Friday, 13 September 2013

A New Boost For Jazz As Promoters And Supporters Gather To Plan Collective Action

Inaugural Meeting at Colston Hall, Bristol - Monday 9th September 2013

The first meeting of the new Jazz Promotion Network (JPN) - hosted by the Bristol Music Trust and held at Colston Hall, Bristol on Monday 9th September - was attended by 65 people representing jazz promoters at all levels from the small-scale voluntary local club through to major professional festivals and venues. There was also a good representation from others working in live jazz promotion including musicians’ collectives, journalists, broadcasters, bloggers and agencies, such as Jazz Services, Norvol and EMJazz.

The move to set up the JPN came from initial informal conversations between promoters in England who recognised that so many of the issues and concerns they were dealing with in promoting live music were shared in common.

After an initial ‘testing the water’ meeting in Birmingham in January between a small number of contacts, a working group was formed to plan an initial large scale meeting and investigate possibilities for forming a new federation or network. The working group members – voluntary, self-motivated and focussed on collective, rather than individual, interest – were:

Tony Dudley-Evans (Birmingham Jazzlines & Cheltenham Jazz Festival; Steve Mead Manchester Jazz Festival & Jazz North); Amy Pearce (London Jazz Festival & Serious); Ian Perry (Lakeside Centre Nottingham & Nottingham Jazzhouse); John Blandford (Cambridge Modern Jazz Club); Todd Wills (Bristol Music Trust; and Nod Knowles (Bath) who acted as co-ordinator. The group was subsequently joined by Steve Crocker (Seven Jazz, Leeds and Norvol).

The working group contacted and consulted many more people and set the agenda for the inaugural meeting in Bristol – which concentrated on discussing how to set up an effective membership network, how to complement and work with existing organisations and what practical work the network could do to fill gaps and help to build the jazz ecology.

Opening the Bristol meeting, Tony Dudley-Evans spoke of how at international meetings British promoters recognised that national jazz federations in other countries had been effective in co-ordinating collective peer-to-peer jazz activity, such as (for example) tours, marketing or international exchange programmes. He emphasised the voluntary nature of the initiative and that it was essentially a call for collaboration amongst promoters and associated colleagues. The new consortium would seek to avoid duplication of activity – its aim being to increase the amount of jazz activity rather than to take over other existing activity or funding.

The organisation – now named the Jazz Promotion Network – was to be broad and inclusive and have a democratic membership scheme. Although the original impetus came from English promoters it was clear that membership would be open further afield to like-minded organisations in Wales and Northern Ireland (and Scotland via the Scottish Jazz Federation), several of whom attended the meeting.
Nod Knowles outlined the specific aims that would guide the network and described the nuts and bolts of setting up the organisation with a website, bank account and charitable status. A holding website at has been established and will carry an increasing amount of detailed information on the JPN.

After a number of presentations and discussion sessions, exploring a wide range of ideas and actions that the JPN could pursue, the meeting concluded that amongst the early priorities for them all would be: filling gaps in touring; co-commissioning and sharing larger-scale projects; building a regular networking and conference event for the UK jazz scene; showcasing British artists to UK and overseas promoters; working on ideas for collective marketing and audience development; and the use of the website and other digital methods for increased communication and information sharing amongst JPN members.

The Bristol meeting concluded with a consensus that the JPN was now a formally recognised organisation – and a call for jazz promoters and allied organisations to sign up as members. The working group agreed to work up more detailed plans that will put the ideas and priorities as discussed into practical action. The JPN would seek funding for some of its plans but the first steps in financing its work would be to collect affordable membership subscription fees.
The website has full information about how to join the JPN and will carry regular updates on JPN’s future activity and the progress of its plans.

Aims JPN
  • create collaborations which will build audiences for a jazz and related musics
  • support the development of skills and opportunities for artists and promoters
  • encourage and enable partnerships and communications between members
  • create mechanisms  for co-commissioning, touring, and other collective projects
  • facilitate and enable collaborations, partnerships and communications with other organisations in the UK and internationally
  • support and link with education and participation activity in jazz at all levels
  • contribute to advocacy and awareness of jazz and related musics
  • help foster growth in the jazz ecology

Jazz Promotion Network

 Guerilla camera phone video of attendees of the meeting

For more information, see the Jazz Promotion Network website.

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