Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Wellyfest Lives Up To Its Name, Again.

Another Wellington Folk Festival has come and gone. As is usual for any event anywhere in country on this long weekend, weather is unpredictable and indifferent to what's best for your event. The Brookfields site this year boasted frost, wind, sun (a little), rain, some more rain and above all, mud. Daunted we were not.
Pat higgins writes:
"Thanks Wellington Folk Festival Organisers. We had a great weekend, in spite of the cold on Friday night and the rain on Saturday night. Very good mud-co-ordination this year, really good quality and distribution.
"The old-Timey crew from Virginia were great (Martha Spencer and Jackson Cunningham), they do great authentic mountain music, the real stuff, great frailing, dancing guitar picking and mandolin playing.
"Had some nice sessions late into the night.
"In my opinion the Wheeze and Suck band while fine harmony singers, don't really make the grade. I've seen better pub bands round Dublin. I'd stay for the whole gig, if they just sang a capella.
"Enjoyed Ian Goodsman on the slide guitar, learnt a lot from his workshop and playing.
"The coffee was disappointing this year.
"The Balladeer was a great success, nice warm atmosphere. Also the Spooky Mens Chorale were fantastic, Loved their monumental self-aggrandistic style. So much so we went to their "Monday night concert in town. What a delight, great to experience man-firmation.
"Lovely to see so many talented and well-behaved teenagers in the mix. There was no rubbish I could see left in the top field, and we were last out. Thanks Organisers for all the hard work to deliver such a great event."
Have to agree with all of that. Especially the coffee. It was all there - just needs a good barista.

The layout of the site requires that all traffic (foot and vehicle) travel through some pinch points and these are the areas that always become quagmires. Perhaps a little pre-emptive maintenance could bulk these areas up a bit. The stage looked a lot better this year with blacks extending above neck height (otherwise the Spooky Men would've looked like so many disembodied bobbing heads!).

Congratulations to Gerard and the crew - another one down in style!
Mike Moroney
(Photo by Gerard Hudson)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Come Hither, Foreign Folkie

I regularly receive emails from overseas artists and tourists looking for opportunities to play in New Zealand. I pull up short of trying to be a promoter or agent but I do like to be able to pass on any useful information I have. The easier it is for performers to make their way around the country sharing their talents, the richer the scene becomes for us all; consumers and pickers alike. To my mind it all helps to lubricate the wheels of live music and makes it more of a usual thing for people to do of a week or weekend - a culture of turning the TV off and going out.

A recent enquiry from Britain asked about the appropriate visa status required of someone coming to play (and presumably earn money) in New Zealand. I didn't know so I put the question to the NZ folk list and got a couple of insightful replies; the first from Davy Stuart in Christchurch:
"Many overseas artists don't bother for a folk club tour, most  clubs seem to be happy to operate on a cash basis and lets face it, no-one is going to be earning thousands, given the fees versus the travel expenses etc involved. The larger festivals may be slightly more problematic and subject to greater scrutiny from the relevant authorities and I would probably advise getting a visa for those. Any concerts promoted by City Councils will generally have official tax forms and withholding tax withheld, so a visa would be advisable.

"Of course there is always the slight issue of turning up at NZ airport immigration with 'musician' on a passport and a swag of work visas for other countries.... Explain that to the officer.

"Work visas are not too difficult to obtain, I had to organise the paperwork for visas for Andy Irvine and Rens van Der Zalm the last time they were here. What it did mean though was them fronting up in person to the relevant NZ High Commission overseas, money and forms in hand, cost was about NZ$200 each from memory... "
It is true that the goal posts move with the fashion - in this case our rising-star film industry. This from Sue Harkness in Wellington:
"As Davy's first reference explains, any tour of 14 days or less no longer needs a work visa.

"Work visas for musicians need to be approved by the musicians' branch of the Service and Food Workers' Union. There is a charge per person for the approval and part of the basis of the approval is that the tour involves local support acts (not normally a problem with club gigs).

"Most acts tour under the radar but, if they are regulars or well known names, it's best to go through the paperwork.  You don't want your artist left at the departing airport or denied entry here.

"Once there is a work visa on the Immigration Department's files, there will have to be visas for all the following visits.

