alt-shift-j / pop-up jazz festivals

Jazz North was awarded a grant of £71,646 from Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring fund to curate, produce and tour Alt Shift J, a series of one day pop-up jazz festivals aimed at developing younger audiences for jazz. The festivals presented new artists and used digital technology to encourage more young people to experience jazz music both as participants and audience members. Accompanied by an extensive audience engagement programme, the project involved young people programming the festival and will aim to inspire and engage individuals and families who may not usually access the arts.

Lesley Jackson, Executive Director of Jazz North said:

“The way that young people engage with music is changing. Alt Shift J will give us the opportunity to redefine the genre and the word ‘jazz’, which often comes with its own baggage, and will break down some of the barriers that currently exist. Developing younger audiences isn’t just about more and better marketing, so we will explore new ways to connect with them. The chance to use digital technology and work with promoters more closely will release the potential of this amazing music to reach more people and connect young audiences to their local venue.”

Pete Massey, Director North, Arts Council England said

“I’m delighted that we are able to support Jazz North to encourage more young people to enjoy jazz music – both by taking part and as part of the audience. The ALT SHIFT J initiative, funded through our Strategic Touring fund, promises to introduce a whole new generation to an art form that deserves wider attention.”


Blue Jam Arts

Middlesbrough Town Hall

Ribble Valley Jazz and Blues

The Grand, Clitheroe

The Culture House

Artist Chris Sharkey created the Shiftin’ Jazz Ensemble with young musicians across the north creating a link between the festivals. Chris said:

“I’m interested in challenging expectations of what music education can and should be. We are constantly being told that our young people need to be ‘creative’ and ‘innovative’ but music education is often lacking in these two vital areas. Putting an emphasis on ‘making something’ versus subjective ideas about what may be correct or incorrect practice leads to musicians and participants to rediscover a sense of fun in music while at the same time engaging in progressive concepts of music-making. My current focus is on expanding participation in my projects to include people with no previous experience in performing. I want to show that inclusivity and high musical quality are not mutually exclusive, and that creativity requires no superpowers. The only pre-requisites are an open mind and the courage to join in.”

Project report

Download the Alt-Shift-J Project Report compiled by Clare Price on behalf of Jazz North and partners