There’s been a great deal of talk over the past few days over the announcement by Arts Council England that Jazz Services will not continue to receive funding from 2015 onwards.
As a young jazz performer in the early stages of my career, I must say I’m extremely disappointed that the Arts Council has made this decision. Jazz Services has, for the past 30 years, provided extensive support to the jazz scene nationally through a variety of effective, cost-efficient schemes that directly benefit musicians and, I would argue, keep the UK jazz scene alive. Most of these schemes are unique to Jazz Services and will totally cease to exist without its support.
For example, the Touring Support Scheme provides invaluable assistance to bandleaders seeking to organise national tour for their bands and is (to my knowledge) the only jazz-specific touring funding available. It provides financial support towards travel and accommodation costs which takes the risk out of the common scenario of travelling 400 miles for a door-take gig which you could very well end up losing money on if there is a small turn-out, but which you need to do to grow your audiences across the country.
Another great and unique scheme is the Recording Support Scheme, which I have benefited from with my Wild Flower Sextet project. This provides 50% funding towards making a debut album, which, for me and many others I’m sure, was absolutely vital in enabling me to make an album, another risky and highly expensive venture which is essential to reaching a bigger audience. Support is then provided as above to tour this album.
These are just two schemes of many including the Jazz Promoters Award (helping new promoters establish jazz gigs), International Showcases (promoting UK jazz ensembles abroad) and more. I must stress that none of the other jazz-related organisations that have kept their funding (Jazz North, Manchester Jazz Festival, Jazzlines, Tomorrow’s Warriors, East Midlands Jazz, Serious) provide anything that comes close to Jazz Services’ Touring Support and Recording Support Schemes at a national level. This isn’t to criticise these great organisations, they just don’t have a national focus of promoting jazz at a grass-roots level – it isn’t in their remit.
The reasons for ACE’s decision remain unclear, although perhaps we will hear more about this in the coming weeks and months. Whatever the concerns are, I sincerely hope Jazz Services can manage to put a plan in place to address them and successfully appeal this decision. Obviously we live in a climate of cuts where the arts are under a tremendous amount of pressure from the government, and that is a different debate, but with the value that the jazz scene brings to the UK both in money and cultural terms, I would argue that the axe has fallen in the wrong place here.
There is a petition in place here which I would encourage you to sign: https://www.change.org/petitions/arts-council-england-in-the-light-of-the-cessation-of-npo-support-for-jazz-services-we-request-arts-council-england-enable-adequate-funding-for-jazz-services-to-continue-their-invaluable-work-for-uk-jazz. It’s also worth visiting the Jazz Services website to see their reaction to this and how else you can help them fight this decision: http://www.jazzservices.org.uk/index.php/support-jazz-services.