Derry Jazz Festival 2024 dates set as Council agrees £120,000 funding

Dates for the 2024 City of Derry Jazz Festival have been confirmed.
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Next year’s festival will take place over the May Bank Holiday weekend, running from Thursday May 2 to Monday 6.

However concerns were raised during a meeting of Derry City & Strabane District Council’s Business and Culture Committee on Tuesday that ratepayers were still footing a large part of the overall bill for the festival.

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Sinn Féin Councillor Grace Uí Niallais said the Jazz Festival was ‘amazing every year, and gets better every year’, and welcomed the work being done to reduce the rates contribution and increase sponsorship, calling for this be done ‘as quickly as possible’.

The Jaydee Brass Band performs at the Richmond Centre Steps during Derry’s 2023 Jazz Festival Weekend.  Photo: George Sweeney.  DER2318GS – 12The Jaydee Brass Band performs at the Richmond Centre Steps during Derry’s 2023 Jazz Festival Weekend.  Photo: George Sweeney.  DER2318GS – 12
The Jaydee Brass Band performs at the Richmond Centre Steps during Derry’s 2023 Jazz Festival Weekend. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2318GS – 12

Colr. Uí Niallais asked was there a plan to reduce Council’s contribution and what was being done to attract more sponsorship. “This is going on now 20 years and we are the only Council at this level of sponsorship,” she said, and suggested Council meet with the organisers of the Cork Jazz Festival to see what they are doing in this regard.

Colr. Uí Niallais said that sponsorship from major sponsor Diageo in the north for the Derry festival is much less compared to that which the Cork Jazz Festival receives from Diageo in the south.

Aeidin McCarter, Head of Culture with Derry City and Strabane District Council, said Diageo was structured quite differently in Northern Ireland and the Republic, and that Diageo were hoping to increase their contribution for 2024 as part of a five-year plan with the aim to increase their contribution each year.

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More broadly, Aeidin McCarter said, Council officers were proactively speaking to different sponsors and were talking with Tourism NI about increasing backing and showcasing for all events.

The Jive Aces open the 2023 Jazz Festival with a performance in St St John’s Primary School. Photo: George Sweeney.  DER2317GS – 33The Jive Aces open the 2023 Jazz Festival with a performance in St St John’s Primary School. Photo: George Sweeney.  DER2317GS – 33
The Jive Aces open the 2023 Jazz Festival with a performance in St St John’s Primary School. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2317GS – 33

She added a note of caution that the process of engaging on sponsorship was labour intensive, and may ‘not be the cash cow’ it is sometimes viewed as.

There was a process in motion to try and arrange further meetings with Cork Jazz Festival organisers following a number of meet ups in the past, elected representatives were told.

Over 80,000 visitors participated in last year’s Derry Jazz Festival and the 2024 edition will include an educational programme with local schools, jazz hubs, al fresco jazz at the Craft Village and Guildhall Square, music workshops and Jazz master classes as well as dance classes and a local jazz legends event.

Aeidin McCarter said that key to the success of the festival, now in its 23rd year, was the role played by Council through its event co-ordination, marketing and subvention as well as the financial contribution from local venues in the local hospitality sector.

Jiving to music of the Jive Aces during the Jazz Festival.  Photo: George Sweeney.  DER2317GS – 147Jiving to music of the Jive Aces during the Jazz Festival.  Photo: George Sweeney.  DER2317GS – 147
Jiving to music of the Jive Aces during the Jazz Festival. Photo: George Sweeney. DER2317GS – 147

Members were advised that Council hopes to continue a gradual but transitional range of changes, which will ultimately see the Council playing a co-ordination and promotional role, whilst subventing the higher profile and travelling acts and delivering on the marketing.

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Engagement continues with local venues to gauge interest in the 2024 festival, with officers working with the Millennium Forum with regard to securing a headline act.

The Committee members agreed the £120,000 budget for the festival and agreed with the recommendation that venues be asked to contribute 80% towards artists’ fees while Council makes a contribution of 20%. Venues who programme new artists will be asked to contribute 75% with Council making a 25% financial contribution.

UUP Alderman Derek Hussey suggested that taster sessions and gigs in the run up to the festival be held in rural areas such as Donemana, Killter, Newtonstewart to drum up interest and connect the wider district to the festival, something which the Council said it will look into.

UUP Alderman Ryan McCready agreed with others on the hopes to increase external sponsorship and proposed the dates and funding levels be accepted.