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


Good luck Lucy!

We are sad to announce that we will soon be saying goodbye to Lucy Woolley, our Artist Development Programme Manager, who is leaving Jazz North in October to take on new challenges and concentrate on her roles at Jazz Promotion Network and Lancaster Jazz Festival.

Lucy has been a valuable member of the team since 2013 and has played a key role in shaping and delivering the Jazz North northern line and Introduces programmes, providing valuable support and guidance to musicians and promoters across the north of England. Her understanding of musicians and their needs led to the development of the annual Artist Networking Day that we deliver in partnership with Lancaster Jazz Festival and has also helped us to develop new support activities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Whilst we are sorry to lose her, we know that she has a great future in front of her and in a sector as small as ours, we look forward to bumping into her regularly and hopefully working with her again soon.

Good luck Lucy!

Lesley Jackson – Chief Executive


Artist experiences of socially distanced live streamed gigs

When Manchester jazz festival was cancelled due to Covid-19, the team raced against time to create a fully online festival. From 21st to 24th May 2020 mjf2020: Jazz Unlocked went live online with Jazz North and United We Stream as producing partners. Current and past Jazz North northern line artists Nishla Smith, Ubunye featuring Thandanani Gumede and Archipelago performed socially distanced gigs as part of the festival. Here are their experiences….

Faye MacCalman – Archipelago

Archipelago were initially booked to play Manchester Jazz Festival before lockdown, but of course like most of life as we know it in 2020 it was cancelled. A few weeks of isolation later, after catching a breather from a busy time of gigging and freelance juggling I was really missing playing with other humans and connecting with audiences.

When mjf emailed us explaining they were partnering with United We Stream, offering us a socially distanced livestream gig I was excited to have the chance to play again but a little hazy on how we could work under lockdown restrictions. I decided in the end to have only one distanced rehearsal 2 nights before our gig to minimise risk, and we travelled down together in the car with key worker status which the festival arranged for us.

We were placed understandably very far apart by the crew there, with John Pope (Bass) even having to go on the audience floor which only added to the surreal-ness of the day.

My music works best when we’re close together as it is so much about our individual energies as well as the compositions, so it’s always difficult when we’re far apart. However in this case I think the intensity of the livestream and our happiness to be playing together again after so long more than made up for that!

Since lockdown there’s been a massive emphasis on artists sharing music from their homes, but I think a lot of people don’t realise how inaccessible this can be for many reasons, including costs, living circumstances and health. It was a total game changer having a film and sound crew who took care of all the technicalities so that we could just focus on the music, this was amazing! We were also paid which is vital right now for artists doing livestream gigs as it’s tempting to end up doing a lot for free.

For me, it was really mind blowing to play live again. Although I was very nervous to be streaming live for the first time, my nerves on the day were overshadowed by the feeling that during what continues to be a sad and strange time I am really lucky to be able to play music and how transformative music really is through the good, bad, and everything in between.

www.fayemaccalman.com / www.archipelagobanduk.bandcamp.com

Instagram & Twitter – @fayemaccalman

Facebook & Instagram – @archipelagoband

Thandanani Gumede – Ubunye

I was originally asked by Steve Mead to perform at mjf earlier this year but it was cancelled (along with a string of other cancellations!) for obvious reasons. These are strange times defined by exponential uncertainties. So a glimmer of hope reemerged when I was asked to submit footage from my last year’s performance at the mjf hothouse showcase instead of a cancellation but that was eventually cancelled too. As you can see, this was already a roller coaster ride. Finally, Steve called again about the Manchester Jazz (Digital) festival in collaboration with Jazz North and United We Stream. It had to be live and I felt alive again—music is my life after all and I hadn’t had the chance to perform in a while since the lockdown was right at the heels of my trip from South Africa.

Our band consists of three singers from South Africa and four more musicians from the U.K. who make up the rhythm section; seven people in total. But there could only be a maximum of four people  for my set in order to adhere to Social Distancing guidelines—this was the first of many curve balls when it came to logistics and our preparation for the gig. I had to prioritise Keys/Piano, Bass, Drums and Lead Vocals. My aim was to make the set a hybrid of my solo repertoire and Ubunye repertoire because both projects mean the world to me. It wasn’t going to be the same without everyone but we had to make it work. I would not have been able to pull it off on my own.

