Comedians and staff are owed thousands of dollars by the inaugural Laughs of Launnie comedy festival, despite the company receiving $100,000 through a taxpayer-funded grant.
At least eight artists employed by the festival have not been paid within their contractual deadlines, The Examiner has confirmed, with their contracts stipulating they would be paid by April 15 at the latest.
Laughs of Launnie received a Department of State Growth grant of up to $120,000, which was released to the company in stages.
In the past week, the company was given $10,000 of the allocated grant after submitting a final report about the festival to the department, bringing the total grant money it received to $100,000.
The Examiner requested a copy of the festival's final report but is yet to receive the document.
The payment of staff, performers and suppliers is a matter for the organisers and the government expects that they will all be paid in full.Tasmanian government spokesperson
A government spokesman said the department remained engaged with the organisers regarding the final $20,000 available in the grant, but payment of artists was "a matter for organisers".
"Full payment of the grant was conditional on organisers providing final data outlining the festival's performance," the spokesman said.
The state government did not specify what criteria the company will need to meet to receive the extra $20,000 of taxpayer money allocated in the grant.
"The payment of staff, performers and suppliers is a matter for the organisers and the government expects that they will all be paid in full," the spokesman said.
The Examiner has made a number of attempts to contact festival directors Scott Plummer and Chris Franklin for a response.
Two of the original four directors stepped down from their positions a month before the launch, sighting personal circumstances as the reason for their sudden departure.
There is no suggestion any problems were apparent at that time.
Matt Little is one person owed money by Laughs of Launnie, for his work behind the scenes including stage managing the Opening Night Gala, the Charity Gala, and the Great Debate, all held at Albert Hall.
Mr Little said he was brought on board to stage manage Laughs of Launnie's three marquee events less than one week before the festival commenced.
"They seemed to be fairly under-resourced in terms of what they had organised," he said.
"And for me, professionalism is the key to running comedy in the back end."
Mr Little said comedy was a passion and that's why he was involved, especially in the local scene.
"We certainly don't do it for money, and I won't be quitting my day job any time soon," he said.
"But I do like to be paid for my time, and there was an agreement that we'd had, and unfortunately that hasn't been fixed up and I've later found out that there are quite a few people who haven't been paid for their time."
Similarly, Stewart Bell, who is the face behind Launceston comedy series Fresh Comedy, said that he was "personally out of pocket" after Laughs of Launnie.
He said he had paid his support acts for their work in the festival, with the expectation that his contract would be honoured and his own payment received.
"I was contracted to produce three Fresh Comedy shows as part of the festival, a local showcase as part of the Laughs of Launnie gala, and also to perform a spot at a late-night show," Mr Bell said.
"We fulfilled these obligations, however to date have not received any remuneration from Laughs of Launnie."
Since The Examiner began making inquiries about three weeks ago, a letter from financial services firm ALA Partners was sent to creditors on May 3 on behalf of festival directors.
The letter implies that the money to pay artists will come from further funding from the state government.
"Unfortunately in its inaugural year ticket sales for the Laughs of Launnie were not at the level that the directors had anticipated, hence the company is not in a position to pay its outstanding debts in full at this time," the letter said.
"The directors are currently engaged in discussion with government and its events arm seeking funding to assist the company in making payment to its creditors. An exact time frame is currently not known but it is expected to take up to a month.
"The directors wish to emphasise that they have not benefited personally from this event by way of salary or any other type of payment nor will they receive any future direct financial benefit from the 2019 event."
A government spokesman said liability to unpaid artists was "solely the responsibility of the organisers".
State Growth Minister Peter Gutwein said organisers of the festival approached the government to provide seed funding to assist with costs of establishing the festival.
"The initial request was for $215,000 and following negotiations with the organisers, government allocated a one-off seed funding envelope of $120,000 for the event," he said.
"The success or otherwise of events such as this rests with the organisers."
Laughs of Launnie was held from March 18 to 24.
In the lead-up directors spruiked international, national and local artists performing 30 solo shows, three galas, five special events, roadshows, pub crawls, a bus tour, and more - with a total of 110 shows to be held over six days.
But it is understood a number of the scheduled shows were cancelled due to poor ticket sales.