It can’t be that time of the year again. It seems like yesterday that we closed the festival last year in a caffeine fuelled haze and now here we are the day before the sixth Lancaster Jazz Festival already sleep deprived from too many early morning phone calls about bass amps and rehearsal spaces.
Normally at this point I’d say that this weekend is the biggest festival to date (but it isn’t), and I’d probably go through some highlights for the weekend in a festival preview kind of way. But I’d rather this blog wasn’t about trying to get bums of seats and more about the actual festival. We’ve been working all year with huge support from a massive team of volunteers and this is maybe a small glimpse of what we’ve been doing and why it’s going to be the busiest festival behind the scenes ever.
A growing festival on the same budget. As with all arts organisations funding has been very tight this year and we’ve had to work every penny in our budget super hard and have had to condense the festival. Producing a slightly smaller festival isn’t a bad thing though (I don't think - I suppose we’ll find out). Back in October we went back and we read all the reviews of last year, held meetings with our members, sought advise from other festivals, talked with our partners and funders and tried to work out what we do well. What makes Lancaster Jazz Festival what it is? How can we concentrate the festival to make it as good as it possibly can be on a super limited budget?
I’m really proud of what we’ve got planned. As well as programming the best stuff we could find and working with our venues even more to try and make our audience experiences even better, we decided to stick to our guns and decided not to do the obvious thing when facing potentially big budget cuts. We’d make sure, above all else, that we’d pay and treat our artists properly, with proper fees, food, accommodation, rehearsal space and whatever else they needed, and that if we couldn’t do that we’d pull the festival. We really believe that the way to make a great festival and a great experience for our audiences is to make sure that our artists are well looked after and feel free to be creative. Astonishing performances can then happen. When the huge group of artists came together eight years ago to make the first Not-the-Lancaster Jazz Festival that was the whole point. Making that commitment has been way harder than we thought but has led to some fantastic things:
And finally but most importantly, the reason we've been able to even survive... We’ve got the largest volunteer team we’ve ever assembled, a board and festival team that have worked seemingly flat out all year and more members than ever before. The commitment by a huge community of people to build an artists festival has been astonishing and just keeping up has been tricky. A years worth of work comes to a peak tomorrow and as ever I’m massively nervous about all of it but more so this year. So much care and love and work has gone into it and I’ve got to make sure I do my bit as well as everyone else has.
The sixth Lancaster Jazz Festival. An artists festival with a huge community behind it. Whatever happens I’m sure it’s going to be fantastic. See you here.
- Matt Robinson, artistic director