Jazz North northern line and Introduces update

We wanted to keep you updated if you’re anticipating a new round of recruitment for the next rosters of Jazz North’s northern line and Jazz North Introduces.

You’ll hear from us as we develop our programmes, but recruitment is still paused for the moment. We want to honour the time left on the schemes for our current artists and stay true to the original aspirations to support and unite artists, promoters and audiences. This means, rather than shifting online, the current round has been extended to let artists get back to playing music in 2021.

There will be lots of news from us in the coming months, so make sure you stay in the loop by signing up to our mailing list at the bottom of this page.


DJAZZ’s Heather Spencer is our new Programme Manager

“Having been working in jazz for a few years now, I’ve come to learn a lot about the breadth and variety of jazz in the north and have had the chance to meet a lot of the musicians, educators and organisers making it happen.

My work history has been centred up in the North East, as co-director of DJAZZ, Jazz Development Coordinator at Sage Gateshead and co-programmer of Sunday Jazz at Middlesbrough Town Hall. I’ve been involved in lots of event freelancing and was part of the HMUK Jazz Promoter Fellowship in the early days of trying to work it all out.

I met some amazing people, saw some great music and learnt so much whilst volunteering at festivals and making pizza in my brother-in-law’s Chorley market stall. It’s been a fun and rewarding few years and it really has been so much down to the help and support of some brilliant people.

I’ve been working as Programme Manager at Jazz North for just over a month now and I am so thrilled to be part of this small but mighty team – there are only five of us! I was introduced to Jazz North through the fantastic Lucy Woolley who has been doing brilliant stuff in this role before I joined and is now network manager at Jazz Promotion Network (JPN) amongst many other things. Lucy invited me down to the JPN conference in Leeds, following the first edition of DJAZZ in my final year of university. I didn’t really have an idea of what a sector even was at that point, so it really did all kick start from the people I met there.

My role as Programme Manager is based on shaping and delivering activities that support the northern jazz sector. Right now, I manage our artist development programme and lead promoter and artist networking sessions on a regular basis. It’s definitely strange to join a live-music-driven organisation during the most difficult period live music has faced in our lifetime. Despite this, I’ve really felt the togetherness and solidarity of this industry as people have come together to support one another and share experiences.

Come and say hello – heather@jazznorth.org

It would be lush to say hello if you’re reading this and wondering about Jazz North and how it can support you as an artist or connect you as a promoter. Or, if you have no idea what we do or if you’ve already engaged with us a million times and would just like to be in touch again. Especially in these seemingly endless times of being apart, it’s so important to have spaces to connect and I hope this is something we can really help with as we make sustainable and resilient plans for the future.

I really look forward to getting to know this scene even more over the coming months and into a time when we can all get back into venues and enjoy the brilliant live music northern jazz has to offer.”

Heather Spencer


Jez Matthews on livestreaming, garden gigs and bumpy roads ahead

As soon as lockdown happened, I wanted to try and livestream gigs, so I was pleased when pianist Sam Leak got in touch. Sam had been investigating what was required and wanted to give it a go; so we took our first leap into the new world.

Our initial thoughts were that the gig livestream needed to ensure that money went to the musician(s) (many of the livestreams at that point in time were free or donation-only) and that both sound and visuals should be of a good standard. I also felt that we could balance the slight remoteness inherent with online gigs and provide a sense of community by holding a Zoom meetup and a Q&A with Sam. I also added a personal video introduction and a raffle to further maintain the link to our actual gigs at The Lescar.

Sam’s technical approach involved OBS broadcasting software at the musician’s end, and we used a private Facebook event page to broadcast the event. The gig was a success, Facebook allowed audience responses to be visible, giving a sense of being ‘in a room’ surrounded by fellow fans, and the Zoom meet-up was attended by a lot of the audience, and Sam’s music was of course perfect.

We stuck with Facebook for a couple more gigs, but there are some disadvantages with it, not least it excludes audience members who don’t like it, or just don’t use it, and also the payment/entry process was slightly clunky.

