Ausfest will return

ORGANISERS of the Australian Independent Music Festival have promised the event will return in 2014 despite a poor turn-out over the weekend.

Ausfest director Kelvin Fahey estimated about 1000 people turned out to enjoy the multi-venue, three-day music festival held from Friday, January 11 to Sunday, January 13.

"When I look at, I've had a look at some numbers and we would be lucky to get around 1000 people. Some of the venues only hold a few people but it does add up," he said.

The festival featured 20 acts rotating locally between The Artists Shed and Benedict House as well as across the border at The Old Canberra Inn and The Basement.

Manager of music at The Artists Shed, Tim Keeble said there were peaks and troughs in audience numbers during the festival.

Mr Keeble said the venue has a maximum capacity of about 100 people but numbers swung from zero to 25 people at most.

"There was an average attendance of 15 people at any one time," he said. "At the very start of the festival we had 20 people watching the first act but the numbers dwindled. It picked up later to about 20 to 25 people but it varied quite a lot."

Mr Keeble said he was disappointed by the audience numbers but said it was a typical response from the local community.

"With our Sunday Sessions it's equally variable," he said. "Unless there's a specific or specialised act then people don't come out to watch."

One of Mr Keeble's criticisms of AusFest was rostering acts to play in multiple venues.

"Having the same act play twice in Queanbeyan only a couple hours apart is not good," he said. "When people have gone to see someone play at Benedict House then why would they bother coming here? That hadn't been thought through."

Despite his criticisms, Mr Keeble said he would still consider participating in AusFest next year.

"Generally speaking we were pretty happy with how the event turned out," he said. "We'd like to see a change in the management arrangement, who's responsible for what for example if performers don't turn up. We coped as a venue ... but there were significant gaps [in the schedule] and that's where the audience left. Otherwise, it's not a bad start."

After being on hiatus for two years, organisers hoped to re-launch AusFest on a small but manageable scale and develop it over the next five years.

"The quality of performers was fantastic, the attendance numbers were ok and the size of the venues can over time can only get bigger and better," Mr Fahey said.

"[The event] could've been better but we've kicked it off now and we can grow it from here."

While organisers confirmed the festival would stay scheduled for the second weekend of January, festival goers should expect changes.

Mr Fahey said AusFest would resume being a ticketed event after it was held free to the public this year.

"Without a centralised venue we thought we couldn't make it a ticketed event," Mr Fahey said. "We thought by making it free it would drum up some interest and a provide snippet of what people can expect [from AusFest]."

AusFest organisers have big ideas already in the pipeline.

"We want to scale it up and we've been in talks to lock in a centralised venue in Canberra but using the small venues this year has been a bonus," Mr Fahey said, "To have a cappella singers performing in a venue like Benedict House was very nice, there was a great ambience."

Although the festival was a free event, AusFest organisers will still make a donation to their chosen charities, The Starlight Foundation and Black Dog Institute, by way of donations collected at the various venues.

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