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Jazz Services: Onwards And Upwards – MusicTank

Jazz Services: Onwards And Upwards

23 Jul 2014

Credits: Lee

Jazz Services has for many years been the foremost charitable support organisation for jazz music in the UK, providing financial assistance, advice and support for the music in all its forms and championing jazz as a crucial part of our arts scene.  The organisation has been going in one form or another for several decades, and is unique in that it is independent, impartial, not-for-profit and nationally focused.

We’re proud to have been instrumental in the careers of so many of the UK jazz scene’s finest artists and most tireless promoters.  Through our programmes and initiatives we’ve worked with thousands of musicians, promoters, educators, venues and other industry professionals, as well as engaging with audiences.  By helping the jazz scene grow and thrive by directly enabling the people at its heart, we’ve unsurprisingly made a lot of friends along the way.

However, at the beginning of July the Arts Council of England announced that it had rejected our bid for the period 2015-2018 and won’t fund us as an NPO from April 2015 onwards.  This was a blow not only to us but to the scene as a whole, as without our funding initiatives large aspects of the UK’s jazz community will have nowhere else to turn for financial assistance and support.

For any organisation to face an obstacle like this is a daunting prospect, but we remain positive about the future – and with good reason.  Since the news broke there’s been an understandable outcry about the risks these cuts pose to jazz but the bulk of it hasn’t been coming from us – it’s the jazz community itself that’s making the most noise.  Thousands have gone on social networks to voice their concerns, from musicians concerned that their opportunities for national touring and funding will be severely limited, to grass-roots promoters in the regions who will face the prospect of becoming isolated from the national touring circuit, and audience members and jazz lovers worried they won’t have access to the wealth of talent that’s been available before.  There’s a Musicians Love Jazz Services Facebook group full of comments from concerned artists, an online petition set up independently by vocalist Emily Saunders that has attracted over 5,000 signatures, and we’re encouraging jazz lovers to take to Twitter and ‘put their hands up #4JazzFuture’ to show their support for the campaign.

This outpouring of goodwill is crucially important going forwards, and with the community backing us we’re able to see the situation faced by Jazz Services as an opportunity rather than as a tragedy.  With a massive groundswell of support that proves beyond any shadow of a doubt that the jazz community needs an organisation to look out for their best interests, and with direct feedback from the people at the heart of the scene itself via email and social media, and via an online survey and an open meeting, we’re hugely encouraged to map out a plan for the future that means we can come back stronger.

By engaging directly with the music community and with the support of the scene, we’ve been able to gather some extremely useful and constructive feedback and answer some key questions about their needs and how we can develop going forwards.   Where can we focus our efforts?  What aspects of what we do are crucial to the scene, and aren’t offered by anyone else?  Arts funding is a complicated and often divisive issue, but with the help of our support base we’re actively looking ahead to how we can continue working with the Arts Council to support jazz.

To that end, the Chair of our board of Trustees has written an open letter to Alan Davey, Chief Executive of the Arts Council, outlining our position and clearly stating that we are willing and able to keep providing for and supporting the UK’s jazz scene.  Instead of despairing, the support from the people at the heart of the jazz scene has helped inspire us to come back better than ever, and we’re eager to live up to the faith they’ve shown in us.  Onwards and upwards…

John Norbury-Lyons
Communications Manager, Jazz Services

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