24 January 2024

First look at Kiama jazz and blues line-up as festival attracts live music grant

| Katrina Condie
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Jazz band on stage

Exciting plans are in the pipeline for the 2024 Kiama Jazz and Blues Festival. Photo: Jon Harris Photography.

Organisers of this year’s Kiama Jazz and Blues Festival (KJBF) are promising to “blow the minds” of music lovers over three days in March.

Festival director Becky Guggisberg said the event, from 8 – 10 March was “going to be next level”, with events across a range of venues in Kiama, Gerringong and Minnamurra.

“Kiama will be activated and vibrantly uplifted,” she said.

In a festival preview, she said blues lovers could expect an “amazing line-up” at the Kiama Surf Club’s Icebergs Club where Frank Sultana would present Blues & Views, while jazz lovers would be “blown away” with some of Australia’s most interesting and incredible artists set to perform, including Sweet Tooth, Glider and the new Freshwater Crayfish.

“We are super excited to have so much talent coming,” Becky said.

The popular volunteer-run festival recently received a $96,000 boost from the Live Music Australia program aimed at easing some of the financial pressures on this year’s budget.

“The KJBF team is thrilled to have this generous support to continue to sustainably develop and showcase the arts in our South Coast town,” Becky said.

“The Federal Government values what this festival does to support the development, growth and innovation of Australian contemporary live music.

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“KJBF puts a spotlight on original contemporary music by Australian artists, increases performance opportunities and assists venues to move towards hosting music in a supported way.”

A small group of volunteers has helped the festival flourish over the past 37 years.

“Continuing to support live original Australian music during fire, flood and COVID shows resilience, dedication, creativity and a willingness to thrive,” Becky said.

She said the funding would allow the festival to “continue to function, recognising the minimum fee for artists and to bridge the gaps that were emerging between what the venues, our local council and the evolving beautiful beast that this festival is”.

Federal Member for Gilmore Fiona Phillips said the South Coast region had been through so much over the past few years, with live music “taking a huge hit”, both locally and across Australia.

“Helping this important industry get back on its feet, while also supporting local artists and events, and drawing visitors back to our region, has never been more important,” she said.

Indigenous dancers

The Kiama Jazz and Blues Festival celebrates culture and the arts. Photo: Jon Harris Photography.

The KJBF is a celebration that reconnects the community through culture and the arts, while presenting contemporary Australian music to new and diverse audiences.

“Our festival provides intimate stages for musicians to springboard from,” Becky said.

“Our audiences are attentive and uplifted. Our musicians are respected and paid.

“We bridge a gap for many musicians who are too talented for the pub and club scene, yet not known enough to sell tickets at bigger festivals.

“Our festival allows for an open, appreciative and discerning audience and that uplifts the musical experience for all.”

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The event injects around $4 million into the local economy. Becky said it fostered a community of musicians and “an audience that is prepared to experiment with the original live music that is not mainstream but is always evolving”.

“To keep the festival sustainable we need to appeal to the generations that see jazz move into the realms of electronic experimentation and blues evolve into relatable heartfelt storytelling,” she explained.

“With the rising cost of living and the disconnection experienced during COVID, this festival allows diversity and freedom and a wholesome vibrancy that is accepting and uplifting.

“This has a value beyond the budget and is demonstrated by its long history of success. This grant will help us achieve a greater sense of fairness and inclusion.”

The next round of funding through the Live Music Australia program, opening in February 2024, will target small to medium live music venues. More information on the program is available here.

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