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Gotta getta fund 

Nocturne’s funding story emerges as a complex issue of bureaucratic gaps, missteps and wishful thinking

Social networks and online media have a similar tendency to fly into rapid-fire frenzies over an announcement, drawing the attention of thousands of attentive audience members and few facts.

Take last week's mourning procession for Nocturne: Following a Metro article reporting that the city declined grant funding for the annual arts bonanza, Facebook and Twitter were overwhelmed with digital tears and virtual finger pointing.

"I certainly saw things online saying 'Oh, no! Is Nocturne over?' That is a worst case scenario and we don't think we're there," says Rose Zack, chair of the Nocturne board.

A correction filed by Metro the next day, yet another article and a letter published to the Nocturne website demonstrate this announcement is much more complex than a budget "cold shoulder" scenario. Instead, the story is emerging as one of bureaucratic gaps, missteps and wishful thinking in the wake of last summer's concert scandal.

At first, Nocturne was supported by HRM Cultural Affairs. After three years of exponential growth, the department's then-director suggested Nocturne turn to HRM's Civic Events and Festivals fund for more formalized, increased, stable support. Why did the exact opposite occur, then?

The Nocturne board was steered toward the marketing levy special events reserve, which is open to non-annual, free or low cost cultural, sporting or heritage events. Of course, it was far from perfect for the yearly event, but it was apparently the only category Nocturne could be slotted into.

Nocturne is now ineligible for funding for its fifth reincarnation. Zack says the $34,500 the board requested is devoted entirely to planning and executing the artists' projects.

"We knew as we applied that we didn't meet the requirements, but we were told to apply anyway to ensure that we were part of the conversation as these grants were being distributed," she says.

By "the conversation" she means the creation of a new category called Signature Events. It would be better suited to festivals like Nocturne that require annual funding but are not designated as hallmark events (see Reality Bites, page 5) and therefore must undergo annual review, says special events advisory committee member and councillor Sue Uteck. The category was to be created in time for Nocturne to apply for it this year.

Then the concert scandal happened. Uteck says the auditor general's investigation and report last June, although not touching on civic events grants in particular, stalled the creation of the signature events category. It also left other crowd drawing events---like Hal-Con, Halifax Anthem Showcase and Maritime Fiddle Festival---penniless during this round of grant allocation.

"I think not only are we being held to closer scrutiny, but they're holding themselves to closer scrutiny," Zack says.

She had her fingers crossed that council would bypass the grant allocation guidelines at its April 24 meeting and allow Nocturne the funding for a second year---no go.

At the same meeting, the events committee proposed to have the events that fell by the wayside re-apply for the marketing levy special events reserve. An exception would be made for the non-annual bit in the interim of the signature events category being created. Uteck says grant applications should be available by the end of May.

For now, Zack is holding out for this new grant opportunity: "I have faith that they're as committed to seeing this event be successful as we are." Still, with the date for the festival set for October 13, it will be a logistical scramble to get the event organized in time.

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Vol 26, No 11
August 9, 2018

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