“After a while we realized that listening to records and talking about them, was just not enough. We set out, without any funds, to work out a way to present live jazz concerts in Kiama, which eventually led to a Festival.”
With local charities and cultural organisations as beneficiaries, they had help selling the tickets, and soon were able to attract not only Australian but international bands.
“It was a freakish thing – the timing was right for us to be part of a wave of the best American and English jazz talent being brought out to tour Australia,” says Gerry McInnerney.
“Once we got a reputation for giving people a good time while they were visiting us, everyone wanted to play here and gave us a good price. We had a dream run for a few years, but then the costs rose substantially.”
The early festivals featured greats such as Herb Ellis, Buddy Tate, Richard Cole, Bob Barnard, Monty Alexander, Judy Bailey and Don Burrows. Like now, they featured multiple venues and a Sunday concert.
Everyone chipped in with their skills, with Dennis, an art teacher at Kiama High, creating much valued posters for the concerts in his spare time (see right) and Gerry selling the tickets at his pharmacy.
Other members of the original committee were Brian Burgess, David Evans, Ernie Bradbury, Jean Grey, Narelle Latchford, Bruce McLean, Graham Tucker, Barry White, and Bob and Anne Potts.