City of Derry Jazz & Big Band Festival name change examined

These youngsters clap along to the Jive Aces when they opened the City of Derry Jazz Festival at St. Patrick's Primary School earlier this year. DER1717-117KM
These youngsters clap along to the Jive Aces when they opened the City of Derry Jazz Festival at St. Patrick's Primary School earlier this year. DER1717-117KM

The name of City & Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival may be changed ahead of the 17th annual festival in 2018, Council officers have said.

The Council is now set to explore dropping the ‘big band’ element of the current festival title and changing the overall name of the festival to City of Derry Jazz & Music Festival.

Singer Imelda May performs at City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival
(Photo Lorcan Doherty Photography)

Singer Imelda May performs at City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival (Photo Lorcan Doherty Photography)

However UUP Councillor Derek Hussey has expressed concerns over the move, saying that ‘big bands’ were still extremely popular across the north west region.

Derry & Strabane Council’s Business & Culture Committee this week approved funding of £50,000 to contract a headline performer for the festival, alongside a subvention budget of £20,000 to “allow us to secure our headline acts in conjunction with venues”. A further £3,000 was approved to develop a new Showbands Exhibition, which will run at the Tower Museum from February up to the start of the festival.

A Council officer told the Committee that the festival was a “huge showcase” for the city. She said that feedback from venues, artists and audiences “would suggest that people refer to the festival as’ The Jazz Festival’ rather than ‘Jazz & Big Band Festival’. Taking this into consideration, as well as the fact that the festival now promotes a range of music genres, it is suggested that the festival be renamed as the ‘City of Derry Jazz & Music Festival’.”

She added that the 2017 festival was the most successful to date, with over 60,000 visitors, 4,000 schoolchildren and 50 venues taking part, while hotel occupancy levels peaked at 98% on the Saturday.

Sinn Fein Councillor Paul Fleming spoke of the sheer volume of work the Council had undertaken to ensure the festival has become a huge success, and proposed the Council endorse the recommendations, which included looking at the festival becoming more self-sustaining financially in future. He said the exhibition on showbands “will have a big catchment area and a lot of interest”.

SDLP Colr. Martin Reilly said the hugely successful 2017 headline act Imelda May showed how vital it was to get it right. “When the right acts or musicians are on offer people do come and support the festival. We need to bear that in mind for next year’s festival,” he said.

Colr. Reilly and DUP Colr. David Ramsey thanked Council officers for their hard work in promoting the festival.

UUP Colr. Hussey said it would be “lax” to lose ‘big band’ from the festival name. “The big band movement is particularly active in the locality and wider area, spilling into Donegal,” he said.