Features/Interviews (PP)

Claire Martin (Iford Manor Jazz Festival 2022, 22-24 July)

“Our peaceful, Grade I registered garden is unlike any other with its romantic design and architecture,” say the owners of Iford Manor, situated near Bradford-on-Avon, within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, “on the last hill of the Cotswolds.”

Iford have been putting on music events since the 1980s, notably operas in the Italianate cloister. Now, it will be hosting a three-day jazz festival, 22-24 July 2022. Claire Martin is thrilled to be curating the weekend event. Preview/ interview by Sebastian Scotney

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Ilford Manor
Iford Manor

LondonJazz News: How did you get to know Iford?

Claire Martin: I sang at Iford Manor maybe 10 years ago with Ian Shaw. We were playing in the cloisters for our concert and I remember thinking how special the house and gardens felt and of course being blown away by the sheer beauty of the majestic gardens and views. I returned last year to play at the BounceBack Festival which was supporting live music ‘after’ covid. This time I sang in the “Archery Ground” and again had such a wonderful experience that I simply asked William and Marianne, the owners of the manor and devoted music supporters, to consider letting me curate an actual jazz festival. They have been presenting and celebrating music there for many years and were keen to get behind my idea which was fantastic.

LJN: What venues will the festival use? Will there be a concert in the cloisters?

CM: Over the three nights we are using the “Archery Ground” which is a large outdoor space perfect for picnicking and dancing on the Friday and Saturday and then the cloisters for the Sunday night closing concert. During the day for our lunchtime jazz events we are using the restaurant situated in the grounds. 

LJN: There’s an archery field. That sounds dangerous…

CM: Ha yes! It’s the most picturesque setting imaginable and some of the land use recorded as pasture in the Domesday Book! The ancient woodland of Friary Wood, which is owned and managed by the estate, hasn’t changed much over the centuries and the idea is to keep it that way for future generations to enjoy. It truly feels magical!

LJN: You put on the festival at Shoreham. This will be very different...

CM: Yes this will be very different but over the four years that the South Coast Jazz Festival ran I learnt so much and can bring that experience to this new venture. This is the first time I have curated any outdoor events, but feel really supported by William and Marianne who are ‘hands on’ and have past form with this! Also this is the first time I have been involved in sourcing private sponsorship and not used arts council funding. I have to say I’ve been blown away by our generous sponsors and supporters and this has given me a real boost to know that people are not only keen to support our music, but keen to get another festival on the jazz calendar. 

Joe Stilgoe. Publicity photo

LJN: And Rebecca Nash has a role?

CM: Yes, Rebecca Nash will be playing both the lunchtime concerts with her trio. I agree with Julian Joseph’s statement that it is “obvious she’s going to be a star”.  I knew of Rebecca through her work with the brilliant singer/songwriter Sara Colman and I’m really looking forward to hearing her live.

LJN: And who else will be performing?

Claire Martin. Publicity photo

CM: Our opening night is headlined by the brilliant Joe Stilgoe and his trio. Joe has played Iford Manor before but sadly covid struck last year and he couldn’t perform, so it’s perfect to have him return to open for us. Saturday night will be in the safe hands of Ray Gelato and his Giants with jive dance classes on offer during the afternoon if anyone wants to brush up on their steps before the concert! There was talk about a gelato van on site too,  but I’m not sure if we have that in place yet! Sunday will close with a special candlelit solo concert in the beautiful cloisters by guitar legend Martin Taylor. Martin is such an immense talent and terrific raconteur that he seemed like the most perfect artist to wrap up the weekend. 

LJN: You have worked a lot with Ray Gelato… will he be able to persuade you to sing?

CM: Yes, I think we will do a couple of Louis Prima/Keely Smith songs – I won’t be able to resist! Ray gave me my first break in London when he asked me to support him at Ronnie Scott’s one Sunday night. I was 21. I’d sat in with him a few times in wine bars, but he took a punt on me and gave me that chance. I’ll never forget that. He put me on the map and I am forever grateful, he really is like a brother to me.

LJN: What are “Jazz Trails”? Is that a way to get to know the gardens?

CM: We are dotting the Grade I listed gardens of the Manor with a number of young and up-and-coming jazz artists for people to experience both the music and the gardens whilst promenading and exploring. Or, of course,  people might just want to enjoy from the comfort of a picnic blanket on the lawn. It’s an ideal way to get to know the gardens and showcase some local talent.

LJN: Of course it’s not going to rain is it……er.. what happens if it does…

CM: No it’s not going to rain!!! It’s July in England and we are prepared for anything… we have brollies and grit!! But, it’s not going to rain…

LINK: Iford Manor Jazz Festival

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