Against the backdrop of a parliamentary probe, Australia's troubled One Movement for Music conference and festival has been deferred for 2011. And many in the business here quietly doubt it will return any time soon.
The Perth event was to have celebrated its third edition this year, but will stay on ice pending a joint review of its structure by Western Australia's government event agency Eventscorp and the promoters, David Chitty of Sunset Events and Michael Chugg of Chugg Entertainment.
In recent months, One Movement's promoters and Eventscorp had hammered out a revised model for the 2011 event, one which would have re-focused on its showcasing, fringe and conference components and stripped away the adjoining festival.
The latest decision to defer the event was made by Eventcorp. In a statement, Chitty said he understood the stance, and plans would now focus on "cementing a sustainable model to be implemented in 2012."
That's the official story. But behind the scenes, One Movement has been plagued by claims its format was an expensive and inappropriate use of the public purse.
As previously reported, the Western Australia Standing Committee on Estimates and Financial Operations launched an inquiry into the involvement and support of One Movement by the Western Australian Tourism Commission, and its subsidiaries. The investigation was launched to identify whether the event had delivered "value for money" for taxpayers.
Eventscorp executive director David van Ooran claims that the decision to can this year's event was unrelated to the Legislative Council's inquiry into Tourism WA's involvement with One Movement. "The discussions between Eventscorp and One Movement Pty Ltd regarding the 2011 event began well before the… inquiry," Mr van Ooran said in a statement issued this week. "The decision to defer the 2011 event was not taken lightly."
Each year, One Movement receives a reported $1 million Australian of tourism funding, which is ostensibly meant for helping attract people to the remote Western Australian capital. Eventscorp supported the 2009 and 2010 One Movement events with $1.58 million Australian funding in total, Eventscorp said in a statement this week.
"In just two years, One Movement has established a good reputation amongst music industry decision makers. And even though festival ticket sales were lower than expected, a readers' poll in 'The West Australia' entertainment lift-out 'The Wire' listed One Movement as the No. 1 gig for Perth in 2010," van Ooran said. "That tells us there is an appetite in Perth for an event like One Movement."
However, Shadow culture and the arts minister John Hyde has blasted the event, claiming it had failed to deliver for tourism in WA and last year's festival only attracted a small number of paying festival goers with numbers boosted by free passes. On one night, claims Hyde, more than 70% of the audience attended for free.
Responding, Chitty said Sunset Events didn't wish to comment on what was "largely a political debate" but did say he was "disappointed that this inquiry is proceeding despite the event having already undergone considerable parliamentary analysis," he said in a statement earlier this year.
Although questions about the government funding dogged One Movement from the start, it returned last year for a second edition, with a festival program featuring the likes of local stars Paul Kelly and Karnivool and internationals Sarah McLachlan and Ben Kweller.
The Committee intends to report on the inquiry to the Legislative Council by June 30.