Derry music legend Gay McIntyre is honoured ahead of 2022 Jazz Festival

The City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival have announced a number of different elements to recognise the global contribution of legendary local Jazz musician Gay McIntyre during next year’s event.

Planning for the 21st City of Derry Jazz & Big Band Festival was given the green light by members of Derry City and Strabane Business and Culture Committee.

The 2022 event, which will follow the same format as the last event pre-pandemic in 2019, will receive an allocation of £120,000 with a subvention budget of £15,000 to allow officers to secure headline acts.

The event, described as ‘one of the best weekends of the year in this city, right up there with St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween and Christmas, has already confirmed Imelda May, a globally revered Irish artist, as a headline act to appear in the Millennium Forum on May 2,2022.

Pictured at the 2019 City of Derry Jazz & Big Band Festival at the Guildhall were legends Johnny Quigley and Gay McIntyre (right). (Photo: JIm McCafferty Photography)


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The opening event of the Festival will take place on Thursday, April 18, 2022. The event will be known as will be known as ‘Gay McIntye and Local Legends of Jazz’ in tribute to Gay McIntyre and mark his contribution to jazz music.

After meeting with Gay and his family, the City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival also announced plans to name the outdoor stage in Guildhall Square the Gay McIntyre Stage.

Cross Community School Woodwind and Brass Master Classes hosted by the Heavy Beat Brass Band in previous years will now be known as ‘The Gay McIntyre Woodwind and Brass Master Class Series’ focusing on saxophone skills and skills on other woodwind and brass instruments.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Alderman Graham Warke, visited Mr McIntyre at his home to confirm the announcement where he welcomed the new initiative.


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Gay McIntyre.

“Gay McIntyre is a jazz music phenomenon and has enjoyed a world renowned career performing as a saxophonist and clarinettist for more than 75 years,” he said. “His career is all the more extraordinary given that he grew up in the city at a time when jazz music was an exception.

“He was at the centre of the growth of the local jazz scene which has reached new levels over the last two decades through the festival which he was instrumental in establishing, so it is right and fitting that we honour and celebrate his contribution to the genre. He is a name that is known all over the world but his home town is where his heart is so the recognition means a lot to him and I hope it will inspire the next generation o musicians from the city to follow in his footsteps for years to come.”

The City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival is a core event in the council’s annual events calendar and over the last 20 years it has hosted a combination of local and internationally acclaimed artists ensuring that the festival maintains its reputation as one of the most established and influential music events on the island of Ireland. 


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Planned events for 2022 will include a Schools Education Programme; Jazz Hubs at The Playhouse/Bennigans Bar and The Great Hall Magee University; outdoor music stages situated in Guildhall Square and the Craft Village; Local Jazz Legends Festival opening Event in Guildhall; DLD Second Line Parade; Jazz Master Classes hosted in various locations during the festival; Music Trail hosted in over 75 venues; Jazz Dance Classes; National Youth Jazz Orchestra performance in Guildhall and Master Classes 2022.

Pictured several years back at the opening of the Showbands of the North West exhibition in The Garden of Reflection were, from left, George Hasson, Gay McIntyre, Frankie Robinson, Phil Coulter and Johnny Quigley. DER1018-137KM

Sperrin Councillor Raymond Barr said: “I am delighted to see the Jazz Festival returning hopefully in all its former glory.  £120,000 is a huge slice of the rates pot but considering the revenue the festival generates in the city it’s money well spent.”

Describing the festival as ‘a key event in our cultural calendar’, SDLP Councillor Rory Farrell added: “It’s good to see the plans are in place to return to a pre-pandemic format after two years of a largely online platform.


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“It is one of the best weekends of the year in this city and it’s right up there with St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween and Christmas in terms of buzz and excitement around the city. It’s great to see my neighbour of 30 years and a jazz legend, Gay McIntyre, is going to be honoured with a stage in his name in Guildhall Square. I can’t forget that Imelda May is going to be here in the Forum so it’s all very positive and exciting news.”

UUP Alderman Derek Hussey congratulated the team on beginning to put together an exciting and interesting programme before Sinn Fein Councillor Patricia Logue proposed bursaries to young local jazz artists were awarded in 2022 and going forward in the same manner as they were this year. that were awarded in 2021 are also awarded in 2022. 

PBP Councillor Shaun Harkin welcomed the return of ‘a comprehensive Jazz Festival’. 

“It has been badly missed and great work by everyone helping to pull it together,” he said. “I’ve been speaking to the family of Gay McIntyre over the recent weeks and they are delighted to see Gay recognised in various ways through the programme and given Gay’s massive contribution to jazz and helping to initiate the festival here in Derry and our District, it is still their hope it could be renamed the Gay McIntyre Jazz Festival and I think they have made that clear to council officers and other councillors.


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Stephen Gillespie, Director of Business and Culture confirmed that council officers have been ‘working with the family to ensure Gay McIntyre is  formally noted and given the prominence’.

Gillian Anderson

Local Democracy Reporter