Iconic 90s Australian folk-pop and indie pop group Frente! thrilled the crowd at the opening of the 2023 Castlemaine State Festival. Photo: Diana Domonkos

The Castlemaine State Festival has been placed into voluntary administration.

The local arts community was in shock late last week when the festival board announced the move to community members and supporters.

The news comes in the wake of the cancellation of numerous music festivals and events across Australia.

With rising overheads, contractions of funding, changed audience behaviours and spending capacity in light of the cost-of-living squeeze, the industry more broadly is facing significant crisis.

The Castlemaine State Festival elected a new board in December 2023, which included six new board members who brought a wealth of professional experience and fresh enthusiasm to the role. The board indicated it was ready to take charge and work with stakeholders to bring back the famous biennial festival to its best for its 25th edition in 2025 and 50th year in 2026.

The board confirmed it had met all its financial commitments for the 2023 festival but despite courageous programming the event saw fewer visitors, lower ticket sales and diminished audience satisfaction.

Significant efforts were made to return the festival to profitability after those heavy losses, however the board has now made the necessary decision to enter into voluntary administration.

“We understand that this will be upsetting for the many people who have supported, enjoyed and championed our festival over many years, as it is for the board and staff,” they said.

Glen Kanevsky and Robert Woods of Deloitte Financial Advisory were appointed administrators of Castlemaine State Festival Ltd after close of business on March 26, 2024, and have taken operational control. The board said it valued their expertise and support through this challenging process.

The administrators will spend 28 days investigating the events and circumstances leading up to their appointment and will work closely with all stakeholders to assess the options available to restructure the operations, preserve the legacy of the festival and determine its future.

Board members will be working hard behind the scenes over the coming weeks to provide the administrators with all the information they need and are hopeful that with the expert advice of the administrators they can put steps in place to work towards a viable future.

The assessment will take into consideration funding and grant commitments made to the festival, which included $6 million from the state government to complete the fit out of the festival’s home at The Goods Shed.

“We are grateful for the longstanding support of the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria, Mount Alexander Shire and our patrons and donors, and we value the extraordinary community at the heart of this festival,” the board said.

“It’s too early to know where this process will take us but we hope to be in a position to involve our community more fully in our recovery efforts at the appropriate time.”

The board understands the community wants to know what has occurred and plans to keep the community informed as they move through the process.