Travelling Exhibition: A History of Dutch Jazz Festivals in Thirty-Some Objects

This exhibition tells a story of jazz festivals in the Netherlands through objects. It is a story that originates in the jazz competitions held in the 1930s and which encompasses about 85 years of music, people, festival sites, and objects. While over the years jazz festivals have grown to cover a wide range of musical styles, performers, audiences, and venues, some consistency can be found in these festivals’ ambitions to engage with international musicians and to connect with local communities.

Both a creative space and place for cultural consumption, the festival is also very much a material culture. What remains of a jazz festival when the music, the musicians, the organizers, and the listeners have left? How does intangible cultural heritage of jazz turn into tangible heritage? How does a festival materialize in objects, and what can we learn from this? To engage with these questions, we have used a concept modelled after ‘A history of the world in 100 objects,’ a series by Neil MacGregor, director of the British
Museum, that explores world history from two million years ago to the present.

A collaborative project between CHIME, the Nederlands Jazz Archief (NJA, Dutch Jazz Archives), and photographer Foppe Schut, the exhibition is designed as a digital travelling exhibition, to be projected at festivals and conferences. We have focused specifi cally on awards, merchandise, jury reports, and other artefacts that have been produced as part of the festival, or which – in the case of the scrapbooks – have been made with festival artefacts. Most of these objects are in the repository of the NJA. Consequently, this selection excludes other parts of material culture that are indisputably part of festivals, such as festival sites, instruments, music stands, gear, clothing, portable toilets, food, or beer stands.

Click here to download the Exhibiton brochure: CHIME-travelling-exhibition-2017

25 Years of London Jazz Festival book published

In the dialogic spirit of cross-pollination, I thought I would share with the CHIME project the key output of another jazz festival-related project I have been working on recently. The Impact of Festivals (2015-16) was a 12-month Arts & Humanities Research Council-funded project at the University of East Anglia in collaboration with the EFG London Jazz Festival. With postdoctoral research assistant Dr Emma Webster, we researched the history of the London Jazz Festival and the wider story of London as a city of jazz festivals. Emma was also Researcher-in-Residence at the 2016 festival.

Our history of the festival is now published;  it contains archival research, interviews with musicians and festival workers, around 100 images including posters and programme covers, and a preface by founding director John Cumming.

Music From Out There, In Here: 25 Years of the London Jazz Festival is FREE to read and download by clicking here: 25 Years of London Jazz Festival.

From the cover blurb:

Webster and McKay have pieced together a fascinating jigsaw puzzle of archival material, interviews, and stories from musicians, festival staff and fans alike. Including many evocative images, the book weaves together the story of the festival with the history of its home city, London, touching on broader social topics such as gender, race, politics, and the search for the meaning of jazz. They also trace the forgotten history of London as a vibrant city of jazz festivals going as far back as the 1940s.

We have a small number of FREE paperback copies available for suitable libraries, cultural organisations, festivals, researchers. If you would like one, get in touch with me,

We hope you enjoy our new book; do let us know. This is what other people think. In his foreword John Cumming writes:

The meticulous work … in this history charts the festival journey across decades, and probes the bigger picture that surrounds it…. The outcome is I think an immensely valuable piece of work that informs our practice as a producer of live music, and at the same time marks the essential role of academic research in evaluating the impact of the cultural sector in a wider context

Jazz Journals Bruce Lindsay (November 2017) reviewed Music From Out There, in Here thus:

A new, freely downloadable book on the history of the London Jazz Festival mixes insights, controversies and plenty of photographic evidence…. McKay and his co-author Emma Webster have produced an eminently readable book, its 100 or so pages filled with excellent photographs, amusing and fascinating tales and intriguing insights into the genesis, growth and popularity of this major jazz festival…. The book takes a positive look at the festival, but doesn’t shy away from discussing issues of concern, for example around funding and programme repetition.

Ian Paterson’s review in All About Jazz (December 2017) includes this:

This illuminating history is the result of a year’s digging by researchers and co-authors Dr. Emma Webster and Professor George McKay, and represents the final outcome in the Impact of Festivals project funded by—take a deep breath—the AHRC’s Connected Communities programme, which included studies on the socio-economic impacts of British music festivals and more specifically of jazz festivals. The authors’ linear narrative of the LJF—jam packed with colour photographs—captures the sense of a great adventure unfolding, a romance, if you like, between the festival and its host city. Placing London and the LJF within the wider context of jazz in Britain, the authors point out that whilst London was late to the party in terms of establishing a jazz festival that reflected the city’s global status, there has been a fairly constant history of jazz festivals in or around London since the Festival of Jazz in 1949.

Note: a large-print version of Music From Out There, In Here: 25 Years of the London Jazz Festival is available here.

