In June 2016, Emma Webster took part in the Live Music Exchange event, ‘Valuing live music‘ at the University of Newcastle. She gave a short presentation on her and George McKay’s report on the Impact of British Music Festivals and answered questions about the definition and meaning of festivals, and the British festival market in relation to other countries.
The London Jazz Festival began in 1993, the guide to the new event a pull-out section of the magazine Jazz and a free supplement to The Observer rather than a brochure per se. London in the 1990s was a city only just starting to come out of a fifty year post-war population decline, but by 2014, as a result of the highly successful Olympic Games in 2012 and its pre-eminence on the global financial stage, Forbes magazine had designated London the ‘most influential city in the world’. As the Festival has changed over the years, so too has the look and feel of the brochure, and it is also interesting to note that the way in which the Festival has used London imagery over the years, sometimes placing the city front and centre and other times focusing on jazz.
1994 and 1995 foreground London rather than jazz, the famous black hackney cab appearing on both. The 1995 mini programme (produced in association with the Rough Guides as well as ORIS, BBC Radio 3 and London Arts Board) draws on London imagery, including black hackney cab, toy Routemaster bus, London A-Z, Time Out, Monopoly board (‘Go’ square), travelcard, but also a lemon and some oranges (a reference to Cockney rhyming slang for St Clements?), some buttons, and a London Records 45”. The transport theme is continued inside: the introduction is faux stamped ‘Jazz Office November 1995 London’ and the transport images appear throughout.
The red and black branding of the 1990s gave a cohesion to the new festival, which foregrounds the title sponsor, Oris, rather than necessarily giving away too much information about the event from the outside, although the inside is filled with black and white images of various jazz musicians in the festival.
2000-2002 sees that black & white imagery move to the front cover, as these three years feature close-up photography of jazz musicians and their instruments – as finance director Ope Igbinyemi says, ‘There was a point when we had hands everywhere, a few fingers, this and that’. The 2001 brochure is also the first to feature the BBC Radio 3 logo, ‘in association with’, to indicate the relationship between the Festival and its new principal broadcast partner, which continued until 2012.
The gritty, urban ‘Music From Out There, In Here’ neon signage of 2003-2005 is up next, utilising the classic symbol of industrial cities: the red brick wall. It is the first time that the Festival uses a slogan, and it is one which is particularly apt, as it encapsulates the inclusive pan-cultural vision of the Festival, one which imports music from all over the world into London, but which, read another way, reflects the way in which the Festival provides a platform for the music being made in London itself.
The exuberant 2007 big-jazz-hair cover is bookended by the slightly hit and miss graphic design of 2006 and 2008. As director Claire Whitaker describes, ‘That [2007 programme image] was a landmark one. People just loved that, and I think nothing encapsulates it more than … How she looks is how I feel in a lot of our concerts; that kind of joy’.
The artwork for 2009 to 2012 changes tack entirely to feature specially commissioned abstract artworks, the aim being to attract audiences who might attend art galleries but not yet jazz festivals. As Amy Pearce says, the Festival was expanding and audiences were growing and they had to think more about the design, i.e. ‘What would make somebody pick this up who isn’t a jazz fan?’ As the festival market has expanded in the new millennium, so too festivals like the London Jazz Festival have had to expand both their programming and look to attract a bigger and more diverse audience.
The sponsorship by EFG since 2013 has seen the programme style change again to reflect the Festival’s new rainbow logo, and, hot on the heels of the highly successful London 2012 Olympics, more recent years have seen London itself reinstated as a vibrant, rainbow-hued city, infused with jazz. As Amy Pearce says, ‘I think we’ve become increasingly conscious of being the London Jazz Festival and really wanting to embrace that’. The 2015 brochure combines London imagery with the vibrancy of jazz, and includes that year’s twitter campaign hashtag, #thisismyjazz
Thus as London and its jazz festival has grown and developed, so too has the aesthetic of the brochure. As Amy Pearce, Serious’ associate director of production, says, ‘I think what I’ve become increasingly aware of is how much your front cover of the brochure defines your programme … I’ve become really aware of how the visual is really integral and the whole look and feel of the festival isn’t just a nice addition, it’s absolutely fundamental to what we’re trying to do with the programme and the Festival’s development … You want a visual that reflects the programme that you’ve created, so to me that is exciting, dynamic, it’s got depth, it’s got different areas that you can look it, it feels alive, it’s inspirational, as I hope our programme is’.
Also check out this article about the Festival’s artwork by Cog Design, who worked with the London Jazz Festival between 1994 and 2008.
In panel conversations between musicians, researchers, journalists, organisers and promoters we found and heard about a range of approaches to trying to revitalise the (jazz) festival experience and the jazz scene at the 12 Points Festival discussion days on ‘Jazz Futures’ here in San Sebastian. This was felt important for a number of reasons, including that in some countries the big all-star jazz festival is fading, its audience diminishing, while elsewhere, perhaps ironically, perhaps in a connected way, there is a surfeit of festivalisation of culture, in that festival in its ubiquity has become everyday, even banal, and no longer the intense, heightened and exceptional. Here are some of those diversifying approaches.
