I thought some people interested in CHIME would like to know of a very useful page on the website of a related new Arts & Humanities Research Council-funded project from the University of East Anglia, The Impact of Festivals. The post-doctoral researcher on The Impact of Festivals is Dr Emma Webster, who spent much of November acting as researcher-in-residence at the EFG London Jazz Festival, and contributed to the CHIME inception event there in November.
Following the inception event, CHIME team members also delivered public engagement panels as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival.
At the Barbican Centre, Prof. Tim Wall (Birmingham City University) chaired a panel on jazz and cultural heritage, featuring project team members Prof. Walter van de Leur (University of Amsterdam) and Dr. Beth Perry (University of Salford), together with Eric Arellano (Gamlestaden Jazz Festival) and Emily Jones (Cheltenham International Jazz Festival).
The panel explored jazz as part of cultural heritage and music as a tool for regeneration and social change. Questions that were asked included: How can the arts and arts festivals play a role in addressing issues of environmental and social sustainability? In which ways could or should grassroots cultural activity contribute to further urban development. Can jazz address a wider audience, except for middle-aged white men? Audience members vividly contributed to the discussion, giving insights into the many ways in which jazz is interpreted (i.e. both as a political and a non-political music) and experienced (i.e. as a music of the past and/or the present).
As a prelude to that night’s concert of Ice-T and Ron McCurdy and their Langston Hughes Project, CHIME member Dr. Nicholas Gebhardt (Birmingham City University) chaired a panel discussion on the legacy of Langston Hughes.
A group of international scholars and festival organisers and music producers gathered at the Royal Festival Hall in London during the EFG London Jazz Festival to launch the project. I took some notes, both for the record and to help us shape 2016 meeting agendas and work.
Project leader Prof Tony Whyton (Birmingham City University) introduced the day, reminding us of the project’s key questions around heritage sites, jazz festivals—ranging from jazz as a heritage music from itself today to urban regeneration to difficult questions of the intangible impact of festivals on festival-goers.
Prof Helene Brembeck and Merja Liimatainen (University of Gothenburg) talked of the place of consumption at festival as a core experience for festival-goers, in particular in the context of the presentation and consumption of heritage, memory, the past, at jazz festivals. How does music re-sound the architecture of the city at festival? The Swedish team will be looking at contrasting jazz festivals in Gothenburg, Gamlestaden Festival and the Classic Jazz Festival, a process of embedded research within the organisations and ethnography and cultural history, critical interrogation of festival imagery, publicity and events and venues.
One mid-September day I decided to stroll from my home, a Victorian town house on the edge of Lancaster city centre, into town to see some of the bands playing on the free outdoors stage in the 2015 Lancaster Jazz Festival.
I was going anyway—it’s my local festival, I’m a jazz scholar and musician, and I usually do something in the festival each year, and always look forward to it—but I thought today I would take a videocamera to film the short journey. You can see the short film I made here, and below are some notes about it.
It’s not every day that an international conference starts with the national host welcoming everyone by blowing through different sized seashells and the event manager giving a comedy demonstration of a buff, showing delegates different ways in which a garment – purposely designed for the event – could be worn and used. But this is no ordinary conference. It’s the gathering of Europe Jazz Network, a pan-European group that brings together promoters, festivals, venues and national music agencies to discuss issues, opportunities, and collaborative ideas around jazz and improvised music today.
Once the seashells performance and jazz buff demonstration were over, EJN President Ros Rigby welcomed Professor Christopher Dell to the stage to deliver a performance-based keynote speech that described an improvisational approach to urban planning, architecture and design. Interspersing examples of theory and practice with short improvisations on the vibraphone, Dell drew on the work of Henri Lefebvre to argue that cities and spaces should no longer be understood as fixed objects, and instead advocated an improvisation-led approach to architecture and urban design which encourages both a hands-on and reflexive exploration of spaces and materials.
Although not talking specifically about festivals and heritage sites, the talk resonated with the CHIME project in several ways, most notably by encouraging the audience to think about the way in which places are used and re-used and how urban environments are understood as both produced and performative spaces today. CHIME will add to this discourse about how spaces can be reconfigured, transformed and reimagined over time and will extend the focus of study to landscapes, rural settings, post-industrial sites and other heritage settings.
Europe Jazz Network’s (EJN) European Jazz Conference kicks off in Budapest on 24 September. The event brings together festivals, venues, promoters and national agencies from across Europe to share good practices and to develop new initiatives and collaborations. The event will encourage debate around pan-European issues that have an impact on the arts and cultural sector and will include sessions on sustainability, professional development and education, as well as networking for seasonal festivals. There will also be a strong research focus, as the EJN builds on the work of its Strength in Numbers study and launches new initiatives around audience development and a history of European jazz.