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Difficult decisions . . . The Harbour Street Jazz & Blues Festival organising committee was looking forward to this year's events. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

This weekend’s Harbour Street Jazz & Blues Festival was one of the major events that had to be cancelled because of the Covid-19 outbreak. However, it had already been organised, thanks to the work of a team of volunteers including co-ordinator Paula Gray. The Oamaru Mail still wants to acknowledge this role, so Sally Brooker asked her a few questions . . . 

Q How many hours have you put into this year’s Harbour Street Jazz & Blues Festival?

The three months leading up to and after the festival are the busiest times – around 20 to 30 hours a week. The rest of the year, we are busy organising fundraising events, applying for funding, attending meetings. I find the time flies when I am in the thick of it, and although it is prudent to record the hours for future organisers, it is often hard to pinpoint just how much time is spent.

Q What led to your involvement in the festival – did you have previous experience in this field?

I was at the Farmers’ Market with friends the first weekend I arrived in Oamaru, and my husband pointed out a chap wearing a Jazz & Blues t-shirt. I went over and asked him After a conversation and meeting his wife, Julie [former co-ordinator Julie Barclay], I was invited to the Jazz & Blues committee meeting on the following Monday. The rest is history. I do have a background in event organising; I was involved in a number of large events in Christchurch before coming to Oamaru.

My husband, Erik, and I settled in Oamaru two years ago from Christchurch. We thoroughly enjoy the vibrancy in the town, the friendly, welcoming and relaxed people, the everyday amazing clothing choices you see people wearing and going about their business. We love the diversity of the cafes, restaurant and bars, and the weekend activities. There always seems to be something happening in town farmers’ market.

Q What do you like most about your work?

I enjoy the group of people I work with on the Harbour Street Jazz & Blues committee – they are dedicated, and have a firm commitment to bringing the festival to fruition. I have found the local bands and entertainers are extremely supportive of the festival, and are great to work with. The positive response we have had from our supporters and sponsors during this current situation is exactly what makes Oamaru and the people so uniquely wonderful to work with.

Q What are some of its biggest challenges?

I guess it is making sure that everyone involved has all the information required to help them do their part in the festival. The mostly free programme, which makes the festival so popular, also contributes to the financial challenges we face each year. The current situation we are in has been our biggest challenge so far this year. It was certainly gut wrenching to have to cancel the event.

Q How do you and the committee keep the festival fresh have brainstorming sessions, a list of performers wanting to be involved, a list of people you want to bring here, all of the above . . . ?

Yes, we have robust discussions and someone will mention a band or performer they may have seen lately. Fortunately, we have a list of performers who are keen to come to the festival each year. We are now being contacted frequently by international artists keen to come because they have heard about the festival. There is an extraordinary array of talent in Oamaru and New Zealand and we are so often spoilt for choice.

Q What is the future likely to hold for the festival?

We are excited about the future as we have had such a resounding response from our entertainers wanting to be considered for next year. All the hard work that went into the festival line-up this year will help to make 2021 an even more exceptional year to look forward to. The committee are completely committed to continue bringing the festival to Oamaru. Our intention is to grow the festival with initiatives for supporting future financial security with the support of the community.

Q We’re very impressed by that exquisite jazz band painting you did, which has become the poster and ticket art for the festival. When did you paint that and what other works have you produced?

Thank you. I painted it in 2018 when I was doing a series of music-inspired works. Painting gives me an opportunity to completely immerse myself in a creative activity. I love music and performance. However, I cannot play or sing, so painting is my creative outlet. I am a member of the North Otago Art Society, which has a very active group of artists, and I enjoy being involved with them, and added to that they have a great gallery where I can exhibit my work.

Q What is the future likely to hold for you?

involvement with the festival committee. I am also looking forward to spending time in my studio experimenting with different mediums, as I mostly paint with acrylic or oils. I would like to try my hand at watercolours, which I am sure will be challenging, as I am inclined to be a little heavy-handed applying paint. I am also looking forward to spending time with my granddaughter; we enjoy painting together.