Birmingham International Jazz Festival

I love how the Birmingham Jazz Festival is advertised with a lone guitarist playing in an empty theatre. Aesthetically spot on but probably not the result they’re looking for.

This is the 23rd such festival in Birmingham and I’m not sure there are any that have run for longer – do correct me if I’m wrong. The launch is at 8am (!!!) on July 6th and there are a slew of events running for the next 10 days until July 15th.

All events are free (again, correct me if I’m wrong) and take place all over the city so the chances are you’ll bump into some kind of Jazz wherever you are.

They’re claiming “more jazz per square metre than has New Orleans” which, potential bad taste aside, is a bold statement but I’m no Jazz aficionado so I can’t say whether the quality of the Jazz will be as high. There certainly aren’t any names being shouted on the website, something you’d expect from an “International” festival.

Still, it’s good to see this still running after all these years and still taking over the city.


  1. I absolutely love jazz, and I’m delighted that Birmingham’s going to be soaked in it for the next ten days or so.

    But I have some real issues with this from the perspective of someone who wants to really promote and encourage the enjoyment of jazz music, and foster the sustainable careers of people who choose the difficult road of making it their livelihood.

    First, it’s an odd jazz festival that doesn’t lead with some real drawcards.

    I mean, there are some respected local players in there, but the strategy seems to be to put as much jazz in people’s way as possible so they cannot help but trip over it — rather than to entice audiences with some unmissable international and local jazz legends.

    In fact, even of the half a dozen or so Birmingham and West Midlands absolute jazz icons that spring to mind — I can only find one or two of them on the list.

    International Jazz Festivals should bring tourism. This one seems to just happen to be on. It’s great that all of these players are getting work this one time of the year, but this is hardly an audience-focused event, and nor will it lead to significant ongoing work for any of the performers.

    Rather than bring an audience together to celebrate and enjoy jazz, the strategy here seems to be to collect as many jazz players together as they can, and then distribute them as widely across the city as possible in an attempt to give them their annual gig.

    Cool posters aside, this has the air of an ad-hoc busker’s convention.

    These things should be prestigious. Major events on the cultural calendar. Cheltenham should be the model.

    Fewer dates. Fewer performances. Fewer, but bigger venues. Higher profile acts. Larger audiences. Higher ticket prices. More sense of occasion.

    That’s the sort of thing that convinces people they like jazz enough to spend money on attending performances at other times of the year. Surely that’s the desirable outcome here?

    And — Oh my God — “more jazz per square metre than New Orleans”?!! — whoever came up with that slogan should be shot.

    Any jazz player with any sense of what goes on in the world, any dignity and any scrap of empathy should be at great pains to distance themselves from anything that claims anything as ignorant and offensive as that.

    Nothing has damaged the livelihoods and careers of more jazz musicians in history than the catastrophic handling of Hurricane Katrina.

    You know what? I think I’ve just talked myself into a boycott.

  2. john mostyn

    Bang on Andrew,

    I personally always find the Malvern Hills most peaceful at this time of year.

  3. I picked up the festival brochure today while waiting in the foyer at Marketing Birmingham and I couldn’t for the life of me find any mention of the “Orleans” quote!

  4. It’s on the front page of the website:

    “Over 10 jazz-packed summer days from July 6th to the 15th Birmingham will become Jazz City UK, with more jazz per square metre than has New Orleans.”

Comments are closed.