REPORT: Jazz Promotion Network Conference in Leeds (26-27 June 2017)

The Jazz Promotion Network held its third annual conference at Leeds College of Music. Peter Slavid attended and offers this personal view.

The Jazz Promotion Network was set up as an organisation around three years ago. The idea was to bring together everyone who wants to promote jazz – and ideally to replace the much missed touring and promoter funding pots resulting from the cessation of Jazz Services’ Arts Council England funding. Now constituted formally as a charity with a Board of Trustees, this was the third JPN Conference and it demonstrated some progress, without having achieved  a replacement for the Arts Council funding.

Membership now includes representatives from venues, festivals and regional organisations plus a few artists, labels, broadcasters and journalists. Everyone is is looking for ways to support artists, audiences and venues.

One thing JPN has been able to establish this year was a partnership with Dutch Performing Arts to provide opportunities for Dutch artists in the UK, and to give opportunities for UK artists to tour overseas. Crucially Dutch Performing Arts were able to provide funding for this programme.

During the conference there were also showcase opportunities for four excellent young British bands:  the Bela Horvath Trio, the Samantha Wright Quintet, some very impressive saxophone from the Josh Schofield Quartet and a spectacular electronic improv trio called Morpher. In the evening we saw two Dutch bands including the young band Evensanne and the brilliant Eric Vloeimans’ Oliver’s Cinema, a world class band – and it’s ridiculous that it’s hardly ever been seen over here. Other British bands performed in other spaces at different times and I have no doubt that the promoters all went away with plans for bookings.

The conference included the formal AGM, establishing the new Board which now includes both professional and amateur promoters of large and small organisations. Discussions over the two days of the conference focused on a series of key topics including funding, international opportunities, the role of jazz, gender, Jazz 100 and much more. The problem of course is that while everyone enjoyed themselves, met up with old friends, set the world to rights and set up lots of good contacts – that doesn’t mean that anything will get done.

In the end JPN remains an entirely voluntary organisation with no staff, and only minimal funding from the membership fees. It relies on the scarce spare time of the busy board members and others to move things forward. There are all sorts of ideas, to establish touring networks, to provide more support for artists and new promoters, to increase overseas touring – but unless some support funding is forthcoming soon these will remain mostly good intentions.

In the meantime despite the limitations, I’d encourage everyone who can do so to join up. In the absence of any strategy for jazz from Arts Council England, the more members JPN has the more powerful their remit. There’s no other organisation that can bring the jazz community together like this and speak for it, and I think we badly need that voice.

LINKS: Details of the Jazz Promotion Network

Peter Slavid broadcasts a radio programme of European jazz at www.mixcloud.com/ukjazz

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