- Jazz festival or event as immersive experience—music, yes, but also costume, design, actors and dancers, food, theatre and masque, historical reconstruction of scenes from jazz past with a promenading audience
- Jazz apps, and audience interactivity via mobile digital technology
- Electronic deconstruction of the live music event in the very next concert that follows, so the audience hears fresh the new music it just heard, where sometimes the remix is better than the original (though, yes, “sometimes it’s shittier”)
- An emphasis on creative curation rather than simply programming or organisation and presentation of a series of concerts
- Cross-cultural and cross-arts dialogue. Whether improvised arts (music, dance, animation) working with each other in the moment, or a festival of improvised music that must include literature and vice versa
- A continuing struggle with the Jazz word: a European jazz festival director says I don’t want to use the term “jazz festival”, it’s off-putting for a new audience, others saying we lose something worth cherishing and celebrating if we reject it (i.e. a century of live and recorded music)
- The on-going core relevance of jazz and music education: new musicians, new networks and events, new energy, andnew audiences
- The regular inclusion of academic research in the festival programme, an openness to it in the scene more generally.
The history of the jazz festival in Europe goes back to the early post-war years, when one visionary city organised a set of concerts over a few days in seafront venues round the resort. These featured both national musicians as well as a sprinkling of US headliners, including the transatlantic star Louis Armstrong. We can think of it as a gesture of cultural futurity, with the aim of sounding a better international situation after the war years. They called it the ‘festival international du jazz’, the year was 1948, and it happened in—Nice, France. Thus the European ‘jazz festival’ was born, in Nice.
In England the earliest jazz festival would be Beaulieu Jazz Festival (1956-61), while perhaps the most famous European event, Montreux Jazz Festival, was founded later still, in 1967. (A book marking 50 years of Montreux is published this year.) But it was Nice Jazz Festival, in the late 1940s, that set the template.
Within a few years Nice would do something else marvellous for jazz, for jazz’s heritage and sense of place and relation to the past: Nice located its festival of jazz, that clashing music of modernity, in the Roman amphitheatre to the north of the city. Go there today and you can see busts of famous jazz musicians who played there in the park next to the amphitheatre, a neat public recognition of that jazz moment in that great city by the Mediterranean.
This year’s festival was due to start today, hundreds of musicians and thousands of festival-goers coming to Nice, under the sun and stars, by the sea, for a celebration of a music which, at its very best, is an outernational music of dialogue and listening where we might just for a second glimpse or hear another, better world. I know that sounds like a jazz utopia but, you know, we had a conference recently on the very theme of #jazzutopia, so it’s in the air.
But the 2016 Nice Jazz Festival was cancelled yesterday, as a result of the terrible atrocity on the Promenade des Anglais on Thursday night. Nice est en deuil. We should listen to the silence of the jazz not happening there this weekend. From another festival city, Edinburgh, where a group of scholars and musicians is meeting this weekend during the Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival at a conference marking ‘50 years of European jazz’, we send wishes of sympathy and solidarity, anger and love, and the desire for peace and a different sort of future that jazz can sometimes still sound, and that a festival can still capture. Vive Nice Jazz Festival.
Our new report about the impact of British music festivals has already garnered some great feedback – here is what some people have said about it:
“Within festivals we need and value the criticality of academic research. A report like this helps us shape, make sense of, and rethink what we are doing.”
John Cumming OBE, Director, EFG London Jazz Festival
Our new report, published online today, highlights the economic, social and cultural impact of British music festivals, and shows that festivals are now at the heart of the British music industry, forming an essential part of the worlds of rock, classical, folk and jazz. Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s (AHRC) Connected Communities programme, the report is based on a critical literature review of more than 170 books, papers and reports. Continue reading Report published online today: From Glyndebourne to Glastonbury: The Impact of British Music Festivals – Emma Webster and George McKay
To celebrate the launch of our new report on the impact of British music festivals, we held a day of ideas and discussion around jazz, festivals, and jazz festivals at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival on 29th April 2016. The following are ten things learned from the event, which brought together leading jazz and festival researchers, and festival directors, from around Britain and Europe. Continue reading Researching (jazz) festivals – 10 things learned from a day of discussion and ideas at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival – Emma Webster
I have just returned from the Rhythm Changes ‘Jazz Utopia’ conference in Birmingham (14-17 April 2016). The majority of the one hundred plus speakers really engaged with the theme of the conference and grappled with jazz’s potential for exploring and achieving utopia from a wide variety of perspectives: historical, musicological, sociological and interdisciplinary.
My paper gave a brief overview of a literature review currently in review with the Jazz Research Journal about the impact of jazz festivals; based on the final part of my paper, this blog post will consider briefly the ways in which jazz festivals have been or could be considered to be utopian. Continue reading ‘Festivalling’: Are jazz festivals utopian? – Emma Webster
Friday 29 April 2016, 10:00am to 5.30pm
Take Five Family Tent, Montpellier Gardens
The Impact of Festivals is a 12-month project funded under the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Connected Communities Programme, working with research partner organization, the EFG London Jazz Festival. The Principal Investigator is Professor George McKay, AHRC Leadership Fellow for the Connected Communities Programme, and Professor of Media Studies at the University of East Anglia. The Research Associate is Dr Emma Webster, co-founder and Director of Live Music Exchange. Continue reading PROGRAMME ANNOUNCED: Researching (Jazz) Festivals: A Day of Ideas and Discussion Cheltenham Jazz Festival
I was lucky enough to attend the three-day AHRC course, ‘Engaging with Government’, at the Institute for Government in London in March 2016. It was a superbly run course, with all aspects of the training obviously well planned and delivered, and some really inspiring guest speakers and course facilitators (Jill Rutter and Katie Thorpe). It was also a real privilege to spend three days with some very smart, passionate early career researchers, whose research interests ranged from genocide to secret intelligence to housing and architecture to live music. Continue reading Top 5 Tips for Engaging with Government as a Researcher – Emma Webster