MEDIA STATEMENT – Re: ‘Brecon Jazz Festival 2016’
Click here for list of the 25 events 2016

Brecon Jazz Club stepped forward in 2015/16 when the official promoters withdrew from the Brecon Jazz Festival, and for a while, it looked as though the annual event would not take place. It could have been a permanent absence.
What follows is our own report and review. It is under a number of headings :-

1. Summary of reactions – reviews, responses and feedback – highly positive
2. Overview of what we achieved – it was successful but very hard work
3. How we did it – funding, partnership and marketing – making the right choices & support
4. Feedback in full – the comments from others speak for themselves
5. Other current reports and processes – our Jazz Club programme comes first

1. SUMMARY OF REACTIONS – reviews, responses and feedback
Thus it was that with others, and assisted by jazz supporters, friends and club volunteers, we planned and curated a programme of what we hoped were attractive concerts and events. They were later to be judged both an artistic and financial success. Tickets were enthusiastically taken up by jazz fans far and near, resulting in full houses, high rates of satisfaction and outstanding reviews.

Rhys Philips who programmes ‘A slice of jazz’ for Radio Cardiff wrote: –
“People talked about it being a “smaller” festival (this year) but to me it didn’t feel smaller – it just felt more personal. There was barely more than half an hour to spare between each gig I went to so didn’t feel like it was scaled down.”
(emailed 16 August)

Ian Mann, of ‘’ website, wrote :
“(E)xcellent musicianship performed in front of a full house ensured that Brecon Jazz Weekend got off to a terrific start [on Friday] and helped to set the scene for the events to come. It represented a triumph for organisers Brecon Jazz Club who were to be rewarded with capacity audiences all weekend” (Friday at BJ / Geoff Eales Trio, Castle Hotel, posted 16 August)

.When in November 2015, Orchard Media (Cardiff) the contracted promoter had announced that they were pulling out after four years, Ian Mann, reviewing our December jazz club gig, wrote on his website –
“Brecon jazz Festival is too cherished an institution to let die… (Any) Brecon Jazz 2016 may not feature the big international names that we’ve become accustomed to but something should happen, probably with more of a focus on local [jazz] musicians And as tonight’s two acts so capably demonstrated, there is plenty of excellent local talent around…In many ways it will all signal something of a return to the festival’s roots back in 1985.” (Jazzmann Reviews, December 2015 re. club gig)

We agreed with this, and after our August events, the ‘BJ Weekend 2016’, attendees and members of the community gave us their verdict :

Thanks so much – we had a fantastic afternoon at the festival and the concert was superb – I was totally blown away (P, Powys)
* Everything was great! We loved it! (W, West Wales)
* Excellent….lovely…wonderful…superb…really good…brilliant….beyond expectations [see full digest of comments attached]

* Thank you. It was a wonderful time (T, South of England)
* We really appreciate you including us (and) how you have supported us (H, West Wales)
* Just to say a huge thank you to you and your team. It was such a wonderful festival. All the different people I have spoken to have really appreciated the great jazz and brilliant organisation. Hope you have a chance for a relax now. Thank you again (L, Midlands)
* My deepest thanks for all the wonderful work you do (E, London)
* The festival was such a success and I was so pleased to be a part of it! (T, West Wales)

* As a long time steward and member of the audience, can I thank you and the Brecon Jazz Club for making such a good job of saving the Festival, at least in the short term – I know how much effort this must have taken. Brecon Jazz has been and can still be right up there with the best Jazz Festivals in Britain (H, Gwent)
* Congratulations – I thoroughly enjoyed it and you did a sterling job (of) pulling everything together (P, Cardiff – Promoter)
* A massive congratulations and thank you for all the hard work (you) put into ensuring Brecon Jazz Festival 2016 happened this year. Getting funding, dealing with many musicians, sorting out venues, liaisoning concert times, food vouchers, accommodations, the list goes on, is to be admired. I don’t know how you do it with so many other ongoing projects (T, Cardiff – Musician / promoter)