First things first: I upgraded to Zoom Pro.


What followed was a series of video/text/email and phone call correspondence with Dave Evans (piano/keys) to get a set together, and next to get the band together while remaining apart. Communication was everything: while we couldn’t practically rehearse, we went through the songs note for note and through the harmonies. Revisiting the songs theoretically and knowing them inside and out helped us rehearse synoptically despite the separation. I also had to use different apps to record myself singing different parts so I could listen back and gauge accuracy, blending, sound out some vocal onsets and imagine how those would sound like with a different voice and timbre.

Both our guitarist and drummer have very young children and we didn’t want to put them at risk. But Dave’s eldest son, Jonah is a fantastic drummer too. He knew most of the songs we played. Since they were self isolating in the same household it made sense to ask him to play and they could travel together without violating the Covid 19 lockdown guidelines. The entire process was centred around problem solving:

  1. I had to sing songs that were designed for 3-4 singers;  so I had to sing lead and backing vocals. Dave harmonised with me. I also had to give him a crash course in Zulu.
  2. Our bass player was unable to honour the engagement due to unforeseen forces–my stress levels were off the roof but Jason Dandeno saved the day. Singing down the phone to one another was a nightmare but it was necessary.
  3. Finally, it was strange to arrive at the venue and not greet or hug each other…rushed sound check and had to go live in 5 mins.The hardest thing was to break formation and be so far from each other without any eye contact with most of the band. But the team from United We Stream was incredibly supporting and calming. When you’re there you realise that you do not have a trapped audience.
  4. I once had to perform under the watchful eye of the Queen’s guard and a security detail that was armed to the teeth with weapons I had only seen in Call of Duty. But this was by far the scariest performance to date because people do not have to be polite online. They can say whatever they want and leave the stream if they didn’t like your set. I felt vulnerable at the honesty of it all. In the end the well planned set came with the elasticity to create things in the moment so everything fell into place. There are no regrets and there was so much love from the people who watched. I am sorry I could not contract the entire experience in 400 words but I’ll leave it here: this was different but it was special.

Ubunye Facebook page

Nishla Smith

When it was decided that the festival would go online, Steve Mead reached out to say that the mjf team were working on creative ways to include as many of the artists as possible in the new format. I had this idea for Tom Harris and I to do a socially-distanced concert filmed in my building for my neighbours. We wheeled my piano into the foyer and neighbours watched from their own balconies. It really felt like it brought the building together as a community—one person in my building is a dancer and he improvised to one of the songs Tom and I played. Unfortunately we had some technical issues, and the recording wasn’t able to be broadcast, which was a real shame, but even so, it still felt like a small act of music in a really isolating time, so I’m glad we did it!

Since we weren’t able to share that concert, Tom and I joined the amazing lineup of bands at Bury Met as part of the Sunday livestream. Archipelago were just finishing up as I arrived, and it was super weird because the first thing I wanted to do was to run over and say hi, but we instead kind of waved and kept our distance. The schedule was meticulously planned so there was minimal overlap, which meant that soon after Tom and I arrived we were sound-checking and then suddenly we were on. There’s always adrenaline and even fear for me when I perform, but this felt somehow both more and less scary than a regular show. There’s so much energy built up when you’re performing live, and without the audience there to absorb and reflect it, it has nowhere to go, so it just builds up and up— there were some songs in our set that we’ve performed together before, but that took on really different characters because of the strange cocktail of emotions in the room, and the insane power of playing together again after so much isolation. I miss performing for people, I miss my friends and colleagues and I miss after-show hugs (!) but until we can safely have all those things again, it’s important to find ways to create and disseminate art and music remotely, I think mjf did this amazingly well.

Instagram – @nishlasmith / @tomharrisisacommonname / @movementdecoded

For our staged work with artist Luca Shaw – wwww.ulita.uk

Nishla Smith is on our northern line scheme with Nishla Smith Quintet.