Company directors are still trading but refuse to liaise with creditors, while debt is estimated at over half a million dollars.
Five months on from the artistic successes of this year’s Brisbane Baroque, it still appears that only a handful of artists have been paid for their work, despite audience attendance – and therefore box office returns – suggesting a positive financial outcome. Meanwhile, Limelight has discovered that other companies owned by the directors are still trading, despite festival debts estimated at well over half a million dollars.
Reports in Limelight and other Australian media back in June revealed serious management irregularities, while the Event Owner and Executive Director, Jarrod Carland had reportedly checked himself into a medical institution in Victoria. Many in the arts community were therefore surprised when in July, Carland’s fellow director and boyfriend Shannon Pigram appeared at the Helpmann Awards in Sydney to acknowledge the audience applause on behalf of absent singers and collect a slew of trophies in place of his “seriously ill partner”.
Following the Helpmanns, on July 25, the Brisbane Baroque website was updated with a message saying how “thrilled” the directors were with their four awards. “We all know how hard it is to mount festivals and they are always a risk but these awards and response this evening confirms that the hard work is worth it,” the statement said, adding, “There have been several reports in the media over the last weeks concerning payments to artists and personnel for their services for Brisbane Baroque 2016. Brisbane Baroque is continuing to liaise with creditors and hopes to finalise an outcome by the end of July.”
Since then, neither Carland nor Pigram have responded to any attempts by artists, their agents or Limelight to get in touch with them, while the company’s only employee, Holly Plew, is now believed to have left Brisbane Baroque Ltd. Several of the artists and their managements have contacted Limelight to express their frustration at what seems an intractable situation.
Alison Johnston was employed as a contracted co-artistic administrator for Brisbane Baroque, and tasked with issuing contracts signed by Jarrod Carland. Separately she runs Orchestra of the Antipodes, and as a creditor she has been attempting to follow up on behalf of many of the performers since April. According to Johnston, the list of unpaid artists stretches to around 40 international and Australian soloists including Mahan Esfahani, Vivica Genaux, Greta Bradman, Brett Weymark, Erin Helyard, Ulrike Schneider, Carlo Vistoli, Russell Harcourt, Joao Fernandes, Owen Willetts, Keri Fuge, Kiandra Howarth, Morgan Balfour, Nicholas Tolputt, Brenton Spiteri, David Greco, Kristian Winther and Ioana Tache. In addition, it is understood no money has been received by any ensembles including Latitude 37, Orava Quartet, Camerata of St. John’s, the Queensland Symphony Orchestra and 32 members of Orchestra of the Antipodes. It is believed that the outstanding debt could be as much as $750,000.
“As far as I know, no-one has been paid since this date (or indeed before), and no-one has heard from management at all,” said Johnston. “The only artists that we have been able to ascertain as having been paid from the Festival are Miriam Margolyes, Laurence Dale and Rodney Fisher. The last two were the directors of Agrippina and King Arthur respectively, and directors’ contracts specify payment in advance which is why they would have been paid as they were.”
It also appears that a number of the suppliers, including the firm that freighted the Agrippina set from Germany and the people who remade the Agrippina costumes are also still waiting on invoices. “I have had basically no communication from Shannon or Holly,” said Johnston. “Holly had said at some point early-ish on that Shannon would call me but he never did. Any actual information that has been received from them (like the July 30 payment date) has had to be prised out of them. And of course it has subsequently proved to be not true anyway. The sentence in their statement that ‘Brisbane Baroque is continuing to liaise with creditors and hopes to finalise an outcome by the end of July’ is untrue in every respect; they haven’t been liaising with anyone. So there is no indication if or when the situation might be resolved.”
Graham Pushee, Managing Director of Arts Management representing two of the unpaid artists, tells a similar tale. “We have been constantly and regularly sending emails requesting – or demanding – payment, which was contractually due within 15 days of performance,” he told Limelight. “At first we were told that Jarrod was seriously ill and they would be in touch. Then Shannon said that no payments can be made at this stage – but with no reason. Jarrod has never replied, despite being copied on everything.”
By June, Pigram was reportedly stepping in as Carland was apparently the only signatory on the accounts, and Pushee was told that Brisbane Baroque “intends to make good on all outstanding fees”. But following the Helpmann Awards, communications have completely dried up. The agents and managers however are now all in touch with each other. “We’re trying to work out how to go forward. We’re not discounting any possibility but we have to look at what’s realistic,” Pushee says. “My clients are independent artists, reliant on the income from events like this. Apart from being frustrating, I find it unconscionable. There’s a moral as well as a financial dimension here.”
Meanwhile, Limelight has obtained an email sent by Jarrod Carland on September 14 to clients of Studio Jack, a boutique media campaigns company of which he and Pigram are also directors, that suggests that the Brisbane Baroque situation is not interfering with their other various commercial enterprises. The light-of-tone email reports staff changes at Studio Jack, contains no mention of Carland’s illness or ‘unavailability’, and makes it clear that for them it is very much business as usual. A phone call to Studio Jack elicited the information that both Carland and Pigram are “in and out” on a regular basis, though neither of them could be spoken to on this occasion.
“This kind of thing is detrimental to the entire industry,” says Pushee, who is having to consider insisting on contracts requiring part payment in advance. “Having worked with them before, we had no reason to be suspicious, or wary, or in any way concerned. But there are some people you’ll never contemplate working with again, no matter in what guise they resurface.”
As regards the future of the festival itself, Limelight understands that there are intense behind the scenes efforts to ensure that the popular event goes ahead in the future and that it continues to attract interstate visitors and enhance Brisbane’s and Queensland’s cultural profile. However, QPAC felt it important to clarify their relationship to the festival and the company. “Brisbane Baroque Festival is produced by Brisbane Baroque Limited of which Jarrod Carland and Shannon Pigram are Directors,” a spokesperson explained. “QPAC provides in kind support to Brisbane Baroque Festival and for this support QPAC receives an in associationpresentation credit on marketing collateral. Given QPAC’s relationship with Brisbane Baroque Festival is as an ‘in association’ partner, we have no financial authority over the event. QPAC has not yet been given any indication from Brisbane Baroque Limited as to the plans for Brisbane Baroque Festival 2017”.