Jazz North prepares to go Back to Live

Jazz North is working in partnership with More Music in Morecambe and Future Yard in Birkenhead to bring artists back to venues and audiences in its new Back to Live project.

Back to Live gives each band on the Jazz North northern line scheme a chance to come together safely and takeover a venue. “The pandemic has seen many artists unable to work, rehearse and perform,” explains Jazz North’s Programme Manager Heather Spencer. “Venues have consistently battled changing guidelines, last minute cancellations and months of closure. Back to Live gives artists time to get themselves gig-ready again by rehearsing new or existing material, experimenting, and trying out new ideas to re-launch their music to audiences. We’re so excited to see the brilliant artists of northern line face-to-face again, to feel that vibe in the room when musicians play to audiences, and to help get artists feeling ready and confident for live shows.”

The first two of these live gigs will be on Sunday 6th June with Rafe’s Dilemma and Not Now Charlie at Future Yard, and Nishla Smith Quintet and John Pope Quintet at More Music’s The Hothouse. The bands will take over the venues from Saturday 5th June for rehearsals, photoshoots and development sessions in budgeting, project planning and marketing with industry professionals. They will then perform on the Sunday to a live audience.


‘A place to share their voice and to be heard’

In March 2021, Jazz North’s Jazz Camp for Girls was delivered online with partners Women in Jazz MediaConductive MusicJ FriscoCreative Heights, and BlueJam Arts. Fiona Ross from Women in Jazz Media tells us how it went…

I was incredibly excited to be involved in the Jazz Camp for Girls initiative this year, having first discovered this wonderful project through the fantastic tutor, saxophonist and all round legend, Helena Summerfield a couple of years ago. Helena is one of those people whose enthusiasm is infectious. You literally feel the energy and passion just by talking to her and you also imagine that if every young girl had her as a teacher, female jazz musicians would be everywhere, and the world would generally be a better place.

Inspired by a project first created by JazzDanmark and Copenhagen Jazz Festival, this much needed initiative aims to address the gender imbalance in jazz – and my goodness, does it need addressing.  As the founder of Women in Jazz Media, I specifically created the organisation to encourage and support a more diverse jazz community and to address this historical gender imbalance in all areas of the jazz industry, including the media side – journalists, photographers, presenters etc –  an area that has in many ways lacked support and attention. I literally leapt on the opportunity to be involved in this year’s Jazz Camp and introduce a media element to the project and I am extremely grateful for Jazz North’s encouragement and support.

There is something immensely exciting about seeing a group of young students inspired by jazz. It’s especially exciting when it is a group of female students in this historically male dominated industry surrounded and supported by an inspiring team of tutors, all with the same passion and love of jazz and of education. The opening session, led by Helena, was superb. Trying to engage and excite students via Zoom has been one of the many topical challenges of the year, but this was not going to deter her and within minutes, all of us were clapping out rhythms and grooving in our seats.

The range of tutors and content of the sessions for the day was incredible. Sessions on using computer coding to create music, using the outdoors environment to improvise and compose, interpreting jazz standards and sessions on graphic scores. J Frisco, the award-winning avant-garde jazz trio, as well as delivering the graphic scores session, led a brilliant discussion on ‘being in a band’ – the ups and down – and what emerged as a clear message was the overwhelmingly supportive and motivational environment of an all-female collective.

My involvement in the day was creating Girls in Jazz Media workshops for photography and for presenting. I wanted to show the girls the power of storytelling and how they can use their voices to tell their own stories or the stories of others, through photography, writing or presenting a podcast and hopefully give them some confidence to do it. Hannah Davis, a phenomenal photographer, specialises in creating worlds that are pulled from the depths of my imagination; which are wrapped up in childhood nostalgia, wonder, and magic’ teamed up with music photographer and videographer Warren Woodcraft to show the girls some basic photography techniques, along with explaining which rules to break and when (this is jazz after all!), and how to use photography to tell stories. The results were outstanding.

