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Local talent . . . The Saggy Britches Band performs in Harbour St for the 2019 Harbour Street Jazz and Blues Festival. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN

For the Harbour Street Jazz and Blues Festival organising committee, the show must go on.

When the 2020 festival was cancelled fives days before it was due to start because of Covid-19 concerns, committee member Paula Gray was gutted.

As something that people looked forward to each year, the cancellation was a real blow to the community, but it was the right thing to do, Mrs Gray said.

“We had to be sensible and conscious of what was happening at the time.”

This year’s festival co-ordinator, Anna Randall, said a silver lining of Covid-19 was having so many local artists performing.

“We are quite excited to provide a platform for local performers.”

Thirty-four jazz and blues bands would perform over Otago anniversary weekend, including Oamaru’s The Saggy Britches Band and Dee May and the Saints, and others from around New Zealand.

The event tried to involve as many people as possible, Mrs Gray said.

“We get bands to go into rest homes, and artists provide youth workshops.”

Youth workshops offered mentorship from professional musicians and those taking part were given the chance to perform live.

This was important for their growth and helped the future of the festival, Mrs Gray said.

By supporting the musical interests of young people, those budding artists could potentially carry on the festival as they got older.

“We have a huge array of talent in this town. It’s unbelievable.”

What Mrs Gray enjoyed the most about the festival was that everything was in walking distance.

“It has a really nice vibe; it feels safe. It has a lovely connectivity to it.

“There is such a variety of music. You can get big bands, small bands, and the lone performer.”

The festival would start on March 19 with a cocktail party in Harbour St.

A prohibition-themed murder mystery party would be held on the following evening, and the final day on March 21 would be highlighted by a street party.