PROTESTORS fighting against Ealing Council’s cuts to their Jazz Festival handed in a petition to councillors yesterday evening. 

Armed with placards supporters of the festival — which is now in its 31st year — gathered in front of the council building from 6:30pm alongside a jazz band.

The jazz festival that takes place in Warpole Park every July is being cut from five days down to just two by Ealing Council, with its co-founder Dick Esmond removed from his role of artistic director.

One demonstrator, Chris Pugh, spoke of the benefits the festival brings to Ealing, he said: “It is a great event, it brings people into Ealing.

 “I think that is the most important point. What it does for Ealing rather than what it does for the jazz festival and jazz fans.”

Amateur musician Richard Carter from West Ealing questioned the council’s decision to spend less on the festival.

 “You see a lot of property development going on,” he said.

“Almost the average price of a house in Ealing is £1million.Where is that money going?”

He believed the recent Hanwell Hootie festival was an example of how a council should run a successful event.

He said: “I can understand that it can be difficult to get events off the ground.

“Funding them and finding people to support them can be tricky but it’s possible.”

More than 1,850 people have signed an online petition titled ‘Save the renowned Ealing Jazz Festival from total decimation by Ealing Council’.

A fan of the festival, Richard Evans, said: “Jazz is sort of the root of all popular music and it should be supported.

“Leave the jazz alone.”

At 7:10pm the large throng of protestors entered the building to pack out the public gallery at the council meeting.

Andrew Butcher, chairman of ‘Save the Ealing Jazz Festival’, presented his petition to the Councillor for Northolt West End and cabinet member for environment, transport and leisure, Bassam Mahfouz.

Mr Butcher argued that the current management of the festival led to a loss of sponsorship — which they were contracted to bring in — more financial risk for the festival and unfeasible cuts.

He said: “Simply some of the decisions taken are not based on a sound business case.”

Councillor Mahfouz replied by explaining that the council were facing severe cuts.

He argued that cuts to the entire summer programme saved the council £40,000 while the festival’s management, The Events Umbrella (TEU), would now fund the festival as opposed to taxpayers.

Shortening the festival means that 74% of the acts that would have played over the five days will now play in the two days.

Councillor Mahfouz said: “The council has had to make savings of over £180m in the past few years. 

“Despite most councils cancelling their summer events programme altogether, we have put together a deal that will secure the Jazz Festival for years to come. 

“I am delighted that we will be offering a full weekend of live open-air jazz in Walpole Park with three-quarters of the number of acts we have had in previous years. 

“The changes means we will save council tax payers well over £50,000 a year, including not running the Jazz on week nights, which had previously lost significant amounts of money and not well attended.”

Mr Butcher was disappointed he did not mention the costs the changes would bring.

Councillor Mahfouz also praised TEU, who were under fierce criticism by Mr Butcher, saying: “I’ve got to say they have organised and delivered a sold out comedy festival.”

He additionally offered to hire out the disused space to private hirers with ‘Save the Ealing Jazz Festival’ receiving the first opportunity to use the space on two of the three cancelled days.

The festival’s co-founder Dick Esmond said: “The council seems to be blinkered in what it says.

“They come out with half-truths, but when you know what’s really behind it all, you could drive a truck through it, it’s just incredible.

“I have come out of that meeting feeling a little jaundiced by it all.

“It strikes me, we’ve got a huge hill to climb but that’s where we’ve got to start applying the pressure now.”

Mr Butcher today spoke about how exasperated he is with the council.

He said: “I suppose one of the things that we feel, we’ve got to the stage where we’ve put the questions in public, in the council chamber, they weren’t answered and I don’t know what more steps effectively a member of the public, like me, can take.”

He was hoping to have a one-on-one meeting with the councillor to discuss matters further but also desired further action.

He said: “I really think questions need to be asked. This is public money.”

Ealing Council has outsourced management of the festival since 2009 to private contractor TEU who are sponsoring the event this summer.

An Ealing Council spokesperson said: "We recognise the fantastic contribution Mr Esmond has made to the Jazz Festival over the past 30 years.

“We are confident that we will be bringing a high quality production and line up to this year's festival and hope that Dick will accept our invitation to headline the Sunday night performance.

"We are in early talks with a number of popular jazz acts and will be announcing our full line up in May."

Ealing Jazz Festival will run from Saturday July 23 to Sunday 24 July this year at Walpole Park, Mattock Lane.