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VOTI - voices of the industry

THE FUTURE OF THE JAZZ CENTRE IN JEOPARDY

 

If you want to help save Jazz Centre e-mail or write to Councillor Carole Molroney (CllrCaroleMulroney@southend.gov.uk), Scott Dolling (ScottDolling@southend.gov.uk) and CC our organisation (enquiries@thejazzcentreuk.co.uk)

 

THE JAZZ CENTRE UK is facing some big, wholly unanticipated challenges in the months ahead. Most critically, it has been asked to vacate its home of the last six years in the basement of the Beecroft Gallery in Victoria Avenue. As publicly announced in early August, the Southend on Sea City Council (SCC) has served the Centre with a twelvemonths’ notice to quit the premises. Help is promised by the Council to find us a new home in the city. And, certainly, the Jazz Centre has been generously supported since its foundation in 2016, by previous councils. That has enabled TJCUK to pursue its ambitious objectives of preserving, promoting and celebrating jazz music. Its archives and collections have expanded, its reputation has grown, and its live gigs have become an established part of Southend’s music scene. SCC has acknowledged that TJCUK’s presence in Southend is “great for the City”.

 

Nonetheless, there can be no denying that the sudden and demanding requirement to move by next August presents the Centre with formidable challenges. It’s a decision that places Britain’s only cultural centre for jazz music in jeopardy. Much depends now on the extent and form of the promised support from the SCC. There are possible alternative homes for the Jazz Centre, notably space in the new community arts and culture complex that has recently opened at 90 High Street, Southend, under the name IronWorks. This elegant, five-floor, 1920s building, which apparently began life as an iron mongers, before becoming the town’s oldest department store, has many attractions. But, at present, there are significant uncertainties about the practical and financial feasibility of this option. Doubtless there are other potential venues. And any suggestions and letters of support from our supporters would be warmly welcomed.

 

In addition to the problems caused by our need to move, Mark Kass, the Centre’s chief executive officer for the last three years has stepped down. Mark brought an infectious enthusiasm to everything he did at TJCUK, including broadening the range of bands and musicians that performed there. He will be greatly missed, but we wish him well in his future endeavours.

 

While the outlook may be uncertain, jazz lovers can be sure that we will continue to offer the full programme of events that has come to be expected from us. Many more live gigs are planned, along with lectures and films.

 

Indeed, summer 2022 has proved notably successful for the Centre on several fronts. Not least, it has been able to recover strongly from the constraints imposed by covid, and present some spectacular gigs.

 

Its participation in the Love Supreme Jazz Festival on the South Downs in July was particularly successful (see page 6), significantly raising TJCUK’s profile among jazz fans, and broadening an appreciation of its purpose and objectives across the music industry. The Centre’s marquee attracted a steady flow of visitors throughout the three-day event.

 

As will be obvious from a glance at the contents of our latest newsletter we continue to explore the byways and backwaters of jazz, as well as engage in the big debates about the music’s history and its future. In this issue, the last of 2022, we cover the range of jazz history from its origins —the legendary Eubie Blake— to the best of British modernism, Nucleus and Graham Collier. With our acquisition of a beautiful C-Melody saxophone, Jazz Centre founder, Digby Fairweather, explores the history, and marginalisation, of this ‘Cinderella’ of the saxophone family.

 

But the main theme of this issue of Centrepiece is jazz and film. Regular columnist Michael Deakin looks at the different categories of jazz movies, while Andi Schönheit’s article on The Celluloid Movie Detectives celebrates those collectors whose sleuthing ensured that we can enjoy watching and hearing many jazz legends today. Additionally, Centrepiece’s editor is captivated by the wonderful TV productions of John Akomfrah. He highlights and reviews two of Akomfrah’s very best; documentaries on Louis Armstrong and Stan Tracey.

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