As a result we refocused our efforts onto Crowdcast. This is an internet platform used by the likes of Hay Festival. It allows a nice clean payment and registration process, as well as still offering the audience the chance to feedback with a built-in chat mechanism. We also focused on learning about OBS, and establishing a technical template and process for all gigs that we could pass onto musicians each time. We’re fortunate enough to have on the Jazz at The Lescar team a couple of people who have been successfully filming our gigs, so we’ve been building up some audio/visual skills without quite realising how useful they were about to become.

We decided early on that using Zoom for the gigs compromised both sound and audio too much, and presented some administrative problems, although we have retained it for our post-gig audience meet-ups, which I really love.

Over the course of eight gigs (including two Sheffield Jazz livestreams) we refined things, and learned a few lessons along the way. The musicians were amazing, and we were blown away by the audiences and their overwhelmingly positive feedback, and importantly, we’ve also ensured that the musicians involved can be paid for their art. An unforeseen impact has been feedback from audience members who’ve said that they wouldn’t ordinarily have been able to make the gigs in Sheffield, and now can do this thanks to the new technology.

The downside is that the level of preparation is high (so far between 6 and 8 hours of technical setup and sound-checking) and there is minimal control of any issues once you ‘go live’ with the broadcast. Also there is a high level of dependency on the technical setup at the musicians’ end, which puts them under additional pressure I feel.

After a few months of organising live-streams, I was beyond delighted in July to be offered the chance to arrange a gig in a private garden belonging to two friends of Jazz at The Lescar, Steve and Bo Escritt. The garden was large enough to easily accommodate enough people with the required social distancing.

Filled with joy and relief, we went away to work out what we needed to do. We took advice from a number of people, not least the amazing team at Jazz North, the police and fire service, and also from some trusted friends with legal expertise who helped us negotiate the ambiguities in the government guidelines and legislation, and to ensure that we ran our event both legally and safely. Our garden venue needed to be converted into a ‘COVID-secure’ and safe environment, with a total limit of 30 people strictly enforced, and by carrying out appropriate risk assessments and doing things like taking advance payments only, ensuring social distancing, and providing sanitiser. All this was done with the clock ticking towards the end of summer, and the threat of less favourable weather.

All the work paid off. The gig ran smoothly and was a real delight. Sheffield-based guitarist Jamie Taylor was joined in a trio organised specially for the event with Martyn Spencer on bass, and Johnny Hunter on drums. It was such a joy to see everyone there, and everyone was so pleased to experience the live music that we’d all been missing for months! Our audience helped us with some really generous donations, and the event also raised money for City of Sanctuary Sheffield, a brilliant charity working to build a culture of welcome and hospitality for refugees and asylum-seekers.

Our only regret was that we couldn’t invite a few more people along, but we hope we can run more events like it next year.

As we head into the winter months, and a lot of uncertainty around running live events, we’re currently unable to run gigs at The Lescar. They’re in such a difficult situation; the government guidelines have made it very difficult for them to run events of any kind. We love that room, and the great team of people down there. They’re so supportive, and it’s been the scene of so many great nights and amazing memories, and we hope we can get back soon.

In the meantime we’ve just had a really successful joint promotion with like-minded promoters Listen! in Cambridge, running a beautiful pre-recorded live stream featuring Chris Montague, Ruth Goller and Kit Downes, and we’re working on a schedule of events at another venue, mixing pure live streams (with no audiences) with a few live gigs which we’ll also stream so that we can make them work financially and to make them accessible for audience members who are unable to come along. We’ll also continue to share infrastructure and expertise with our friends and neighbours Sheffield Jazz.

It feels like a bumpy road ahead, we’ve already had to cancel a couple of live streams due to the pandemic, but on a personal level, it’s all been 100% worthwhile, providing focus and a sense of purpose at a time when all gigs have stopped. I sense that both musicians and audiences have also valued the experiences, and I’m so grateful to all of them, to our wonderful hosts for the garden gig, to our friends at Listen! and Sheffield Jazz, and the Jazz at The Lescar team who’ve given so much energy to making something happen in trying circumstances.