2. OVERVIEW of what we achieved
We made sure that this year’s festival was innovative – it focused on collaboration both artistic and promotional, on diversity and inclusion, and on wellbeing. After all, festivals are meant to be shared experiences, celebratory and feelgood! They draw on as well as create intersubjective understandings and enjoyment. But this was definitely not ‘more of the same’ or harking back to an old style Brecon Jazz and earlier formats. We’ve seen the big names, we’ve had the ‘campus’ events, done the expensive ticketing, ‘lost’ the stroller…

So instead, the BJ ‘club’ Weekend concerts were partnered with three iconic venues in Brecon, spread through the town, with day and combo ticketing, meals offers, and most importantly, younger musicians and graduates of jazz studies in Wales. These musicians were ‘centre stage’ but playing in combination with established stars of the Welsh jazz scene, and alongside internationally-known UK jazz names such as Tina May, Geoff Eales, Jamie Brownfield, Trish Clowes and others. Many of the events were brand new collaborations that have already put down artistic markers for the future.

We also mounted an exhibition, Women in Jazz, in collaboration with Jazz Heritage Wales, our partners at the Swansea-based jazz archive, as well as a series of jazz workshops by musicians and music therapists, screened a well-attended film (‘John Coltrane and Friends were at BJ this year!’), and assisted in arranging an official Mayoral Reception at Brecon’s Guildhall. The latter included three hours of free goodtime jazz for the general public to inaugurate and, in great company, to celebrate the start to the weekend.

So although it was smaller scale and more ‘bijou’, we broke new ground. It should also be noted that this is the first time ever that a joint Jazz & Fringe Festivals Guide has been produced. Brecon Jazz Club worked and co-operated with others to help bring this about. Everyone, including the publishers (Cariad) put in an enormous effort. It meant that visitors could look in one place for a list of gigs. Yes, we realize it was not perfect; lack of joining up between the main promoters and staggered ‘announcement’ times meant that Jazz Futures was able to release its acts, followed by a gap before the Jazz Club info came out, and very belatedly, Cathedral Jazz weekend concerts at the eleventh hour. And the email/web audiences for these only partially overlapped but without one database. Sorry about that everyone and for your separate ‘ticketing’ experiences too.

But do you know, most people our survey spoke to or who wrote in were actually quite grateful that something had been put on! The alternative was not a perfect, neat and integrated offer, but a blank. Well, a jazz blank anyway, because the Fringe weekend would have gone on regardless. If you want to see what people who attended the BJ jazz club events thought, view our list of unedited comments at the end of this message.

At Brecon Jazz Club, we are very proud of all this work to ensure that there was continuity for Brecon Jazz. Despite pressures of time and resource, we brought a fresh approach, with our young and established performers in collaboration, and women in jazz (appearing in every lineup), with stunning Welsh musicians all profiled too. And while it was incredibly stretching to plan and put on the events, together, we wholly succeeded in averting a ‘gap’ while at the same time buying time for the town of Brecon and its organisations to forward plan and develop a jazz festival vision for the future.This interim year was always going to be about capacity-building for the region, ourselves, and the other contributors; going forward, we welcome the development of advice and proposals coming from an external consultant commissioned by Brecon Town Council, and which will be publicized next month.

Meanwhile, Brecon Jazz Club carries on offering high quality live music in town every month. Remember – jazz is not just for August, but for all year round. It’s for life, really! As many people during the weekend and since have written to say, we took BJ back to its roots in August – not the high flying years of the recent past – but to the ‘great jazz and nice times’ vibe of its unpretentious origins.

3. HOW WE DID IT : funding, partnership and marketing
Brecon Jazz club’s ‘BJ Weekend’ events had a project budget of just over £20,000, comprising a combination of external funding, sponsorship and ticket sales income. Over 800 advanced tickets were sold via the jazz club online box office and also from the dedicated BOX OFFICE we established at the Guildhall during the weekend. We thank our lead funders Arts Council Wales/National Lottery, Powys County Council for their support, without which the BJ Weekend Project – our part of it – would not have happened. This achievement was not without some graft and real setbacks in the process: one major grant application was referred back twice and another reduced on offer which did not help, given that the timescales were so short to deliver the project. We were incredibly pleased to receive small donations from four supportive organisations: The Brecon & Radnor Express, Acapela Studios, Cafe Jazz Cardiff and Illuminate Publishing.

