The du Maurier Downtown Jazz festival blew its last chorus yesterday, as organizers of the annual Toronto event confirmed that the 2000 edition has been cancelled for lack of funds.
Some in Canada's arts community called it a harbinger of cancellations to come as arts, culture and sports organizations try to wean themselves off sponsorships from tobacco companies that in their heyday totalled $65-million.
Du Maurier, title sponsor of the Toronto jazz event, has also provided considerable financial assistance to other jazz festivals in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Montreal and Halifax.
Mark Thorne, du Maurier's national marketing manager, said the cigarette company has decided that federal tobacco sponsorship regulations, introduced in 1996, make title sponsorship unworkable.
As a result, it is reducing its overall support, which at its peak reached $6-million for jazz events.
At a downtown hotel yesterday, Jim Galloway, the Toronto festival's artistic director, and its executive producer, Patrick Taylor, said they had raised only half of the $1-million they needed for the $1.9-million summer festival, which was to run from June 23 to July 2.
The cultural community has been keeping a death watch on any event bearing, in particular, the du Maurier name. Federal tobacco legislation governing corporate sponsorship has been phased in gradually but takes full effect in October. It restricts the financing of cultural events by tobacco companies.
Mr. Taylor said that du Maurier had told him two years ago it would not return as title sponsor this year. He and Mr. Galloway despaired of finding one sponsor to replace the company's $1-million contribution, but believed they could find four partners at $250,000 each.
Only two came forward -- du Maurier and JVC Canada, whose U.S. parent company sponsors jazz concerts in North America and Europe.
"It totally mystifies me that in a city of this size, and that is the gem that it claims to be, we can't find sponsors," Mr. Galloway said. He criticized the City of Toronto for failing to offer more cash for the event, which Mr. Taylor said brought in $11.2-million in economic benefits each year.
"Our city [government]has shown an appallingly low level of support," Mr. Galloway said. The city gave $3,000 for last year's festival. Mayor Mel Lastman, who opened the 1999 event, called the festival "essential" to the city. But the mayor made himself scarce when the festival came looking for help.
"We did meet with his office, but Mr. Lastman did not have time for us," Mr. Galloway said. However, the city had agreed to let the festival open a tent at Nathan Phillips Square for seven days, and to close one side of University Avenue, from Queen Street to Armoury Street, for the concluding weekend. The city has permitted the festival to put music on the street -- last year, the tent was on King Street West for 10 days. But Mr. Taylor said the festival also spent between $40,000 and $90,000 on free programming in city spaces.
Mr. Taylor said the idea of holding a smaller festival this year was rejected, in part because of commitments already made to media sponsors. He said he would continue to be part of the Toronto Jazz Society, the festival's formal producer, but he would not say whether he would try to revive it next year.
"We're not even thinking about next year," said Mr. Taylor, who, like Mr. Galloway, earned $52,000 a year with the festival.
Rob McConnell, Grammy-winning trombonist and leader of the Boss Brass, blamed "government inanity" for the festival's collapse. "This was a kind of prestigious event where we could reach, at least potentially, a big bunch of people."
Mr. Taylor said the festival sold an average of 40,000 tickets each year.
The festival cancellation drew a surprised reaction from the JVC Jazz Festival, which was planning to run a complementary event on the same dates with fewer acts. Art Edelstein, the New York-based senior producer of the JVC festival, said his shows will go ahead in 10 downtown clubs between June 23 and July 2 and at Harbourfront Centre July 23-25.