Birmingham - A new global centre of contemporary jazz

UNIVERSITY NEWS LAST UPDATED : 30 APRIL
Soweto Kinch news

On UNESCO International Jazz Day (Tuesday 30 April), Royal Birmingham Conservatoire is pleased to announce that acclaimed musician and broadcaster Soweto Kinch is to join its Jazz Studies team as a Visiting Tutor.

The award-winning saxophonist and MC, who has strong connections with Birmingham, brings close to two decades of experience in international touring, recording, composition and radio work to the course, beginning with a public performance alongside two bands drawn from the school at the Conservatoire’s Eastside Jazz Club on Thursday 30 May.

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The announcement of Soweto Kinch’s appointment is the latest in a series of academic and industry developments that are helping to establish Birmingham as a new centre of the UK’s contemporary jazz scene, as well as contributing to the genre globally. A considerable community of jazz musicians, academics and industry professionals are now embedded at the state-of-the-art facilities at Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and within the leading Jazz Research Cluster at Birmingham School of Media to collaborate and innovate internationally.

The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire’s Jazz Studies course, led by Jeremy Price, has a student community of around 80 students at any one time and has produced a number of notable alumni over the years including Percy Pursglove, Mark Hanslip, Alcyona Mick, Alex Woods, Tom Syson and Tim Thornton. The core department team consists of Andrew Bain, John OGallagher and Percy Pursglove with many international names in jazz also on the Visiting Tutor team including Jean Toussaint, Liam Noble, John Turville, Mark Hodgson and Clark Tracey. 

“The opportunities and resource of talent we have here is truly exceptional. When you couple that with the international jazz venue that is Eastside Jazz Club, the whole package becomes an indisputably world class proposition. On International Jazz Day it’s well worth noting that in this academic year alone we have sent students and staff to Siena Jazz, European Jazz Lab with Hamburg Hochschule and the Elb Jazz Festival, Thai International Jazz Conference in Bangkok, the jazz composition and arranging conference in Denver Colorado, Bogata Colombia exchange, Paris Conservatoire collaboration at Cheltenham Jazz Festival and a big band project with Milan Conservatorio."- Jeremy Price, Head of Jazz Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

A significant number of international projects are being delivered by jazz researchers across Birmingham City University’s Faculty of Arts Design and Media including the development of a ground-breaking app exploring the experience of jazz festivals in online environments and the use of digital technologies in the planning and management of music festivals. The technology is being researched by Professor Nicholas Gebhardt and Dr Craig Hamilton and tested in partnership with Cheltenham Jazz Festival with the latest version in use at the 2019 edition which starts this week.

The annual music festival is also a project partner for an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) research project led by Dr Sarah Raine. This project will explore the experience of women jazz musicians active in the UK as a means to support Cheltenham Jazz Festival in their Keychange (PRS Foundation) pledge for a 50/50 gender balanced programme by 2022.

"As a major international music event, Cheltenham Jazz Festival has an important role to play in developing artistic and research-led relationships with key institutions. We have a strong focus on talent development and offering unique content to our audience, and our partnership with staff and students from schools across Birmingham City University, in particular Royal Birmingham Conservatoire and Birmingham School of Media, enriches the programme and develops artists through an exchange project, jam sessions, free stage gigs, the festival app and research around career progression for women jazz artists. This can only come about due to the depth and breadth of jazz talent in the city of Birmingham." – Emily Jones, Head of Programming Cheltenham Jazz Festival

The Birmingham City University Jazz Research Cluster is also home to several major international publications, has an excellent track record of being awarded external funding and provides committee members and regular participants for the Rhythm Changes conference, now the largest gathering of jazz scholars globally.

Parkside, the University’s important new arts, design and media facility is now home to an archive of written, printed and visual materials on jazz, blues and related music, from the 1920s to the present day. The substantial British Institute of Jazz Studies collection also acts as a satellite of the National Jazz Archive, together with other jazz-related materials and collections held at the Parkside Building.

The materials at the ADM (Arts, Design and Media) Archives are accessible to the public by email appointment (ADM-Archives-Request@bcu.ac.uk) and are managed by Dr Pedro Cravinho – who also leads the pilot research project in partnership with professional jazz photographer Brian Homer, ‘Everyday Jazz Life: a photographic project on contemporary jazz musician’s lives in Birmingham’.

Alongside Birmingham City University’s jazz studies, research and performance output, lies a flourishing jazz scene. Venues including Town Hall & Symphony Hall, The Spotted Dog, midlands art centre, The Lamp Tavern, 1000 Trades, Hare & Hounds, The Jam House, PizzaExpress Live and the CBSO Centre regularly host performances by local, national and international artists and bands, promoted by organisations such as Jazzlines, Birmingham Jazz, Fizzle, Leftfoot and TDE Promotions. Record labels, collectives and festivals including Stoney Lane, BRC, Mostly Jazz, Funk & Soul, Surge Orchestra and Birmingham Jazz Festival continue to offer opportunities and employment for industry professionals, including in retail, production, programming, composition, touring and marketing.

Established by the General Conference of UNESCO in 2011 at the initiative of UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador Herbie Hancock, and recognized by the United Nations General Assembly, International Jazz Day brings together countries and communities worldwide every 30 April to celebrate the art of jazz, highlighting its important role in encouraging dialogue, combating discrimination and promoting human dignity.

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