We also made other approaches: Brecon Beacons National Parks (Sustainability Fund), Western Power (Community Fund), as well as an application to the Trust ‘Jazz4Jed’. These were not successful, as was an offer to work with Friends of Brecon Jazz on funding of the members’ Clubhouse at Bevan Hall in the centre of town for the weekend. We know that many people regretted this loss. We record these to show efforts invested and that not only did we make a number of approaches, some successful, some not, also researching many different avenues of funding where all these took a lot of time, but also to highlight that despite 32 years, there is yet no embedded, committed support for BJ; it has to be remade at each juncture or crisis.

The Jazz Club itself was also a funder, and had to commit its entire balance at account in ‘match funding’ for the project. It leaves us where we started ten years ago. We also funded half of the volunteer support costs (as ineligible) and took no fees or expenses for ourselves. Two of our venues (Guildhall and Castle) had no technical facilities suitable for the concerts and these had to be bought in, making ‘Production’ costs (as we anticipated) higher; musicians generally performed at modest fees for us and their costs were very reasonable. So the major categories of expenditure in ’rounded’ terms were:

50% of budget: technical production, musician fees, artist support and venue costs

30% of budget: Marketing, promotion, publicity and printing

20% of budget: Organization, access, running costs and evaluation

Looking back, during the process of initial discussions in the town on the BJ ‘crisis’ year, friendly advice to us covered all options – from standing back entirely, making a token input, or taking over the Festival itself! We did have some five years’ experience of working with Orchard, in putting on groups of major concerts within the Jazz Festival. So our first thoughts (and general practice) were about collaboration and working with others. Some sought us out to offer help and encouragement, for which we are profoundly grateful, others we approached to see if they might assist. We co-operated with many jazz-related individuals, organisations and promoters. Without their knowledgeable involvement and positive encouragement, we would not have succeeded in the way we did. This most notably included supporters in North Wales Jazz, Jazz Heritage Wales, Cardiff Jazz Society and Jazz Promotion Network, as well as the 3 venues, local mid and south Wales businesses (four small sponsors*), organisations such as FYI, and Brecon Town Council.

We have mentioned the Volunteers, a few of whom were from BJ Club, but mostly came from outside Wales, to support and help ‘run’ the jazz festival, with many accumulated years of experience of so doing. We also had many meetings with local stakeholders and groups – members of a BJ Working Group, including representatives from Cathedral, Theatr, Fringe, Chamber of Trade, Promoters, so we aware of wider discussions and able to input suggestions, contribute to plans.

Last but far from least, we owe a huge vote of thanks to the musicians themselves – from Wales, London and in between – they kept the faith with Brecon jazz club, kept the date, and waited like us, with bated breath, turning down other offers, in order to perform, impress and keep the magic alive that is Brecon Jazz.

Our marketing spend was partly a function of having to get off the ground very rapidly, to place adverts quickly in a tight campaign starting on 19 June when we received our ACW grant (Powys CC grant came the following week) for the event taking place on 12-14 August. On the other hand, the marketing/promotion spend and artistic decisions we made did bring in the ticket sales and audiences.

We sold out for the two Friday (12/8) concerts a week before the event, and the Saturday (13/8) headline sold out a few days before. During the weekend, the other Saturday event and three Sunday events quickly filled up. Our venues were bursting with people, but the demand and logistics were only successfully handled on the ground and on the weekend by the practical involvement and cheerful efforts of our volunteer support team who were superb and a precious asset.

We were very fortunate to have an experienced Coordinator for a friend and that she agreed to come and help out over BJ. We were also very glad of our preparation and planning in this area: the Guildhall events saw over 200 people a show (3 concerts), the Castle around 130 (x 2 concerts), and the Muse Arts over two events and a rolling film show, over 180 people. We also supported the Town Council official Reception, which had more than 70 people to launch the weekend in the Guildhall, and provided the music to complement our ‘Women in Jazz’ exhibition (co-organised with Swansea’s Jazz Heritage Wales). Six workshops were well-received, combining jazz specialist skills for guitar, Latin voice and percussion, with therapeutic and wellbeing sessions on jazz, relaxation and family participation themes also on offer.