(Not) the Wherever Jazz Festival: Rhythm Changes presentation, September 2017

[conclusion of my presentation on the CHIME panel at the 5th Rhythm Changes international jazz conference, Amsterdam, 3 September 2017. Other speakers from the project: Walter van de Leur, Tony Whyton, Loes Rusch; panel chaired by Francesco Martinelli]

… The relationship between the festival and the city is really intimate. It can never be separate. It’s the Kongsberg Jazz Festival, not the Wherever Jazz Festival. Martin Revheim, Kongsberg, Norway director

Yet, writing about ‘urban spectacles’ and celebrations which include the jazz festival, the ‘paradox’ of the touristic festival is that, according to Kevin Fox Gotham, ‘whereas the appeal of local celebrations is the opportunity to see something different, celebrations that are designed to attract tourists seem more and more alike’.

Nicola MacLeod’s argument about the ‘placeless festival’, as she terms it, does warrant attention, particularly in a jazz music context. For MacLeod, the authentic space or significant situatedness of a festival location is actually often today displaced or dislocated, as a result of globalisation. In this critical reading, international festivals feel the same, are homogenised—‘placeless’. MacLeod even compares the touristic global festival to the airport lounge, its necessary other, in the sense that ‘festival formats may now be replicated in a series of international venues around the world’. Such a reading is a useful counter to more celebratory claims of festival, local space and community offered by many festival publicists, say.

Arguably such a critical view of the festival has further resonance in the context of jazz music, because jazz itself is sometimes accused of a homogenising worldliness, whereby either it all sounds kind of the same, or the same headline acts are seen across the continent’s international festivals in a single festival season. Catherine Tackley and Pete Martin are more polite than MacLeod, perhaps, but all three seem to point to the danger of (airport) lounge music:

concerns have been expressed about the consequences of presenting jazz on the festival platform…. It has been argued that this leads inexorably to a routinisation of performances and to musicians becoming risk-averse.

However, I do want to end on a rising note. The importance of the curatorial role of the festival director is articulated by British organiser Nod Knowles, drawing on his programming experience at Bath Festival, as a means precisely of creatively disrupting the lounge, of vitally re-sounding the festival. For Knowles,

a festival should be an opportunity to do things that don’t otherwise happen. It’s no good just presenting, like so many festivals do, your touring band ‘rent a festival—we’ve seen them, they’re on tour so they’re in the festival’. So the idea [is] to present what doesn’t happen.… [It’]s the discovery of things that you never knew about…. I really think that a festival is no good if it’s just a bunch of gigs that you could have heard anywhere.

So, after 60 or 70 years what more is there to this thing we call the jazz festival? Beyond its role in tourism, urban regeneration, economic impact, social inclusion agendas, repetition year on year? Surely there is more, or why do we still go, why do we remain interested, hopeful?

We can do worse than reflect on the wise words of Dr Martin Luther King Jr., from his opening address to the 1964 Berlin Jazz Festival, addressing European festival-goers and drawing on civil rights to present an understanding both of jazz music and, more importantly for us I think, of the special gathering of the jazz festival itself. ‘Jazz,’ King told the Berlin festival crowd in 1964,

speaks of life. The Blues tell the story of life’s difficulties,… [and m]odern jazz has continued this tradition, singing the songs of a more complicated urban existence…. And now, Jazz is exported to the world…. Everybody has the Blues. Everybody longs for meaning. Everybody needs to love and be loved. Everybody needs to clap hands and be happy.… In music, especially this broad category called Jazz, there is a stepping stone towards all of these.

We talked in the Call For Papers for this Re/Sounding Jazz conference about wanting to ‘celebrate’ jazz, we hoped for papers that could be ‘celebratory’. ‘What are the achievements—the resounding successes—of jazz?’ we asked. Could we say, in festival (or—carpe diem—on a sunny Sunday morning by the side of the Amstel), alongside escape or transcendence, cyclicity and cycling, the history of being the first and second lining, that we might just find or hope to find a little meaning … a little love… clap hands … be happy.

Jazz in a Norfolk church, during a music festival

Most villages in Norfolk have at least one ancient church, flint-built, with round or square tower. So I was looking of such a building when driving to the gig last night in the village of Spooner Row, as part of this year’s Wymondham Music Festival. But surprisingly the church here is built of brick, slate rather than lead roof, no tower, just one bell, that hangs outside (and was taken from another church). I looked it up: Spooner Row church was built in 1847, in the Victorian period when many of the Saxon and medieval churches (which had managed to survive the English Civil War) were themselves having their interiors ‘improved’.

