Tony Whyton (BCU) and George McKay (UEA) are delighted to have co-written the introduction to a special issue of the International Journal of Heritage Studies, which brings together some of the key scholarship from the CHIME project on and with European jazz festivals. You can read the full text freely here (although in fairness it’s only 4-5 pages long). Here’s a little, from the start.
Tony Whyton (Birmingham City University) and George McKay (University of East Anglia) have a planned co-edited special issue of the leading publication, International Journal of Heritage Studies, on research findings and perspectives from the CHIME project. In the past few weeks two of the articles have been pre-published online, in advance of paper publication in the special issue. We will keep you informed when further pieces are available, and of course when the special issue is complete and available. But in the meantime here are information and links about the two to date.
Whyton, Tony. 2018. ‘Space is the place: European jazz festivals as cultural heritage sites.’ International Journal of Heritage Studies. DOI 10.1080/13527258.2018.1517375
ABSTRACT: The JPI-Heritage Plus supported Cultural Heritage and Improvised Music in European Festivals (CHIME) project was established to examine the workings of jazz festivals and their relationship to cultural heritage as discursive practice. Jazz festivals occupy a significant – if undervalued – place in the ecologies of Europe’s cultural heritage, with their dynamic and synergetic relationship to spaces and cultural sites. Drawing on a number of case studies and interviews with members of the Europe Jazz Network, this article presents a typology of European jazz festivals and cultural heritage sites that can be used to inform the different ways in which jazz offers meaning to specific groups and locations. By viewing jazz festivals through the lens of cultural heritage, we can begin to challenge reified presentations of heritage that promote uncomplicated interpretations of nations, people and their associated cultural narratives. Festivals offer meaning to specific groups through acts of remembrance or commemoration, they have the potential to engage with a multitude of voices, and their locations enable people to negotiate a sense of belonging or to (re)consider their place in the world.
Request open access version here.
McKay, George. 2018. ‘The heritage of slavery in British jazz festivals.’ International Journal of Heritage Studies. DOI 10.1080/13527258.2018.1544165
ABSTRACT: This article explores site-specific heritage questions of the contemporary cultural practice of festivals of jazz – a key transatlantic music form – by bringing together three areas for discussion and development: questions of slavery heritage and legacy; the location, built environment and (touristic) offer of the historic city; and the contemporary British jazz festival, its programme and the senses or silences of (historical) situatedness in the festival package. Other artistic forms, cultural practices and festivals are involved in self-reflexive efforts to confront their own pasts; such are discussed as varying processes of the decolonisation of knowledge and culture. This provides the critical and cultural context for consideration of the jazz festival in the Georgian urban centre. Preliminary analysis of relevant jazz festivals’ programmes, commissions and concerts leads to interrogating the relationship – of silence, of place – between jazz in Britain, historic or heritage locations and venues, and the degree or lack of understanding of the transatlantic slave trade. The heritage centres clearly associated with the slave trade that also have significant (jazz) festivals referred to include Bristol, Cheltenham, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Hull, Lancaster, Liverpool, London, and Manchester.
[George McKay writes] I am delighted to announce the publication of Francesco Martinelli’s long-awaited EU Creative Europe-funded book, The History of European Jazz. It’s an impressively massive collection, in terms of scope and content, and has 40 chapters, one of which, on European jazz festivals, I wrote. My chapter is an output of the CHIME European jazz festivals project. The new book was launched at the 2018 European Jazz Conference in Lisbon a couple weeks ago, where, by the way, several CHIME team members were involved in the Jazz Researchers network meeting. Here is an extract from the opening of my chapter.
… There is something quite remarkable across Europe about the contribution of promoters, producers, musicians and jazz enthusiasts to the development of jazz festival culture, which may have been overlooked in the scholarship, and which we can identify via a brief consideration of the pivotal US jazz festival, at Newport, Rhode Island. The inaugural Newport Jazz Festival, held in July 1954, was actually advertised as the ‘first annual American jazz festival’—and in that sense of ‘first … American’ festival rests an acknowledgement that the term jazz festival, and the very idea of an event such as a festival of jazz music, had already been invented elsewhere.
This was made clear to the restless crowd in the opening speeches at Newport that first night (the start of the live music was already running one hour late. Organisers and musicians alike were learning how to do a festival). The master of ceremonies was big band leader Stan Kenton (Duke Ellington wasn’t available), who was reading, and sometimes diverting, from a script written by Downbeat contributor Nat Hentoff. Kenton talked about the history and evolution of jazz in the US, and then turned to the subject of the new kind of event everyone had come to Newport to be at, saying:
This country has taken jazz for granted. Europe has recently held several jazz festivals, for abroad they recognise jazz as a distinct form of music. But only recently has this country accepted it as such. The Newport Festival is the first [jazz festival] to be held in this country and tonight makes history.
Impressively, Newport has gone on in the decades since to make a good deal more musical history. Yet prior history had already been made, as Kenton and Hentoff had informed their new festival audience, and it happened across the Atlantic: ‘Europe has recently held several jazz festivals’. So: can we say that the jazz festival was born in Europe? The jazz festival, which is today a near ubiquitous form of seasonal musical gathering and celebration, with common practices and features, networks, infrastructures, people and opportunities, took off in and echoed around Europe, and its burgeoning popularity was recognised and then swiftly imitated in the US.*
Among any other claims of jazz innovation Europe may feel it can make, this one may be worth sticking with. This is not an argument made for the purpose of cultural chauvinism—rather it is one presented to encourage us to think further about the complexities of innovation, transmission and circulation of live jazz music in the transatlantic frame.
That the early jazz festival was innovated and developed in Europe is striking—from the late 1940s on, that is, the very early postwar years in a devastated continent, the organisation and advertising of the new cultural event of the festival of jazz music began to take place. At the jazz band festival ball there was felt to be a good new buzz, and there was a collective spirit, and the idea spread quickly through the 1950s, and would go on to influence also the innovative rock and pop festivals and mass musical gatherings of the 1960s and 1970s counterculture.
In the space of only half-a-dozen years the jazz festival spread, from, notably, Nice (1948) to Paris (1948 and 1949) and on to the Belgian coast at Ostend and Knokke (also 1948), to London (1949) to Newport by 1954. Following that, the journey behind the Iron Curtain took only a couple of further years (Sopot, Poland in 1956). Of these earliest festivals, we can reasonably say that Nice and Newport are the most notable, because of their extraordinary longevity. Nice and Newport have been with us most years, on and off, here and there, for many decades….
* Almost all originary claims are flawed, it is in the nature of the project. There is a plaque in a square in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania proclaiming it the site of ‘America’s First Jazz Festival’: ‘On February 23 1951 history was made…. Eight jazz bands got together for “The Cavalcade of Dixieland Jazz” which became the country’s first Jazz Festival’. Or perhaps this one: Randall’s Island Carnival of Swing, back in 1938. As reported in the New York Timeson May 30, ‘For a full five hours and 45 minutes, 23,400 assorted jitterbugs and alligators—more conservatively known as swing music enthusiasts—cavorted yesterday … to the musical gymnastics of 25 swing bands’. Or perhaps we should consider the Tournois de Jazz, live music competitions between dance bands with excited crowds, held in Belgium and the Netherlands in the 1930s, as versions of proto-jazz festivals. By the 1939 event the Tournoi was ‘a full-blown spectacle’, and included band contests, cutting and jam sessions, a dance-off, and even a Miss Swing competition.
This 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, firstname.lastname@example.org. Do let us know what you think of it!
It’s International Jazz Day and UK members of CHIME are at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival.
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.
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.
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!
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.