Vocalist and presenter Ashaine White joined me for a second storytelling session, where we talked to the girls about interview techniques and explored the power of female role models and the importance of everyone having a voice. There is something hugely exhilarating about sharing the stories of incredible women with young girls. You see that moment of realisation when their faces light up with that moment of ‘so, I can do that then?!’  Journalist Angelika Beener, Jazzmeia Horn, Terri Lyne Carrington and Nina Simone were the women we explored in these sessions and it was an honour to share some of their work with the girls.

The day ended with a discussion panel on careers in the jazz industry from promotion, performing, composing and event management and where the girls could put questions to the panel. A poignant moment, and one that allowed me to reflect on the importance of this event, was the question ‘does racism exist in the music industry?’. This question alone highlighted the strength and power of these young girls’ voices and this awareness of the societal issues being faced across the world in the young generation must not be overlooked. How many spaces to these girls – or anyone – have to ask such questions and have genuine, open discussions without fear? Historically, women have struggled to be heard, especially in the jazz industry and we must be under no illusion that this problem has gone away, despite incredible development in this area. Girls need to grow and develop in a world where they not only believe they have a voice but have a safe place to find and explore that voice. A place to share their voice and to be heard and valued. A voice that is shared through an instrument, a creation, spoken or written words or any form of art is a thing of beauty and power and arguably jazz is the perfect space for this.  Jazz Camp for Girls allowed these young women to explore their voices and showed us all the importance of jazz as a tool for exploration, reflection and development. It was an honour to be involved.

By Fiona Ross

Photo credit Warren Woodcraft

Helena Summerfield interviews Fiona Ross:


Black Lives in Music launched to tackle racial inequality

Jazz North is pleased to be working in partnership with Black Lives in Music, launched to tackle racial inequality in the UK music industry. Our partnership will help us expand our networks and embed diversity in everything we do. We are looking forward to working collaboratively across the sector to create a truly inclusive and relevant music industry.

Black Lives in Music are calling for black musicians and music creators to take part in ground-breaking research. The BLiM survey is a ground-breaking exercise and key to understanding the issues of diversity in our industry. 




Jazz North award 14 bursaries – 75% new to our support

We are delighted to announce the awardees of our open bursary, a recent one-off initiative to respond to the ongoing challenging situation for the jazz industry in the north.

From 81 applications, 14 bursaries were awarded to a range of artists, promoters, and educators across the area. A total of £6381 was awarded to help the jazz sector in the north negotiate the next few months of their professional activity.

“We are especially excited to reach a broad range of people from Cramlington to Liverpool and Darwen to Hull, with 75% of recipients new to Jazz North support,” explains Jazz North’s Programme Manager Heather Spencer. “Activities ranged from recording and vital equipment purchases to record labels and education projects.”

The Recipients

Mali Hayes

Manchester singer-songwriter, Mali Hayes, will deepen her production and song writing skills by undertaking mentoring with female producers and sound engineers, “which is something I’m very passionate about highlighting, as there aren’t many females within those roles,” says Mali. “I’m really looking forward to be able to broaden my knowledge on those fronts, which I hope will give me more skills and confidence when it comes to collaborations in the future, and as I continue to work with my band to get ready for live gigs to continue!”

Out of the Blue Jazz Orchestra

Out of the Blue Jazz Orchestra will be remotely recording a new funky jazz tune, Get Groovin’, written and scored by 18-year-old Ted Ford, band member and alto saxophone player. The track will also feature guest soloist, Alex Clarke.

New Jazz and Improvised Music Recordings

Newcastle’s Wesley Stephenson will expand his catalogue of releases with an album of solo prepared piano by Leeds’ Johnny Richards entitled Build A Friend for the New Jazz and Improvised Music Recordings label.

Abbie Finn

Drummer Abbie Finn will use the bursary to purchase a zoom camera so she can produce videos of herself and her trio performing for promotion. Abbie will also get some low volume cymbals so she can practise more at home.

Jonathan Scully

The bursary will allow Jonathan to buy equipment which will enable him to put on safe, outside gigs in areas with no electricity supply, accessing audiences which wouldn’t otherwise benefit.