The band I was in is called hymn, a trio of trumpet/loops, percussion/electronics and double bass. As the name might suggest it’s a slightly slow music, harmonies and simple melodies, layered but spacious, perhaps contemplative or immersive. Kinda fitted the venue. The other band, Arthur, consist of alto sax, tuba, drums; their repertoire is inspired by the music of the late African-American saxophonist Arthur Blythe, and is somewhat more fiery, driving, and loud than hymn’s.

I filmed a bit of Arthur’s set standing in the rather sparsely populated graveyard of Spooner Row church, in the early evening summer sunset, at the end of a glorious English day. I wanted just to think for a moment about the location, the mature trees all around and fields beyond, the quiet graveyard, the setting sun, a nearby row of cottages, the striking building of this unusual Norfolk church, at one of the outlying events of a music festival centred on the local market town of Wymondham.

I realised that this concert I was playing at was a CHIME event in a modest way, in the manner that all of these re-soundings in mild surprise of musical gatherings that are organised in festivals everywhere are CHIME events. The warm clash of sound and setting, improvisation (music) and solid foundation (building), are one of the things we can expect of a festival.

At this one I thought, too, of how in fact this church and the jazz are not so very far apart in their chronology, or originary narrative, both being made, sort of, arguably, in the same century for a start. Made me think, as I stood in the English churchyard last night, how old that music of modernism is—modernism is—then how very recent.


Welcome to our Music, Festivals, Heritage conference, Siena

This week the major international gathering of the CHIME project takes place, in Siena, Italy. We welcome everyone attending and contributing. Our conference, titled Music, Festivals, Heritage, seeks to explore a number of key themes, questions or problems for the field, including:

  • Established and innovative uses of heritage sites and public spaces
  • Festival sites and cultural memory
  • Transformations of place: music festivals as utopian sites
  • Questions of music genre (e.g. jazz, opera, folk, rock, classical) and the construction of heritage at festival
  • Festival as dull culture: repetition, predictability, boredom
  • The tension between the conservation and the use of heritage sites
  • Festivals and cultural tourism
  • New models of engagement between festivals and cultural heritage
  • Festivals as sites that explore the relationship between tangible, intangible and digital heritage
  • Critical perspectives from festival programmers, producers, organisers
  • The mediation and representation of (heritage and) festival
  • Festival as exclusive community; festival as marginal space
  • From carnivalesque to festivalisation: theoretical approaches and questions of festival
  • The cultural politics of festival sites.

Our location is the Siena Jazz Archive, which holds the most important specialised collection in Italy; it includes more than 25,000 sound and video items, over 2,000 books, and thousands of magazine issues including the only complete collection of the Musica Jazz magazine. Here is a feature in the Italian press about the conference.

On behalf of the CHIME project and the organising commitee, conference convenor Prof Walter van de Leur says:
We are hugely excited about the international conference here in historic and beautiful Siena this week, in collaboration with the Siena Jazz Archive. The conference is a major part of our EU Heritage Plus programme CHIME project. We are delighted to be hosting around 70 speakers coming from 23 countries across Europe, Canada and the US,  South Africa, Colombia, and Australia. We look forward to stimulating, enjoyable and productive discussions around music, festival and heritage from the perspectives of academic research, the festival and music industries, and cultural policy.
Further information, including the daily schedule of papers and presentations, exhibition, lectures, plenary, reception, and screenings is available here, where you can also find travel information for international delegates coming via Florence and Pisa airports, for instance.

How is CHIME chiming? Visualising impact in 2015 and 2017

The impact of our research is important for us as researchers, for our industry and public partners, and for our funders—from the inception event at the EFG London Jazz Festival (a project partner) in November 2015 on we have been talking about impact as well as ‘doing’ it. In fact if you click the following link you can see and download the short presentation I gave about what ‘impact’ means and its scope in the British research landscape from that first event.

CHIME inception day Nov 20 2015

We wanted to capture and to easily visualise a sense of impact as a process through the development of the project. We thought a simple infographic-style map could do that, and gathered information from each researcher about their key collaborative relationships and anticipated work at the start of the project, and asked them to update that a year or so later.  So we have produced two impact maps to date, one from November 2015 and second from March 2017. The aim is to capture how the work packages have developed as work is undertaken and activities completed. The maps capture the project’s scope (how CHIME is indeed chiming), but also in a way they visualise its development, its story. Here are our impact maps, side-by-side, 2015 and 2017.

Rachel Daniel, my AHRC Connected Communities administrator, who also happens to be a creative artist and researcher (see Rachel’s own work exploring drawing and medicine here), made the maps happen. We thought about using Coggle or some other infographic/mapping programme, but in the end it didn’t need to be done like that, and she used Adobe Illustrator actually. So relatively simple, I’m told—though I gather the second one was slightly (…) more fiddly. Thank you, Rachel.

