Sunday, 27 November 2011

The Original Invitation

What are We doing about UK Jazz in 2011, and for 2012-2015?
November 2011 at Conway Hall

An invitation from Helen Mayhew, Dorian Ford, Juliet Kelly and Mike Gordon

with support from Jazz Services, and sponsored by the Musicians' Union

This event was facilitated by Jenifer Toksvig

In a climate of cuts, what are we doing to ensure the future of jazz in the UK?

Is UK jazz something to be proud of or embarrassed by?

Is jazz misunderstood? What can I do to change that?

What does the culture around jazz listening mean for musicians?

How can the future of UK jazz be shaped in a climate of cuts, and the growth of homogenizing corporate culture?

Who will shape the future of jazz in the UK?

This invitation is addressed to you if you

- think jazz is acceptably incorporated into UK musical culture

- think jazz is marginalised in UK musical culture

- are worried about reaching audiences

- don't care about who's listening and just want to play

- think the scene is cliquey

- are a student/graduate/player/promoter/fan

- think the same people get all the gigs

- think there are too many gimmicks

- think the scene is run by a very few people

Broadcaster and DJ Helen Mayhew:

‘I feel very strongly that jazz is often a forgotten or under-valued art form in the eyes of UK arts funding bodies. Although attracting similar sized audiences as classical or opera music, the subsidy it receives is disproportionately small in comparison. It is remarkable how the jazz scene manages to survive in this country despite this lack of support, with UK jazz musicians of international standing and outstanding calibre often playing gigs for a pittance in comparison with their colleagues in the classical world. Jazz club promoters often run their clubs on a shoestring as a labour of love, while classical orchestras and opera houses receive massive subsidy. I feel it is a matter of urgency that the Arts Council addresses and remedies this imbalance.’

Pianist Dorian Ford:

‘When I left Ian Carr's workshop at WAC, and went on to study at Berklee, I did so because at that time, there were no Jazz courses at UK music schools. Now there are many. Jazz is starting to become an accepted part of the 'academy'. And yet, I am not convinced about Jazz's place in UK culture. I find myself wondering what the expectations are of UK jazz graduates. I wonder about the relationship between the need for innovation and playing 'standards', and if this is connected to selling out versus integrity; whether there is a clear or vaguely perceived tribalism around this issue. I hope you'll come along and join us in finding out what we are doing about Jazz, because it is our life, and our livelihoods.’

Singer Songwriter Juliet Kelly:
‘Jazz has always been a "niche" genre but now, more than ever with massive cuts to the arts, we need to think as a community about how best we can harness available funds and create opportunities for all sections of the jazz community. I believe it's the right time for us to come together to outline the needs of the UK jazz scene and to highlight the steps that need to be taken ensure these needs are met.’

Promoter Mike Gordon:

'As promoter of Scarborough Jazz, which has been operating for twenty-seven years, and director of Scarborough Jazz Festival, I’m well aware of the threat currently posed to the future of jazz. At club level the danger is that, faced with reduced funding, promoters will resort to booking tried-and-tested, commercially safe bands and performers. Little known, younger, innovative groups are already losing their lifeblood: venues at which they can perform. Audiences will not be exposed to new genres - a vital prerequisite for the healthy development of any art form. But it's not just a matter of funding. Why do the media give jazz so little space? Why is it such a low priority in national and local authority arts policies? Why are our audiences largely from the older generation? The jazz community needs to address these questions and many others. Everyone interested in jazz has something to offer. If would be great if you could join us at this important event. With your support - and that of others you may know - this day may be the catalyst for positive perceptions and support of jazz.'

If you've got anything to say, if you don't yet know what you want to say or you just want to hear what others have to say; if you find yourself passionate about jazz or passionately moaning about jazz, if you are a jazz veteran or a jazz novice, know nothing about it but are vaguely curious, know too much about it or have questions to add to ours, please come along because this event needs you.

This event ran using Open Space technology, which gives anyone the chance to propose a starting point for discussion, then take part in one of these conversations, flit between them all,
or head to the bar (or in this instance, urn).

The event was made possible due to the support and generous sponsorship of the Musicians’ Union, which has a thriving Jazz Section. More on this event can be found at More information on the MU can be found at

This event was free to MU members and £10/£5 concessions for non MU.

Email for news about UK Jazz Open Space 2012

Another blog...