Mark Webb

“Covid has been tough on all of us gigging musicians, and this grant will enable me to purchase a flugelhorn so I can hit the ground running when live music returns.” – Mark Webb

Paul Rigby

“The bursary will be helping others young and old to perform in the comfort of their own home via virtual performance projects. Here’s an example of BWD Big Band produced and edited by yours truly.” – Paul Rigby

Marco Woolf

“As I started to explore how I wanted to use stories in my live shows, I began telling a few stories featuring different characters, but it was always the ones featuring this woman, Francine, that garnered the most responses by far. Francine is an elderly African woman who, when looking back at her life, is considering the weight of her decision to migrate for the sake of her children’s futures. I began a deeper exploration of this elusive and deeply engaging character, resulting in the collection of songs which I formed into an album.

I had planned to complete the recording process and release this album last year however due to the COVID-19 crisis, I was unable to. This Jazz North Bursary will allow me to finish the album for release and set me up for the exciting projects that are to follow!” – Marco Woolf

Racoon Dog Soup

The band, Racoon Dog Soup is currently in the process of recording three experimental tracks for their first substantial single release Moon and Stars, in May 2021. The band aims to create an online buzz around the release, with artwork and an animation to go alongside the single, striking the local and national jazz scenes with their new sound.

Yilis Suriel

Yilis will be using the time allotted by this bursary to develop new strategies, skills, and ways of making music: “I will learn how to use and perform with Ableton Live and Midi pad. This will not only enhance my musicianship but it will also greatly increase what I am able to offer as a soloist, composer, and band member.”


Samadhi will be benefitting from Jazz North’s Open Bursary for the use of music equipment. To develop their ensemble further, Samadhi plans to purchase new recording and amplification equipment that they can use both in the world of online music, and in person playing whenever possible again.

Lubi Jovanovic / Jazzland Sessions

With the gradual re-opening of society, the economy and the music industry in particular from the 17th May, I have organised 10 socially distanced live jazz gigs in Leeds featuring local musicians and all within a one month period from 21.05.2021. to 23.06.2021. Under the banner ‘Jazzland Sessions’, they feature two live bands per show and will take place at  Brudenell Social Club Community Room. Artists include Vipertime, Svarc Hanley Longhawn, Skwid Ink, Malcolm Strachan Sextet, Jeff Hewer Quartet, Another Workout, JASMINE, Wandering Monster, Ben Haskins Quartet, Grifton Forbes Amos Quintet, Nico Widdowson Trio, The Mabgate Organ Trio, Awen Ensemble, The Mabgate Organ Trio, Book, George Hall’s UGETSU and Plantfood.

Thank you to Jazz North for the Open Bursary grant which will help hugely with design/promotion costs.” – Lubi Jovanovic

Full info on all shows from www.brudenellsocialclub.co.uk

Hyde Park Book Club Records

The bursary will really help Hyde Park Book Club Records promote upcoming records from Vipertime and Ben Haskins. “The support will really help us get this great music out to more people,” says Jack Simpson from Hyde Park Book Club Records.

Jez Matthews / Jazz at the Lescar

Jazz at the Lescar plans to select the best music from gigs and live-streams that it will be running in 2021, “to put together a compilation album that provides a lasting snapshot of the amazing and varied music being created and played now by musicians from the UK, and in particular the northern, jazz and improvised scenes,” explains Jez Matthews.

“We hope that this will give musicians and audiences a chance to connect with each other; that musicians deprived of gigs and tours can showcase their music, and that audiences can hear the music that is being created during this difficult time for everyone.”


Secret Night Gang – making their own way

Helena Summerfield interviews Manchester-based Secret Night Gang (SNG), a soul jazz band started by two friends, saxophonist Callum Connell and vocalist Kemani Anderson, who came up through the Manchester education system. They have just been signed to Brownswood Recordings and one of their tracks has been picked up for use in Grand Theft Auto.

LISTEN to SNG  secretnightgang.bandcamp.com/track/the-sun

Helena: Am I right in thinking that you were about 14 when you started writing music together?

Callum: Yeah, I was about 14 but we’d actually known each other for a lot longer before that. We first met playing football. We played for a couple years together every week at Manchester City soccer dome and then we lost contact for about three years.