Gathering the information from each researcher, and then selecting from what each submits, and double-checking with them that we’ve got it right, takes a bit of time. From one of the team we received an email headed ‘Can you read this?’ and a photo attached of a pen-on-paper sketch of her collaborations on the project. Yes, we could.

Revisiting Kvibergs kaserner – the home of GMLSTN JAZZ

Olle Stenbäck

In order to move focus further towards potential links between jazz music and heritage sites/grounds, we’re currently revisiting GMLSTN JAZZ’s initial outpost, the Gothenburg military heritage site Kvibergs kaserner, classified as a ‘notable building’ back in 1971. Our goal is to analyze the already collected material and pinpoint dialogues (modes of engaging) with the past and elevate notions on the potential relationship(s) between jazz music – as a world heritage – and physical remnants of the past.

Kvibergs kaserner – the home of GMLSTN JAZZ.

The GMLSTN JAZZ festival has resided at Kvibergs kaserner since the very beginning, although its importance – as a result of transforming the festival into a (even more) dispersed event – have somewhat declined. Still, Kvibergs kaserner represents the beginning of the festival: it’s where the GMLSTN JAZZ narrative starts, and harbors several important symbolic aspects connoting the heritage discourse.

Festival posters at the doors of the Cantina.

In the process of engaging with the past certain merits are claimed. In the case of jazz festivals, engaging with the past to claim authenticity and legitimacy is not a far-fetched guess. In relation to the process of marketization, residing at such a site might also add value not only to the specific festival but to jazz music in general and, consequently, emphasize its significance even on non-specific jazz venues downtown.

Even though the 2017 edition of the festival will no longer reside at Kvibergs kaserner, the site outlines the prequel of the GMLSTN JAZZ narrative. What significants does Kviberg carry?

More to follow.

In preparation of the festival exhibition

Some serious preparation by photographer Foppe Schut, in search of the perfect picture of the SummerJazzBikeTour brooche.The brooche is part of the travelling exhibition "Dutch jazz festivals in 30 objects" for the researchproject CHIME and will be on view in Siena, Groningen and Amsterdam (for more info, see the exhibition we are collaborating with the Dutch Jazz Archive ( and indeed the impeccable Foppe! Great to be part of this.

Posted by Loes Rusch on Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Some serious preparation by photographer Foppe Schut, in search of the perfect picture of the SummerJazzBikeTour brooche.

For the exhibition we are collaborating with the Dutch Jazz Archive ( and indeed the impeccable Foppe! Great to be part of this.

A history of Dutch jazz festivals in 30 objects

The last couple of months the Dutch CHIME team together with the Dutch Jazz Archive has been working on a travelling exhibition on Dutch jazz festivals.

As a starting point we have used a concept that is modeled after “A history of the World in 100 objects,” a 100 part series by Neil MacGregor, director of the British Museum, exploring world history from two million years ago to the present. This model allows us to engage with questions of tangible and intangible cultural heritage, such as ‘How to translate intangible cultural history into tangible objects?’ Also, the great variety of objects (t-shirts, flags, jury reports, scrap-books, etc.) opens up ways of exploring the festival from different perspectives, including audiences, musicians, organizers, and journalists.

The past week Dutch Jazz Archive curator Ditmer Weertman and Walter van de Leur have made a final selection at the Dutch Jazz Archive, which includes the cassettes of the October Jazz Meeting, a 1948 jazz competition award and the scrap-book from the wife of North Sea Jazz Festival initiator Paul Ackett.

Foppe Schut

We are also very proud to introduce photographer Foppe Schut, who will make an artist impression of the objects.

The exhibition will be on view at the CHIME conference in Siena (25-28 May), in Groningen (ZomerJazzFietsTour, 26 Aug) and in Amsterdam (Rhythm Changes Conference, 31 Aug-3 Sep).

Festival Data Hack#1

Last Friday and Saturday CHIME and BCMCR presented the first in a new series of 24-hour Music Data Hacks. The aim of these events is to bring together BCU researchers and students with data practitioners from the Birmingham area, to work collaboratively on the development of online data visualisation tools, product prototypes, and experimental analytical methods.

Using data collected from a small group of volunteers at the 2016 Cheltenham Jazz Festival through a pilot version of a mobile application BCMCR and CHIME are developing, along with social media data gathered rom other festivalgoers during the festival, this hack explored ways in which the data collected could be visualised online in ways that are useful to researchers, festival organisers and music fans.

The participants came up with lots of exciting ideas and new ways of developing prototypes of a visualisation interface. Researchers and representatives from a number of international music festivals were in attendance at the hack to provide advice, support and guidance. They were William Soovik from GMLSTN, Annemiek van der Meijden from JazzBikeTour and Ian Francis from Flatpack) and Craig Hamilton, Nick Gebhardt, Tony Whyton and Loes Rusch.