The impact of (jazz) festivals, article now published

Jazz Research Journal cover web useWith my co-author, postdoctoral research assistant Dr Emma Webster, I’m pleased to draw attention to our newest output from our AHRC-funded project, The Impact of Festivals. This project is in collaboration with our research partner the EFG London Jazz Festival. The new output is a peer-reviewed article for Jazz Research Journal focussed on the impact of jazz festivals in particular. (The wider project embraces pop, folk and classical music festivals too.) The abstract is below, followed by a short film in which I talk about the research. You can access freely a copy of the article here.

The full citation of our article is: Emma Webster and George McKay. 2016. ‘The impact of (jazz) festivals: an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded research report’. Jazz Research Journal 9(2), pp.169-193. We hope it will be of interest to CHIME-rs and our international community of jazz researchers at Rhythm Changes.

Festivals are an essential part of the jazz world, forming regularly occurring pivot points around which jazz musicians, audiences and organizers plan their lives. Funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, the purpose of this report is to chart and critically examine available writing about the impact of jazz festivals, drawing on both academic and ‘grey’/cultural policy literature in the field. The review presents research findings under the headings of economic impact; socio-political impact; temporal impact and intensification and transformation of experience; creative impact—music and musicians; discovery and audience development; place-making; the mediation of jazz festivals; and environmental impact. It concludes with a set of recommendations for future research, which identifies gaps in the field. To accompany the article, a 100-entry 40,000-word annotated bibliography has also been produced, which is freely accessible online.

From Glyndebourne to Glastonbury, festivals report now online

Impact Festivals coverThis new report about the impact of British music festivals, launched at CHIME partner Cheltenham Jazz Festival in April 2016, is now available online. We hope festival researchers and organisers will find it of use and interest. This is what some people are saying about it already:

  • “This report is an irrefutable qualification of the value and impact of our sector and an amazing resource for anyone involved in the organisation of a music festival.” Steve Mead, Artistic Director, Manchester Jazz Festival 
  • “Within festivals we need and value the criticality of academic research. A report like this helps us shape, make sense, rethink what we are doing.” John Cumming OBE, Director, EFG London Jazz Festival
  • “This report is excellent—a pleasure to read, and I will be recommending it to my students and colleagues.” Professor Stephanie Pitts, Head of the Department of Music, University of Sheffield

The report was produced as part of The Impact of Festivals, a 12-month project funded under the Arts and Humanities Research Council’s Connected Communities Programme, working with research partner organisation the EFG London Jazz Festival. Professor George McKay is the Principal Investigator for the project, as well as AHRC Leadership Fellow for Connected Communities at the University of East Anglia. Dr Emma Webster is the Research Associate for the project, and co-founder and director of Live Music Exchange.

The findings are drawn from an extensive literature review of existing work in the field, from academic research to ‘grey’ policy literature, economic impact assessments to festival and industry publications. Not only that, but there is a 170-entry annotated bibliography  of these outputs accessible here. We think that, taken together, the report and the annotated bibliography will be an important reference point for industry and academia alike in the future.

The report is is freely accessible here. If you would like a paper copy please contact Rachel Daniel, r.daniel@uea.ac.uk. Do let us know what you think of it!

CHIME at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival

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               CJF-red

It’s International Jazz Day and UK members of CHIME are at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival.

Matt Brennan; Stephanie Pitts, Alison Eales and Nick Gebhardt talk about collaboration and live audiences.
Matt Brennan, Stephanie Pitts, Alison Eales & Nick Gebhardt talk about festival collaborations & audience research.

On Friday, George McKay hosted a day-long symposium on ‘Researching (Jazz) Festivals’ that included talks from leading scholars in festivals research and jazz festival directors from Cheltenham, London and Manchester festivals. Italian scholar and archivist Francesco Martinelli and CHIME’s Tony Whyton delivered keynote presentations on European jazz research and the day concluded with the launch of Emma Webster and George McKay’s ‘The Impact of Festivals’, an Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded literature review that charts and critically examines existing writings on the impact of British festivals.

J-Hive

In addition to the symposium, Nick Gebhardt has been working with a team of media researchers from Birmingham City University to develop a digital heritage tool called J-Hive. J-Hive is being piloted in Cheltenham for the first time and runs from 28-30th April. The project aims to document the experiences of different audiences at the Festival.

In putting the project together, a mobile application has been designed to allow different audiences (concert goers, musicians, promoters etc.) to send text and images to a web page where they regularly respond to, and reflect on, the music, the festival atmosphere, and the people they meet.

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Through the interface, participants can follow their own posts as well as those of others participating in the project. Ultimately, J-Hive will create a collection of different festival encounters and memories that will offer insights into the festival experience, how festivals are navigated and understood, and the relationship of music to the places and spaces of the town.

 

 

Happy International Jazz Day!

‘Festivalling’: are jazz festivals utopian?

Jazz Utopia conference logo[Blog by Dr Emma Webster, University of East Anglia, postdoctoral researcher on AHRC-funded The Impact of Festivals project, where this was first posted]


I have just returned from the Rhythm Changes ‘Jazz Utopia’ conference in Birmingham (14-17 April 2016). The majority of the one hundred plus speakers really engaged with the theme of the conference and grappled with jazz’s potential for exploring and achieving utopia from a wide variety of perspectives: historical, musicological, sociological and interdisciplinary.

My paper gave a brief overview of a literature review currently in review with Jazz Research Journal about the impact of jazz festivals; based on the final part of my paper, this blog post will consider briefly the ways in which jazz festivals have been or could be considered to be utopian.