By Jez Matthews – Jazz at the Lescar


New online video magazine from Jazz North

See jazz-north-online

In Autumn 2020 we broadcast our first Jazz North Online video magazine on social media, hosted by presenters Megan Roe (J Frisco) and John Pope (John Pope Quintet and Archipelago).

John and Megan say “In each episode we will be looking at what is topical and important to the musicians, the audiences and the promoters who make music in the north so vital. We’ll be talking to people who are putting on gigs, releasing music and managing their careers in these strange and uncertain times, as well as anything you need to know as both a maker and a listener of jazz in the north”.

The programmes will also include ‘Body and Soul’ items – thinks like yoga, cooking, meditation and physical recreations – all the things that a musician or promoter needs to stay on top of their mental health in this time of uncertainty.

Viewers are invited to submit ideas for items and topics that they would like John and Megan to talk about. This might be a new album, a gig or live stream, or something that’s been helping them stay afloat during this turbulent time.

As well as the video magazine, longer form interviews and features – such as the Jazz Heads interviews broadcast during May 2020’s northern online broadcasts, these will be published on Jazz North’s YouTube channel.

Jazz North’s Digital Director Nigel Slee says “Jazz North Broadcasts is a natural development for Jazz North building on the experience and success of Jazz North’s annual northern online broadcasts. John and Megan are a great team with natural onscreen chemistry plus, as artists, they understand what’s important and the challenges faced by the jazz scene”.

The magazine is published on Facebook and YouTube with supporting clips and features appearing on Jazz North social media channels.

Send us your news

If you have news you would like us to share via Jazz North Online, Jazz North blog or our social media channels let us via news@jazznorth.org


Releasing new music in lockdown by saxophonist Emma Johnson

During lockdown Leeds-based Emma Johnson’s Gravy Boat released a single called Where Were You Hiding? (feat. Nishla Smith). The track is the first song Emma Johnson has recorded with a vocalist. She has put pen to paper, specially for Jazz North, to tell us about why she came to release it, what it was like to put a song out into the world at this time, and offers a few helpful tips…

Hey! Thanks for coming to check this out. I’m Emma, a saxophonist and composer based in Leeds, UK. As a bit of background, I was due to be in the studio in April recording my debut album with my group, Emma Johnson’s Gravy Boat and had spent most of 2020 building up to that.

As a result, I’ve spent a bit of lockdown juggling between feeling a bit sad about the recording and various gigs not going ahead, and feeling guilty about that because it’s a very small, very unimportant thing in the scheme of everything that’s going on. Some wise friends have pointed out that there’s space for both of these things which has really helped me. Having chatted to many fellow artists, I think a lot of people have been feeling similarly conflicted!

The cancelling of a lot of work, and a lot of plans led to me feeling a bit lost and a bit helpless with what I could do to be useful in lockdown. It’s a strange feeling when you’re usually fairly busy to have a lot of spare thinking time, and even more strange when you realise you don’t have that many skills that are useful in this kind of crisis! Music is all I’ve worked on for the past however many years, and I kept coming back to this hazy, hopeful ballad that was sitting on my hard drive.

I last went into the studio last September to record a demo (which has turned into a single from a future album), and a ballad with guest vocals from the amazing Nishla Smith. I wanted to record this for posterity more than anything. I love what Nishla does with the song and thought it’d be nice to release it one day, although there were no plans for it to be now! We were (are?!) both working on our debut albums with different bands, so those were due to be our next releases and this track was something for the future, perhaps.

The decision to release it was a fairly quick one, as I thought it might help some people and be nice to put something positive out into the world. The band and Nishla agreed and a chance Instagram scrolling led me to find the perfect artist for the video – a guy called Dougie Harley, who I’ve been following for years. I’d just read an email saying that now was the perfect time to reach out to creatives for commissions or to ‘shoot your shot’ as many people had more time, so I did and he agreed, leading to the beautiful video that accompanies the single.