"Musicians from countries like China or Africa - who would require permission to visit - most definitely would require a work visa."
And an interesting rejoinder from Gerard Hudson, convener of the Wellington Folk Festival:
"One thing to be aware of is that only licenced immigration consultants can legally advise visitors on their visa requirements or what their personal (as opposed to general) obligations are to comply with the process. Safest is to refer them to the immigration service web sites that Davy referenced above."
And so that, indeed, is what I recommend too.
Mike Moroney
Dedicated to Sue Harkness on the recent loss of her father.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Sure You're Insured with TravelSure?

The Little Mermaid, CPN
Bernadette and I took a three week holiday in Scotland and Denmark midyear, catching up with our many musician and other friends. Needless to say I felt the need to take my guitar with me. Preparing for such a trip these days is increasingly fraught. How to play it with the additional item, what to pack in your luggage and what to take as hand luggage. No matter how much research you do, no matter how many times you scrutinise the conditions and restrictions; in the end it seems to all come down to arbitrary decisions made by the official at the check-in desk. Sometimes it's an Extra Bag, sometimes it's Odd Shaped Luggage, and then there's the special category of "Musical Instrument" attracting special levies, and sometimes you're invited to take them on as hand luggage, only to be turned back at the gate! It's a lottery and an expensive one.

Of course, if you're taking your precious instrument with you you're going to want to make sure it's fully insured. And we said so to the travel agent who arranged for additional cover and we were charged accordingly and robustly. The policy recommended by the travel agency (Flight Centre) was with TravelSure (New Zealand). Our holiday would include renting a car and we wanted to be sure that was known and included. The guitar was specified at a value of $4000. More terms and conditions followed. Perused the document, signed and paid.

Big mistake.

Of course, the mistake was entirely mine - I should have read the policy in detail, all the dozen or more pages of small print. Even then I still might not have come to the conclusion that the policy was as useless for my purposes as it eventually turned out to be. I thought I was being pro-active by asking (and paying) for cover for things when the cover you really need is for circumstances.

In the event, nothing happened to my guitar. It remained safe and sound for the whole round trip. In the seven minutes it took to check into a hotel in the Copenhagen CBD, our car was accessed (I would say "broken into", but the thief appeared to be able to unlock the car without damaging it) and bags were taken from beneath the cover of the rear of the hatch. An inspired notion and quick action by Bernadette found one bag (with our passports!) abandoned in the foyer of a building around the corner. What was missing was a small shoulder bag containing my camera, Kindle, digital recorder and a bunch of SD cards. The only thing irreplaceable was the data. A fairly good result if you have to get yourself robbed. Good thing we had comprehensive insurance.

Everything was done by the book. A report filed with the Danish police and items itemised. When I returned home I spent half a day filling out the insurance claim. Amazingly I had purchase receipts for everything, except the actual bag, a total of $700. I filed my claim and waited.

A week later the email came back:
Your claim is declined under two separate exclusions. We refer you to the Travelsure policy wording under the heading “Luggage And Travel Documents” which states:
We Will Not Pay For:
2. items left Unattended in any motor vehicle unless stored in the boot and forced entry is gained.
4. jewellery, camera and video camera equipment, sound equipment, mobile telephones or portable computer equipment left Unattended in any motor vehicle at any time (even if in the boot).
“Unattended” means (refer to page 12)
a) You did not observe the loss/theft, or
b) At a distance from You such that You do not have a good chance of preventing any attempted theft.
So, even if I had taken onboard that valuables weren't covered under any circumstances, I might have still accepted the policy and kept them with me when leaving the car. If I had made it to page 12, I would've realised being in proximity to call out "Cease and desist, you bounder!" was a requirement. Makes you wonder what the insurance might actually be for - especially having paid extra for car-related eventualities. Additionally my claim referred to items being under the rear window cover (out of sight) in the back of the Fiat Panda hatchback. I was not able to say "they were in the boot"; there wasn't one. I was also unable to demonstrate "forced" entry as there was no damage.

So well done TravelSure. You got my money and didn't have to pay. My claim, after excess, was about what I paid in premium. Of course, Flight Centre is complicit in this too. Appeals to the travel agent who negotiated and sold us the policy could only elicit, "We can't go through every little detail with our clients". A quick 'Google' of TravelSure brings up plenty of similar anecdotal stuff. I'm sure others have positive stories to tell of either of these businesses; Lord knows there are plenty on the TravelSure site and I'd always found Flight Centre good in the past. I feel the travel agent, the one who is supposed to understand your needs, was remiss and cavalier on this occasion. Still, I am better informed after the fact and won't be making the same mistakes again. I shall probably make completely different ones.
Mike Moroney
Dedicated to Bernadette.