We feel that our choices, which entailed and involved a considerable planning and curatorial workload, were wholly vindicated by the live performances, the critics’ reviews, and the overwhelmingly positive audience responses. The Women in Jazz exhibition ran for the 3 days of the event, and the lineups for all our BJC concerts showcased diverse ensembles of age, gender, region, experience, genre, instrument – distinctively so for BJ and festivals in general – at the same time as promoting the very best of jazz.

4. REVIEWS ( A Full Feedback of results can be ACCESSED HERE)
First, some QUOTES from Ian Mann Reviews appraising the BJ jazz club events:

“(T)he quality of the performances delighted the capacity crowd at a concert that represented another triumph for organisers Brecon Jazz Club”. [Trefor Owen and Megan Thomas Quartet, Saturday pm, Guildhall, posted 19 August]
“Performed in front of a capacity audience this concert was another triumph for Brecon Jazz Club”. [Tina May Ensemble, Saturday night, Guildhall, posted 19 August]
“(A) Brecon Jazz Club co-ordinated event at an again sold out Guildhall..a very enjoyable performance and one that was greatly appreciated by the Brecon Jazz crowd.. there was no denying the quality of the playing”; “they do what they do extremely well – which is why audiences love them” (Brownfield, Byrne); “her two original pieces a breath of fresh air and were very well received, while her tenor sax soloing probed deeply” (Trish Clowes). [Brownfield Byrne Clowes Sextet, Sunday, Guildhall, posted 19 August]
“There was a feel good factor about the whole event” [Celtic Jazz, Sunday, The Muse, posted 19 August]

We received amazing feedback from our roving evaluation gatherers (Audiences/attendees/visitors/participants) who were not identified as the ‘jazz club’ and surveyed people that had attended BJC events as well as others’ events, neither, and anything in between! From ‘pink card’ survey forms and emails received (more than 100 in all), we have picked out every comment received and include these below for you to read.


Since the August jazz weekend, we’ve also held some discussions across the town, with residents, businesses, jazz club members who came to the BJC events and those who did not, with FOBJ supporters, and most importantly, with the volunteer team who interacted with festival-goers coming in and out of concerts, buying tickets, and around the town.

* the experience and memories are still very positive indeed
* there is a strong message that the festival should not be too big
* one or two additional headlines, a couple of bigger names are all that’s needed
* stroller is still a popular ‘missed’ element
* there was strong support for BJC’s high class ‘Welsh musician’ programming
* the collaborations were enjoyed, mixing bigger names and young / local talents by BJC
* people enjoyed seeing the younger musicians involved
* ticket pricing was right – people don’t want expensive concerts
* many many people told us and team, referring to the BJClub programme ‘you’ve brought it back’, ‘it’s like it used to be’ ‘back to its roots’ ‘revived and renewed’, ‘just like Jed’.

In other words, they liked it. The positive evaluations were overwhelming. We look forward to discussing and sharing what we got right – and also lessons and how things can be improved – with the new BJ operators for 2017.

Many meetings and sub-meetings later and with the festival Weekend now behind us, the ‘task and finish’ of our stepping in and stepping up is accomplished. No doubt the Brecon Jazz Working Group which we participated in, and set up this ‘crisis’ year, will in due course be disbanded as new discussions about the future take place. A Report into BJ2016 and future options commissioned by Brecon Town Council earlier this year has now been received and new discussions will ensue. For the jazz club, we continue to plan and promote jazz in Brecon year round, to innovate, satisfy audiences, and extend the field of what we do within our resources. One way we do this is by working co-operatively with other groups and promoters whose mission is to support and develop ‘jazz’. While we actively enjoy and attend many other musical and arts genres, it is important that a specific support for ‘jazz’ locally is kept in the town: who else but jazz club organisers, members, Friends of BJ, local musicians and people who appreciate ‘jazz’ will help sustain and look after ‘jazz’ here in Brecon now or into the future?

So despite all the work and efforts outlined above, our prime responsibility is to organize and run a very high quality, popular and successful Jazz Club in the town of Brecon, which should also have a Festival. We will be announcing our monthly lineups and programme for 2017/18.

Coordinators: Brecon Jazz Club – contributors to Brecon Jazz Festival since 2012