It’s been quite a while since I released anything, and I didn’t know a lot about release strategy then, but I think the extra time meant I could take it a bit more seriously, and really work on tailoring emails/press releases/review requests to each person I contacted. It was fairly hard work to sit down and do it, in the timeless bubble that has been lockdown, but I spent a couple of weeks putting in a shift at the laptop – spreadsheets, highlighting and lots of emails and I really feel like it paid off. Hopefully, it will stand me in good stead for the album – although I’ve still got buckets to learn, I think it’s a decent start.


On the release day itself, I mostly sent follow up emails with all the ‘live’ links to people who’d agreed to write reviews, share or playlist it, and then when I’d done that, enjoyed a brew whilst sending out the track to friends and family, venues I’ve played at previously and other people whose day I thought I could brighten their day a little. The weekend after the release, I had a total screen break and went for a relaxing day out (walk and car picnic because of the rain!), and just enjoyed feeling like the whole process was complete.

In terms of the release itself, the most lovely thing was the feedback I received from fans and people who hadn’t heard my music before alike. It was really powerful and reminded me of why I have chosen to do this. I gave a free download of the track to my mailing list and some of the conversations that it opened up were so inspiring and humbling.

If you want to check out the single it’s here on YouTube

Or on Spotify here


Release Tips (I’m no expert but here are a few helpful things I’ve learnt).

  1. Make a Clear Plan
    It’s all very well and good saying you’re going to email every publication ever for reviews (etc), but it takes ages and is so easy to get demotivated when you’re only five emails down and don’t know where to turn next. Take some time at the start to do some reading, make a list of appropriate blogs/playlists/radios, find the emails or a contact etc. It’s scary to start from scratch, which is what I did this time, but ask people for help or advice and keep a spreadsheet!
  2. Chase Ups
    Everyone’s busy and inundated, but most people really do want to help and hear/share your music. Polite chase ups after about a fortnight can work wonders. This kind of relies on leaving enough time after the initial contact to have time to follow up, so get started early!
  3. That Old Chestnut
    BBC Introducing, Spotify Editorial Submissions, Fresh on the Net. Tried, tested and worth a punt.
  4. Schedule Socials!
    In the run up to the release, the worst thing is realising you haven’t posted for days because you’ve been buried in emails. In your clear plan (see Step 1), work backwards from your release date and work out what you want to share with your audience and when. E.g. Pre-Save Link, Sneak Preview, Incentives, Creation Process.

A clear roadmap will save you loads of time and stress. Hope this is helpful in some way and please do get in touch with any questions!




Arts Council National Lottery Project briefing webinar video

Are you an artist or promoter thinking about applying to Arts Council England’s re-opened project funding scheme? We’ve made an on demand webinar full of handy tips and help on how to apply.

Clickable Index – to make it easier to use the webinar we’ve added a clickable index. To use the index you’ll need to watch the video on our Vimeo channel. The index is in the video description.

Thank you to artist/educator Jo McCallum and Charlotte Bowen of The CultureHouse Grimsby, for sharing their experience and ideas in the webinar.

One-to-one help is also available from the Jazz North team if you live and work in the north of England and you’re planning to make an application to this scheme, which runs until April 2021. Contact us to see how we can help.

Disclaimer: all advice, guidance and opinions in the webinar and resource documents are given totally independent of ACE and you should take it in that spirit. We are not affiliated with ACE and not involved in their grant decision making. We are, however, funded by ACE to help you engage more fully with funding opportunities.

Download resource documents for this webinar:

NLPG advice for artists and promoters (screen shots from doc in video) Word Doc | PDF Version

Active Lives showing lowest engagement in north of England PDF Version

Risk management template example: Word Doc

Zip folder with all above documents: NLPG_Notes-and-Resources-AUG-2020.zip

See ACE website: https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/projectgrants