Fest’s got the blues

THE future of the West Coast Blues and Roots Festival in Fremantle is hanging by a cheap guitar string.

The popular festival went into hiatus this year and was scheduled to re-launch in 2017 with a new city-wide format.

Sunset Events director David Chitty says they were offered dates at the busy Esplanade Reserve, but the window between other events was too tight, and they cancelled the relaunch.

“It’s difficult to say which way the festival will go now,” he says.

“We’d love to be able to do it again, but all the venues and stakeholders in the city would need to be fully engaged and on-board to make it work.

“It would take a lot of organising and planning to make this new format successful.”

Mr Chitty says Perth Arena, which opened in 2012, affected ticked sales.

“The arena is air-conditioned and super comfortable and we found that many of the older demographic were going to see artists there instead,” he says.

“Profit margins got tighter and tighter.”

He says Fremantle council’s Esplanade masterplan, which includes a new 350sqm restaurant and other facilities, made it even trickier to plan the event.

Fremantle council’s arts and culture manager Pete Stone says the council is “open to continued discussion around this popular event relaunching in Fremantle in 2018”.

Sunset had also planned to open a new tavern and music venue at the J-Shed, beside Bathers Beach, but the application was rejected by the WA planning commission and Fremantle council, which initially supported the idea.

Mr Chitty says council’s u-turn had no bearing on Sunsets’ decision to cancel Blues and Roots next year and their relationship hadn’t soured.



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