Kemani: Ironically enough, we ended up going to the same high school. For a good year, I didn’t even know that he went to the same high school as us. It wasn’t until about year eight, where we started playing steel pans that we started to recognise each other. We never looked back since and developed a love for music properly from the age of 14.

Callum: The first musical thing that I did was singing in a choir in primary school. We used to go to churches around Manchester singing in different choirs and at Christmas. Then when I went to high school, I started to play piano and steel pans. They were the first things that I started to play.

Kemani: I was brought up in the church and was heavy influenced by gospel music. But I remember being a six, seven-year-old kid sitting in the back of his dad’s car listening to Smooth FM and soul tunes, like ‘Ain’t No Stopping Us Now’ and ‘Part Time Lover’ and that was my real exposure to music from a young age. My mum’s a singer and my brothers are also musicians, so it all contributed to that love for music.

Callum: I loved playing classical music, classical piano. Then I didn’t want to play classical music anymore because there was a school jazz band, and everyone got to play in that because that was the way you got to do a concert – playing an instrument that was used to play in a jazz band. Unfortunately, I was only playing classical piano. So that’s when I then picked up the saxophone and I was taught by Helen Pillinger. She developed me into the person that I needed to be by getting me into the records and into the music. She was a really big influence on me and my learning. She brought me into all the jazz courses that were going on in Manchester and got me involved with the right contacts. My musical career started developing and I started playing saxophone to a really good level.

Kemani: I did steel pans in primary school and carried that on for about eight years from year two to year 11, about eight or nine years. But then in that space of time, I also developed a love for singing. I sang in church for a few years and it was cool, but I was hearing all these other artists like Luther Vandross and Marvin Gaye and Donny Hathaway who weren’t necessarily doing gospel music, they were doing soul music, which still resonated with me. I have always wanted to make music like that, or in tribute to that. Meeting Callum exposed me to all kinds of music. I remember the first concert that we properly did was at Band on the Wall and ever since that day, I knew that this is what I wanted to do.

Helena: This brings us nicely to your band. Can you tell me a little bit about SNG?

Kemani: It all started in the summer of 2018 when me and Callum went to Love Supreme Jazz Festival. We saw some of our favourite artists like Earth Wind and FireGeorge Clinton and the Funkadelics and Level 42 and we were just so inspired. We wanted to write music after we had seen all of that. It was a life changing weekend. Then a week later, we go to Jam Street and meet another founder of the band, Stuart Whitehead. We had a discussion and he showed us previous things that he’d done and we digged it, we liked the vibe that he was on.

Callum: Me, Kemani and Stuart used to have a rehearsal room next to the old Tranmere Yard in Old Trafford. We used to go there super late at night. We’d all been to college or whatever else all day and we’d turn up at about 9 / 10 o’clock at night, and we’d rehearse until the early hours in the morning. Then Stuart’s son came home one day and was like, “Dad, I’ve joined a gang like yours”, and Stu asks what it’s called, and his son says, “the Secret Night Gang”.

Kemani: And Stu says, “That’s fantastic.”

Callum: So, that’s where the name came from because that’s essentially what we were doing. We were writing albums and writing music, the three of us together in the rehearsal rooms late at night, and it stuck with Stu’s son and that’s where the name ended up coming from. No one knew that we were writing music, no one in Manchester knew, it was all kept a secret for quite a long time, Everything’s come out now and great things have happened for us this year.

Helena: Who else is in the band? Can you talk me through the lineup?

Callum: Kemani Anderson on vocals, myself Callum Connell on saxophone, Stuart Whitehead on bass. We switch between Aaron Wood and Elias Atkinson, on trumpets. Mikey Wilson, the legendary Mikey Wilson is on drums, Jack Duckham on guitar and Kemani is playing a lot of keyboards at the moment for live stuff. But also featuring on the album will be John Ellis and Al Scott.

Helena: It’s a who’s who of Manchester music that, it sounds amazing.

Callum: Running the whole project and our producer and engineer is Yyonne Ellis.

Helena: Fantastic. And I hear exciting news about the band getting signed to Brownswood Recordings.

