Jazz on BBC TV: 1960-1969

Investigating the television recording and broadcast of jazz, to establish the connection between jazz and media as an important area of academic enquiry (among others).

Jazz on TV


Research background

This project was funded as part of the AHRC ECR Research Leadership Fellowship Scheme. This award has generated the most complete study of jazz on BBC television in the 1960s. It has also offered new methods for understanding how music television is made on the studio floor, moving away from the archival and towards the experiential through the process of recreating a 1960s production.

Research aims

This project was interdisciplinary, bringing together television studies and jazz studies, and brought leadership to the theoretical understanding of television practice. Core project aims were to investigate the television recording and broadcast of jazz, to establish the connection between jazz and media as an important area of academic enquiry, to consolidate my career as a researcher and develop my personal leadership skills, to exchange insights with other academics, practitioners and industry workers, and to produce a detailed historical and aesthetic analysis of a specific cultural practice.

How has the research been carried out?

Pillai's archival research has shown (a) that jazz featured in a range of programming across genres previously unrecognised by jazz historians, and (b) that the BBC's holdings of jazz programming are more complete than previously imagined. He is currently developing follow-on work with BBC History and Archives to disseminate this information to the widest audience.   

A new oral history archive has been created, recording the memories of those involved in the production of 1960s jazz programming, those who played on them and those who sat in the audience for the recordings. In some cases, these are the only documents to describe lost programming. this will be made available to the public initially through BCU's new ADM Archive, a satellite of the National Jazz Archive.   

Most importantly, new programming has been created: Jazz 1080 on Youtube which currently has more than 4k views; and Jazz 625 Live on BBC4 which reached approximately 196k viewers and won Best Music Programme at the Broadcast Awards 2020. It is expected that the award research will influence future programming planned at BBC4.

Intended outcomes

As a leadership award, this project has established Pillai as a research leader. As well as considerable media exposure, during the award period Pillai was appointed editor of Jazz Research Journal and invited to deliver two keynote lectures at academic conferences.

Publications have been numerous, through academic and non-academic routes and strong pathways to impact have been developed for future engagement and collaboration. Within jazz studies, the field of jazz and television has been invigorated by the award, as evidenced by the wave of new scholars who contributed to the Jazz Research Journal special issue.

In professional television circles, the research has also a significant impact, providing the basis for an award-winning BBC4 programme and for future planned broadcasts.

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