The Jazz Centre (UK)

Digby Fairweather, director of the Jazz Centre (UK), has announced ambitious plans to develop the Southend-based jazz facility into a flagship for the music in Britain

Trumpeter Digby Fairweather has announced plans for the development of The Jazz Centre (UK) in Southend-on-Sea, Essex.

The centre became a registered charity with Gift-Aid on 2 June 2016, having opened its doors in February at the Beecroft Art Gallery. Mr Fairweather has announced plans for its extension by 2018 as well as declaring the centre's aims.

The extension should create a 4,000 square-foot space with a heritage museum, an art gallery, a research centre, a sound archive of jazz recordings, a cinema (which is already up and running) and a major performance space to be modelled on London’s legendary 100 Club, Britain’s oldest jazz club which opened in 1942.

The Jazz Centre's patrons include Jools Holland, Simon Spillett, Sir Van Morrison, Dan Morgenstern (the former Director of Rutgers Institute of Jazz Studies, New Jersey), Paul Jones, Sir Michael Parkinson and Dame Cleo Laine.

The Jazz Centre has already acquired major historic artefacts. These include a collection of Humphrey Lyttelton's work desk, instruments, scrapbooks and eight decades of private/public correspondence; Sir John Dankworth's first piano; trumpets owned by Louis Armstrong and Nat Gonella; and the saxophone and collections of tenorist Jimmy Skidmore. The Jazz Centre has also received major donations of previously unseen photographs, unpublished manuscripts and related memorabilia from a variety of donors including Alan Skidmore, Diana Lusher and John Bennett. Roger Horton, the former Director of the 100 Club, has donated a variety of significant artefacts from the club to decorate and authenticate the centre's performance space.

The Jazz Centre UK’s declared aims are to "preserve, promote and celebrate the culture of jazz in all its forms". It's served by a board of seven trustees who have signed a 10-year service level agreement with Southend Borough Council to develop the project. A full-time fundraiser has been hired to raise monies for the centre: the fundraising includes an application to Arts Council England for their low-capital grant of £500,000, which was greeted by Arts Council England's chief executive, Darren Henley, as "a fantastic idea".

The Jazz Centre UK’s priorities include professional performance, educational outreach programmes for young and old, workshops, film festivals, co-operation with national and international jazz institutions and arts organisations and related projects covering all relevant artistic genres. It's planned that during 2017 additional monies for the centre will be raised by fundraising performances from Sir Michael Parkinson, Sir Van Morrison and Chas and Dave.

Digby Fairweather says: "This project has been a long time coming and my trustees and I feel that the final establishment of a flagship centre for jazz music in Britain is long overdue and will do much to dignify the music".

Fairweather adds: " trustees and I agree that – though ideally such a centre should be located in London – Southend is less than an hour away with two excellent rail services and a newly flourishing airport. Nonetheless we recognise that geographic location is an inbuilt barrier to any such institution’s use. So over the next year, via our website (to be launched in December 2016) we will prioritise digitization of all our collections so that they can be viewed by everybody on line. And our hopes are that such a visible online presence will encourage more and more visitors to our centre in years to come".

Bruce Lindsay

Your Comments:

Posted by Gerry Rogers, 11 January 2017, 12:48 (1 of 1)

Many congratulations 'Dig', as my fellow Southender-brother Brian fondly remembered you. He would have been very proud of your achievements but sadly died in 1984. Nonetheless he left a deep legacy of jazz, not least in me as his kid brother. I look forward to visiting the centre and once played an Eb chord behind you for a loong time in a little gig at Southend's Park Tavern, sometime in the early 70s! Best wishes, Gerry Rogers
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