Inspiration behind the first 2004 Jumper and Jazz festival

by Audrey Hoffmann


Twenty-one years ago, in the winter of 2003, the new multi-million-dollar Palmerin Streetscape development divided the community. After much debate, deciduous trees were planted along the main street, leafless in winter. Was there a way to “warm” them up?

As Director of Warwick Art Gallery, I requested an opportunity to address a Council meeting and I went along to the meeting carrying a big bag full of knitting yarns and a photograph of a jumper I had knitted for a deciduous tree in my garden. I emptied it all on the table and addressed the meeting.

“Councillors, as attendance statistics are important to you, I have a proposal which could greatly boost your gallery’s exhibition attendance.
I ask for your support, financially and in-kind, to curate an outdoor exhibition of creative jumpers on our Palmerin street deciduous trees, in the coldest month – July. I believe that this can bring the community together.”

The stunned faces around the table responded positively (albeit tentatively).

As I remember it, Lyn Bryson, Col Furness and I met to discuss the budding exhibition and we formed a committee to support the Gallery staff. The idea of jazz was welcomed.

As the community warmed to the project, injections of funding from Council, RADF, plus donations from business and service clubs helped to develop the new event at minimum cost. RADF funding allowed us to commission artists Michael Pospischil, Rob Simcocks, Linda Stewart, Alain and Kate Colfs and Paul Stumkat to create sculptural “jumpers” for the palm trees in the town centre. We invited knitting tutor Jude Skeers to offer workshops. Kris Kemp nurtured the music component and Caxton Street Players, our own singer Deeny Kohler-Caporale and Warwick State High School Big Band were engaged to play. Penny Davies and Roger Ilott at Restless Music wrote and recorded an original signature song for the festival featuring Teri Welles on lead vocal.

Word to artists spread and textile tree jumpers arrived from as far away as the UK. When Gallery staff Linda Stewart, Teri Welles and I installed all the wonderful creations, the first Jumpers & Jazz in July Festival was born.

For me, a lasting memory remains – a local businessman brought his aged mother from the nursing home in her wheelchair to see the trees all dressed up for winter.

That was 2004. Now the festival has grown and features a wide variety of textile creations from individuals and community organisations. Numerous musicians, singers and bands cover multiple genres of jazz. For ten days in July Warwick is alive with music, art, crafts, activities, and a whole lot of yarn.

Congratulations to Southern Downs Regional Council, the Warwick Art Gallery Director Karina Devine and her staff and volunteers, Events Coordinator Pam Burley and all the community who have supported this festival so consistently, making it a huge success.

Audrey Hoffmann / Director Warwick Art Gallery 2000-2005