the furtherment of local Arts activities and projects sponsored by the CCAC.

The further intention of the CFF committee has been to try to achieve a better balance of the number of temporary stalls and vendors vis a vis the local businesses wishing to trade successfully on the weekend.  The feedback so far has been that this balance has been better this year.  We are also very happy to share that the majority of our stall holders [a combination of food/drink and artisan] were local - 22 from the Huon Valley, 15 from Hobart and 3 from further afield. The food vendors were distributed across Loongana Park, Willie Smiths paddock, Paved Paradise [the Mary St carpark] and Tin Pan Alley [St James College quadrangle].

One of our real joys of the Festival in recent years has been the partnership with the local Aboriginal community through SETAC.  In 2019 this included not only the Friday afternoon concert and a powerful, challenging Welcome to Country but also an engaging and well attended community forum in the main auditorium.

This year has seen some good investment by the Festival in portable site infrastructure [Bedouin tents, trolleys] as well as festival banners and flags.

I am happy to report that the building of a very collaborative relationship with HVC has continued with regular meetings, mutual commitment to resolve any issues and shared respect for the priorities of both entities.

As we look forward to 2020 the committee is conscious that further changes in Burtons Reserve will have an impact on the festival and we are well advanced in planning to accommodate these, including a consciousness that every endeavour should be made to accommodate the needs of local users of the Reserve and its new facilities in as much as we can while still ensuring safety and security for all the stakeholders.

We have already made inroads in reducing the number of cars on the site and will continue to pursue this, as will we continue to find as many ways as we can to make the Festival sustainable and reduce its impact environmentally. At the same time, we are addressing parking issues including the matter of disabled parking.

In conclusion I reiterate all the thanks expressed across this report and especially acknowledge that my role as President has been a privilege, made not only manageable, but enjoyable and rewarding thanks to the amazing people who make up this far reaching team whom I am so proud to represent.  And I extend best wishes to Bridget on the imminent birth of her first child.

Anne Foale
Huon Folk Incorporated [Cygnet Folk Festival]

AGM Report - 2018/19






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