Once we had one called Jazz Services and it had substantial financial support on a stable contract from the Arts Council; now we have two – the Jazz Promotion Network (JPN) and Jazz UK – neither of which has regular public funding. The result is that their impact on the lives of jazz musicians, on those volunteers putting on gigs and on those of us who attend those gigs, is minimal and patchy.
Jazz UK – the revamped Jazz Services – put on a mostly free festival in Coventry in November, thanks mainly to a private sponsor, and is a lead player in the UK’s stand at Jazz Ahead, the “trade show” for the music held each year in Bremen, Germany. This year’s Jazz Ahead is this month and the two bands representing UK jazz are Led Bib and Laura Jurd’s Dinosaur.
JPN has quite a few members – I am one – but without funds of its own must restrict the What We Do section of its revamped (I am pleased to report) website to a “what we could do” theme. What it is doing, albeit in a patchy fashion, is connect jazz people – especially promoters – so that they can more easily collaborate and potentially make their own applications to the Arts Council, etc.
So, for example, Emjazz, the jazz development organisation in the East Midlands, is organising a Midland Jazz Symposium – with Arts Council help though that might just be in the form of a venue – in Birmingham later this month in order to try to make stronger connections between East and West Midlands jazz activity. Could this have happened without JPN? Quite possibly, yes. Would it have? Emjazz would be able to answer that question.
It’s also the case that without Jazz Services to help them tour, bands are making their own Arts Council applications, and some are being successful. Musicians, I understand anecdotally, have sympathetic leanings towards Jazz UK, probably because they got touring money from the organisation in its previous incarnation, but are less inclined towards JPN, partly because its name seems to exclude them and partly because they fail to see how it might benefit them. There may also be some lingering resentments regarding some of the personalities involved though these seem fuelled by rumour rather than based in fact.
So, do we need these national networks? Is this a bit like asking do we need to be part of Europe?
Perhaps the more appropriate question is: do you think joining up with like-minded people in order to have increased influence with the powers that be, and to share ideas and information could be beneficial to your jazz activity? In other words do you think networks like Jazz UK and JPN are – or could be – “a good thing”?
If your answer is yes, what do you do next?
In the case of Jazz UK I’m not sure, other than throw some money their way. And in the case of most jazz players and jazz fans that’s a tough call. The Jazz UK website doesn’t really give more clues than that.
In the case of JPN, yes, you could attend the Jazz Promotion Network AGM and planning conference which is being held alongside the opening of the Rhythm Changes conference in Birmingham next Thursday 14 April. If you are a member or join JPN between now and then, attendance is free; if you aren’t a member you can still attend but it will cost you £30.
- Find out more about Jazz UK HERE.
- Find out more about the Jazz Promotion Network and its 2016 AGM/planning conference HERE.
- As always, your comments are welcomed in the section below.