Callum: Yeah, that’s right. We’ve released two singles and the second single, The Sun, Giles Peterson picked up and absolutely loved it and played it out on BBC Radio 6. The whole eight minutes as well, which is quite remarkable to get an eight-minute-long track played nowadays. After that we started having talks and Giles offered us a deal to be part of their team and work with them and we couldn’t say no really! Giles is an absolute legend on the scene and for me, the London scene wouldn’t be what it is today without him, because he’s helped so many people form this new London jazz scene, and it’s blowing up across the world. It’s nice to see great artists coming out of London now and touring the world.

Helena: I’m glad you guys are there representing Manchester and our northern jazz scene.

Kemani: Always, every day.

Helena: And can video game addicts catch your song The Sun on a game?

Kemani: Yes, they can, oh yeah.

Callum: We had talks with Rockstar Games and they loved ‘The Sun’, our new single. Giles Peterson put it in his Worldwide FM GTA (Grand Theft Auto) playlist so you can listen to the playlist on YouTube or if you’re playing the game, Grand Theft Auto, you can go on Worldwide FM and listen to our new single.

Kemani: It’s the very last song of the playlist.

Helena: Save the best ‘til last. Kemani and Callum laugh.




How Jazz North Introduces changed our lives!

Photograph © Olivia Da Costa www.instagram.com/oliviadacostaphoto

Rory Ingham is the frontman of Bonsai (formerly The Jam Experiment) who formed at Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester. The band won a place on Jazz North’s Introduces in 2014 and they are still the only under 19 band picked for the scheme that provides young northern jazz artists their first high-profile showcase performances. Here Rory tells us how being picked back then has impacted his career…

“Bonsai won the inaugural Jazz North Introduces Scheme in 2014; this had an immense impact on all of us – both the future of the band and as individuals.

The application itself inspired us to write new tracks and record them in the studio. It also pushed us to finally create a band name and have some professional photos taken. It gave us a goal! So naturally we were delighted when we found out we’d won. We were instantly booked to play at four major UK jazz festivals, as well as being awarded a photoshoot, three days rehearsing with a mentor of our choice, and the opportunity to record a concert resulting in high-quality footage.

Initially, winning the award helped us to believe we had something valuable to offer, showing us that we should continue to create music together. And so we did, preparing to play our first series of high profile concerts.

Playing our very first major jazz festival gigs as a small band was our passport to access new audiences and expand our following. These festivals were always attended by many club promoters, which meant that we were immediately exposed to potential bookers from all around the UK. The accolade of the award itself was incredibly important for our profile.

We were featured in top jazz magazine Jazzwise, giving us a ‘look-in’ with promoters who were booking festivals and club dates. Not only could we go on to play at these festivals, but because of our recent victory, we were graced with the presence of large audiences interested in hearing us.

The Electronic Press Kit was our ticket to book our own festival and club dates, which led to more touring in the UK and then eventually into other parts of Europe, such as Rome, Budapest, Berlin, Prague, and Krakow. With Jazz North offering to help put together this EPK, it allowed us all to learn what was required of us if we were to go on to be successful in booking our own shows.

On a personal note, playing the jazz festival gigs allowed me to meet the promoters booking them, and in turn develop friendships and further relationships with promoters, press, and record label managers.

Winning the award also came with three days mentoring with our chosen artist – Mike Walker. This had a profound impact on the group’s development and process. Mike opened our ears to new ways of thinking about music as individuals and as group, learning more about listening, communicating, and serving the music unobstructed by our ego’s. This not only raised the standard of our performances, but also allowed us to be more honest with each other in rehearsal, in the name of the music.

Now, described by London Jazz News as “one of the most talked-about and critically acclaimed young bands on the UK scene”, Bonsai have a Parliamentary Jazz Awards nomination for Best Newcomer, have been the featured artists in Jazzwise’s ‘Taking Off’ series, and have been interviewed and performed on BBC Radio 3 and BBC Radio London. Bonsai have an album out (Bonsai Clubon the prestigious record label Ubuntu Music and over 100 shows under our belt, and all thanks to the springboard that Jazz North initially provided to us with their Jazz North Introduces Award!”

Rory Ingham
January 2021


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

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.

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