NEWS : Open Letter from Jazz Services to Arts Council England and (UPDATED) Reply

Dominic McGonigal, Chair of Jazz Services, has written an open letter to Alan Davey, Chief Executive of the Arts Council England – (and – UPDATE – received a reply from him) :

Dear Alan,

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I am writing concerning Jazz Services and the future development of jazz in England.

The decision by the Arts Council not to fund Jazz Services has caused widespread concern among musicians and audiences. Over 5,000 people have signed a petition set up independently by vocalist Emily Saunders. Most have added comments, speaking eloquently about the impact on the jazz scene. Pianist Kit Downes spoke for many when he blogged on LondonJazz News:

“What’s happened now leaves the musicians with less power to do it themselves – something which is integral to both the history and survival of the music. To those that say it is wrong to rely so heavily on one organisation for this kind of help, I would say it is because they are the only ones that offer it.”

Whilst we are hugely supportive of the other jazz organisations you have funded in your NPO round and no doubt this will produce some excellent work in some regions, it does leave huge gaps in the jazz scene.

For example, audiences in Cornwall will become isolated from the national jazz scene from April 2015. Several promoters in the National Rural Touring Forum have told us they will stop promoting jazz next year and mid-sized venues have said they will no longer have jazz in their programming.

Furthermore, for many musicians Jazz Services has been instrumental in helping them establish a successful career and such artist development will not be available to the next generation of musicians.

Without Jazz Services, the opportunity for national touring for the grass roots jazz musician has now been removed. As a result, the promoters networks built up over many years are threatened and audiences in many parts of the country will lose their regular live jazz.

We understand the reasons for your decision. We accept that there were governance issues in Jazz Services at the time of the bid and that we did not demonstrate effective partnership working.

However, since our bid application, Jazz Services has changed significantly.

We now have solid governance, as confirmed by the Charity Commission. We have a new Chair, a new Vice Chair, new Patrons, new Trustees and a united Board.

Some NPO organisations included Jazz Services in their bid and will rely on us to deliver their programme. Following the news of the bid decision, other organisations have come forward in support of Jazz Services and are keen to work in partnership with us.

Already we have addressed underlying financing issues by increasing our advertising revenue and attracting new funds from charitable trusts.

As you know, we have already consulted the sector on the needs of musicians and audiences. We held an Open Meeting, we have launched a survey and we have actively solicited comments and discussion on social media.

This dialogue has confirmed that Jazz Services is unique. No other organisation in the sector is impartial, independent, not-for-profit and national.

This makes us uniquely positioned to maintain the infrastructure that has been built up over the years and to further develop artists and audiences for the sector.

We very much want, not only to continue our relationship with the Arts Council, but to turn it into a more productive partnership for the benefit of the sector.

We hope that you will entertain a fresh approach from us to maintain and develop:

Touring International Education Artist development Audience development

We will do this in partnership with promoters, festivals, other development agencies, public bodies and, of course, the musicians.

We look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

Dominic McGonigal Chair, Jazz Services Ltd.

This letter was first posted on the Jazz Services website HERE

o – o – o


Dominic McGonigal
Jazz Services
25 July 2014

Dear Dominic,

The link to your ‘open letter’ has been forwarded to me. As a rule, the Arts Council does not conduct its relationships in public, mindful of the sensitivities of organisations that have not been successful in securing funding. However, as you have chosen to make a public statement, I feel it is appropriate for me to reply publically(sic) , and to release this letter on the same terms as you have done.

Our reason for not granting funding to Jazz Services for 2015-18 was that we have scarce resources and we chose to fund other organisations, including a number of jazz organisations, which were stronger in terms of meeting our Goals.

I think we both share a passionate desire to support jazz development, and doing so effectively will involve a far wider set of decisions than pertain to one organisation. This is demonstrated by the other NPO investments that we have made. In addition to the broad range of festivals, regional development agencies, and promoters we continue to fund, we have brought new jazz NPOs into the portfolio, increasing the amount of NPO funding in jazz – Jazz Re:freshed, NYJO, the National Youth Jazz Collective, and Jazz North are all new to the portfolio and all have the vision and capacity to make substantial and distinctive contributions to jazz in England and beyond. At the same time, we are actively seeking to encourage applications for project funding with our contacts across the wider sector. I know this message has been conveyed to you in phone calls and meetings that have already taken place between Jazz Services and the Arts Council, with another meeting scheduled next week.

We are aware that people who have benefitted from Jazz Services support in the past are concerned about how they will be funded in future. They should be reassured – our intentions are clear. We want to support jazz artists, jazz touring, jazz promoters, international showcasing, jazz commissioning, jazz education: in other words, high quality jazz-related activity and investments that have an impact and represent good value for public money. As I write, a number of Music colleagues are making their way to Manchester to take part in the Jazz Promoters’ Network Conference, part of the Manchester Jazz Festival, and provide support to any delegate wanting advice on how to apply for Arts Council funding.

I am glad to hear that changes are being made to Jazz Services’ internal structure that you believe will have a positive impact on your work. This clearly gives us the basis for a good discussion which places the interests of jazz at its heart. I am also glad that you are seeing Helen Sprott, National Director of music next week. I urge you to continue the positive dialogue that I thought had been established in the hope that Jazz Services continues to play a part in supporting jazz in this country.

But most of all, we need to look at the wider picture and how to advance the interests of jazz as a developing and living artform. That’s what matters here.

Best wishes,

Alan Davey
Chief Executive
Arts Council England

Alan Davey’s letter was first published HERE

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1 reply »

  1. How does ACE justify doing all its business in secret, when it is handing over public money (our money)? Yes, there are sensitivities, but this is also a handy shield for never discussing anything in depth. Cutting Jazz Services is hacking at the roots of the system – that's what infrastructure agencies are for. Funding a few individual jazz organisations does not ensure a national or coherent picture, or access for all jazz fans (and potential jazz musicians, attenders, etc). But then, ACE has dismantled the infrastructure in education and audience development over the past few years, too. Problem is the impact on quality – there's no one left (physically) to check that the output is of a high enough quality in our skeletal structures, so everyone self-assesses via ticklists. I recently attended a great jazz event locally, publicly funded from a heavily over-subscribed scheme: the marketing was appalling: missing dates, wrong dates, no ticket price, etc. This meant that they didn't get many attenders. Seems like a lose-lose for the musicians and audiences alike, but hey! Mr Davey will doubtless have a glib/bland soundbite for that.

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