The Impact of Festivals project ran from November 2015 to November 2016 at the University of East Anglia and was led by Professor George McKay with Dr Emma Webster, in collaboration with the EFG London Jazz Festival; the project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Connected Communities programme.
The book of the history of the London Jazz Festival is still in progress and we expect to launch the book at the 2017 EFG London Jazz Festival, so watch this space!
To celebrate the conclusion of the Impact of Festivals project, the EFG London Jazz Festival 2016 is hosting a mini-conference on Jazz and the City at the Southbank Centre’s Level 5 Function Room on Saturday 12th November between 2.00 and 5.00pm.
2.00-2.30pm Jazz and the City: Researcher-in-residence Dr Emma Webster, and Professor George McKay of the University of East Anglia, explore today’s programme and their current AHRC project, The Impact of Festivals.
2.45-3.45pm Festivals and the City: A chaired panel exploring how festivals are shaped by cities and places and how festivals in turn shape them. With vibraphonist Orphy Robinson, Mikey Martins (Freedom Festival, Hull) and Steve Rubie (606 Club).
4.00-5.00pm Musicians in the City: A chaired panel on life as a musician in the city, featuring saxophonist Andy Sheppard, pianist Sarah Tandy (Tomorrow’s Warriors) and Charles Umney (Leeds Business School).
With my co-author, postdoctoral research assistant Dr Emma Webster, I’m pleased to draw attention to our newest project output This is a peer-reviewed article for Jazz Research Journal focussed on the impact of jazz festivals in particular. (The wider project embraces pop, folk and classical music festivals too, of course.) The article’s abstract is below. You can access freely a copy of the article here. It appears in Jazz Research Journal 9(2), pp.169-193. Below also is a short film in which I talk a little about the jazz festivals research of the project.
Festivals are an essential part of the jazz world, forming regularly occurring pivot points around which jazz musicians, audiences and organizers plan their lives. Funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, the purpose of this report is to chart and critically examine available writing about the impact of jazz festivals, drawing on both academic and ‘grey’/cultural policy literature in the field. The review presents research findings under the headings of economic impact; socio-political impact; temporal impact and intensification and transformation of experience; creative impact—music and musicians; discovery and audience development; place-making; the mediation of jazz festivals; and environmental impact. It concludes with a set of recommendations for future research, which identifies gaps in the field. To accompany the article, a 100-entry 40,000-word annotated bibliography has also been produced, which is freely accessible online.
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.
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.