Another blog about the Jazz Open Space 2011.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Is there enough money in Jazz? Why is that? Can we create a commercial status for the UK Jazz Industry?

SESSION: Is there enough money in Jazz? Why is that? Can we create a commercial status for the UK Jazz Industry?

Convener(s): Dorian Ford, Chrys Chijiutomi

Participants: Peter Slavid, Tabitha Timothy, Sue, Mike Gordon, John Blandford, George Foster, Peter Ind

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

Commercial – not to be arts council based.

Arts council is money applied to transient things i.e. tours etc. as opposed to long term projects i.e. German radio stations funding big bands which go on to tour and make CDs etc.
What about BBC big band? Do they tour and make CDs?

Is the Jazz industry cohesive enough?
No, we don’t speak with one voice. Because of that it is unlikely to get much public funding.

Jazz organizations need to come together i.e. a federation.

Use arts council funding to seed core commercial ventures

Jazz is a word the audience don’t understand. Therefore audiences need ‘work’!

Where is the connection between public/private resources?

What about marketing a subscription series of concerts – possibly to sell to large companies.

Fan funding a way of funding a recording (USA)

A survey of voluntary clubs/musicians (i.e. 150 hours/week for nothing vs size of audiences) i.e. how much are this size audience getting for nothing?

How can the jazz community have the ear of arts council members/arts ministers? (members of the governing elite are more familiar with and likely to attend classical/opera than jazz – why? – when/how will this change?)

The jazz community/industry has no direct contact/influence with the establishment (with the possible exception of one company)

BPI AIM – we need to get inside these establishments

Issues about how public funding is used/obtained.

Issues about England being a very old establishment society with secret societies and old school tie networks etc.

Finding relationships with big money institutions i.e. investment banks etc.

Lobby BBC list of trustees and APPJAG.

Some reviews...

Two reviews from the LondonJazz blog here and here.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Photos 2

Photos 1

Does there need to be antipathy/tribalism in Jazz?

SESSION: Does there need to be antipathy/tribalism in Jazz?

Convener(s): Sophie

Participants: Beverley, Orla, Sophie, Pete, Jackie, Keith, Alice, Peter….sorry I may have forgotten some

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

I called this session because I encounter a lot of negativity between musicians who consider themselves to be part of one genre within jazz rather than another. There seems to me to be a big divide between classical/more conservative approaches and innovatory approaches, with a lot of bitterness directed from those who aren’t playing ‘new’ music to those that are. I think this is a symptom of the fact that there is a lot of fighting over rather small beans, and that people perceive that there is more hype/investment in ‘new’.

There was general discussion over the funding issue. Comparing Europe with the UK….6 radio stations playing jazz in France, for example, and a more ‘respectful’ audience in Germany than in the UK: there was suggestion of a more positive experience of performing in Germany, and of UK musicians' need to ‘protect their patch', which might inhibit them from being as welcoming as they would like to be with musicians they don’t know, thus making an insular vibe, possibly inhibiting the growth of
artistic collaboration, and gigs and audiences.

Lack of funding influencing programming policies….bands that are invested in financially will get gigs.

Intense competition

We started talking about lack of audiences for Jazz, and the relationship between that and people’s exposure to music in education…most experiences of learning instruments is of learning classical music to the exclusion of other styles.

Jazz in London won’t list trad jazz.

LJF – there was no trad jazz in the programme
- there was massive diversity in the programme

Could programming be more mixed – the classical approach of having well known repertoire in the same concert to new pieces. This approach might work in getting different groups playing on the same bill who wouldn’t otherwise, and lead to getting audiences to try something other than what they know they like.

Jackie – classical music may be better funded but has similar problems.

Discussion about tribalism and the need to identify with a certain thing.

Keith’s experiences of playing in Asia to audiences who weren’t expecting to hear jazz, but being incredibly positive in their response because of some culture around the attitude of ‘wanting’ to enjoy and engage with the performer who is comfortable doing what they’re doing.

Jackie: People spend their lives working in a narrow field feel like if someone criticizes their field, they’re criticizing their life.

Folk: same tribalism as in jazz, between traditional, modern, rock influenced…with audiences walking out and complaining if the music is not what they know they already like.

British Jazz Festivals
- mostly ticketed for each gig rather than 1 ticket for whole festival.
- Free stages enable people to go and see bands etc.

Sexist environment – women (singers?) not feeling as if they’re taken seriously by male instrumentalists.