JAZZ NEWS

THE FUTURE OF UPTON JAZZ FESTIVAL

 

 The future of Upton Jazz Festival is in doubt.

Dwindling volunteer numbers and rising costs means the future of the festival, which was first staged in 1986, is uncertain.

For 34 years, international jazz stars have flocked to the riverside town of Upton-upon-Severn to entertain tens of thousands of music fans over the last weekend in June.

It has appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain and Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch, and, through its Best of Young Jazz programme has supported thousands of young jazz musicians and helped launch successful careers.

But now, following the loss of long-time festival stalwart Paul Lawrence and the retirement of some committee members, the Council of Management is considering whether or not this year’s four-day jazz festival was the last.

“After 34 great years of the Upton Jazz Festival, questions are being asked about its future,” said a spokesman for the Council of Management.

“They are similar questions to those being asked of other UK jazz events, which have enjoyed mixed fortunes in recent years.

“We are currently weighing up some very positive feedback from the 2019 festival - attendance was up on 2018 and, musically, it was incredibly successful. The Fringe festival, in particular, attracted significant crowds.

“But costs are rising. Setting up marquees and staging and managing the diverse and quirky venues, for which Upton is justifiably renowned, is expensive.

“We now have to pay people to carry out vital jobs once done by volunteers. And our reserves will not withstand a drop in audience figures, which could easily result from bad weather in 2020.

“Our Best of Young Jazz team is standing down after 10 brilliant years. And to continue successfully, we need to recruit both a treasurer and a chairman.”

In recent years, a lively Fringe Festival has sprung up along the riverside, raising money for Worcestershire mental health charity The Nathan Tomkins Trust.

And a New Orleans-style parade through the town, gospel-style church service and riverboat shuffles aboard the MV Conway Castle have drawn the crowds.

The Council now believes the future of the festival hangs on three key elements.

They are calling on venues in the town to be willing to contribute to band costs; need additional sources of funding including grants and sponsorship and are asking for new faces to come forward to take on key, voluntary Council roles.

“We would love to hear from anyone who is willing to offer support, but we need to hear from them soon,” said the spokesman.

“A final decision about the future and the shape and size of any subsequent festival will be taken in mid-October.