To begin, how jazz festivals have been considered in utopian terms in the literature. In his introduction to a collection of essays on pop festivals, for example, George McKay writes that festival, at its most utopian, can be ‘a pragmatic and fantastic space in which to dream and to try another world into being’ (2015: 5). As another example, in a paper on the Montreal Jazz Festival, Michael Darroch describes a ‘utopian inner city music village’ into which the festival organisers have imported various forms of music to the city, as well as tropes from New Orleans such as trad jazz and second line parades (2003: 133).

Helen Regis and Shana Walton, in work on the New Orleans Jazz Festival, argue that the festival ‘was and is a utopian project’ whilst recognising that, in its practical realities, its utopian aspirations are somewhat problematic. They argue that whilst the jazz festival seeks to transform existing social structures, particularly around race and gender, instead it reinforces them. In addition, whilst making large amounts of money for the organisers, the festival does not necessarily enhance either the economic or social prospects of those who provide the music and entertainment (2008: 428). Instead, as the authors say,

Rather than helping New Orleans avoid poverty and inequality, the city’s role as playground to the world continuously reproduces unequal social structure. Even as it offers opportunities for a national audience to experience our culture, the festive state of the city has muted the voices of those who try to focus attention on urban issues (2008: 432).

As Regis and Walton suggest, the New Orleans Jazz Festival maintains its power because of the fact that its many festival-goers return year after year in search of moments of transcendence; indeed, in a separate paper, Walton reveals how for some participants, the festival has had such an impact that they have even upped sticks and moved across the country to be closer to it (2012).

Photo by Robin Capper, via Flickr CC BY-NA 2.0
Photo by Robin Capper, via Flickr CC BY-NA 2.0

The anticipation of the festival throughout the year means that festivals exist as both a real and an imagined – idealised – event. The ways in which audiences perceive such ‘ideal’ jazz events is highlighted in the work of Karen Burland and Stephanie Pitts on jazz festivals and jazz clubs, in which they conclude that audiences have in mind an ‘ideal’ jazz gig which they aim to replicate when deciding where and when they would decide to go; such ideals relate to instrumentation, the atmosphere and venue, the performers and the other audience members (2012: 537). Work by Gail Brand et al into the performer–audience relationship at a jazz club highlights the importance of the venue to how much audiences enjoy the gig, who in general tend to prefer smaller, more intimate venues, although interestingly their research also highlights that this is not necessarily what is wanted by the musicians who don’t necessarily want such intimacy with the audience (2012: 643).

Finally, Anne Dvinge uses Christopher Small’s concept of ‘musicking’ to show how the Detroit Jazz Festival transforms Detroit once a year via the interactions of the musicians and the people, which reflect the ideas of ‘ought-to-be-relationships in the world’ for its participants (2015: 195) and becomes a time in which ‘joy takes root annually’ in the city (ibid.: 185). Borrowing from Small’s ‘musicking’, then, it could be said that ‘festivalling’ becomes a particular type of activity or process in a particular type of space in which festival-goers’ ideal forms of society are imagined and explored.

When considering whether jazz festivals are or can be utopian, then, the larger question is whether we mean the festival itself or the wider society in which the festival exists. Jazz festivals, by their very nature, are transient, albeit often cyclical, therefore any utopia they offer is rather fleeting. Jazz festivals, can perhaps be utopian for jazz fans in the sense of providing an actual and imagined ideal place dedicated to the enjoyment of jazz; as acts of ‘musicking’ they form part of the pilgrimages and rituals of jazz.

A perfect festival is certainly easier to achieve than a perfect society, perhaps, although whether the social structure, rules and politics of a jazz festival or gig can ever be ‘perfect’ is debatable, especially the larger the event becomes and, perhaps, the more diverse the audience and the more broad the understanding of an ‘ideal’ gig. As the New Orleans Jazz Festival example I gave earlier shows, even a festival with utopian ideals can end up inadvertently recreating the inequalities of the society in which it exists, particularly around issues of race and gender. In this way, perhaps without a perfect society to start with, there can be no perfect festival.

To conclude, then, a jazz festival is most likely not a site of utopia for wider social transformation, or even for a perfect jazz experience, but it has a number of significant impacts which mean that, for a short time, for some, ‘festivalling’ may be a glimpse of a jazz utopia.

Bibliography

Brand, Gail, John Sloboda, Ben Saul, and Martin Hathaway. 2012. ‘The reciprocal relationship between jazz musicians and audiences in live performances’. Psychology of Music 40/5: 634-651

Burland, Karen and Stephanie E. Pitts. 2010. ‘Understanding jazz audiences: listening and learning at the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival’. Journal of New Music Research 39/2: 125-134

Darroch, Michael. 2003. ‘New Orleans in Montréal: the cradle of jazz in the city of festivals’. Géocarrefour 78/2: 129-137.

Dvinge, Anne. 2015. ‘Musicking in motor city: Reconfiguring urban space at the Detroit Jazz Festival’. In The Pop Festival, ed George McKay. London: Bloomsbury: 183-197.

McKay, George. 2015. ‘Introduction’. In The Pop Festival, ed George McKay. London: Bloomsbury: 1-12.

Regis, Helen A. and Shana Walton. 2008. ‘Producing the folk at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival’. Journal of American Folklore 121/ 482: 400-440.

Small, Christopher. 1998. Musicking: The Meanings of Performing and Listening. Middletown, Conn.: Wesleyan University Press.

Walton, Shana. 2012. ‘“I only go to church once a year”: transformation and transcendence in jazz fest narratives’. Southern Journal of Linguistics 36/1: 104-126.

Links to reports and resources about the impact of festivals

Library Jazz Event noticeI 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.

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