Trumpets at the ready for the return of Derry's Jazz Festival

Anyone looking for the perfect way to start to summer should look no further than Derry, where the programme was unveiled today for the biggest Jazz celebration in the country – the City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival.

Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor Sandra Duffy, announced the official countdown to the event, which takes place on the first May Bank Holiday weekend, April 27 – May 1, drawing tens of thousands of music fans to the city each year.

This is the 22nd iteration of the Festival which has grown year on year to become the biggest and best Jazz showcase in Ireland, making it the favourite stop off for hundreds of musicians on the jazz circuit. Artists travel from around the world to take part, many making it an annual pilgrimage and building a huge local fanbase who turn out each year to see their favourites.

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Over 70,000 people are expected to attend this year’s event, to sample a fabulous array of homegrown and international talent, bringing bluegrass, swing, rock and of course that trademark jazz to over 65 venues. Among the popular acts set to return to the festival this year are Mission Impossible, Luke Thomas & The Swing Cats, The Jiveoholics, the Red Stripe Band and many more favourites.

The Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor Sandra Duffy, Andrea Campbell, Events co-ordinator, Derry City and Strabane Council and Martin Venning, Key Account Executive, Diageo pictured at the launch of the City of Derry Jazz Festival 2023.The Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor Sandra Duffy, Andrea Campbell, Events co-ordinator, Derry City and Strabane Council and Martin Venning, Key Account Executive, Diageo pictured at the launch of the City of Derry Jazz Festival 2023.
The Mayor of Derry and Strabane, Councillor Sandra Duffy, Andrea Campbell, Events co-ordinator, Derry City and Strabane Council and Martin Venning, Key Account Executive, Diageo pictured at the launch of the City of Derry Jazz Festival 2023.

Launching the Jazz Festival today, Mayor of Derry, Cllr Sandra Duffy, said she couldn’t wait to see the streets swinging once again. “I am thrilled today to launch the City of Derry Jazz Festival programme,” she declared. “I know local people will be dying to get their hands on it to start planning their jazz trail. The Jazz Festival weekend is such an experience, with music literally everywhere across the city. It’s a wonderful talent showcase, and a real platform for up and coming new talent from our schools and colleges, as well as established artists, to connect with new audiences.

“What makes the Jazz Festival really special is that the majority of the performances are free, which makes music accessible to everyone, particularly during these difficult times. And with events on throughout the day in hotels, restaurants, bars and even out on the streets – people of all ages can be part of the experience. I just can’t wait to see the first visitors arrive.”

The Mayor will host a number of events throughout the Festival in aid of her chosen charity, First Housing Aid and Support Services, including the opening night Local Legends of Jazz event in the Guildhall on Thursday April 27, as well as a special afternoon celebration with the Jive Aces on Friday April 28. Ceili fans will also be delighted to see a dedicated Ceili and two-hand event led by acclaimed accordion player Martin Duggan, also taking place in the Guildhall.

To ensure the jazz legacy will continue for many generations to come here in the city, over 2000 children across Derry and Strabane will get a fun and funky taster of the festival and learn more about jazz music through the Live Music Now’s schools programme, which will see a number of workshops taking place in the build up to the event, led by some top musicians and performers.

Jazz purists will flock to the local Jazz Hubs in Bennigan’s Bar, The Playhouse and The Great Hall, Magee to hear from renowned artists such as Phil Robson, Hannes Riepler, Meilana Gillard, Paul McIntyre, Michael Barkley and Gene Calderazzo, all bringing the authentic Jazz experience to the city.

Outdoor highlights this year include the talent showcase on the Gay McIntyre stage in the Guildhall Square, as well as live music in the Craft Village. There will also be fabulous al fresco performances from Jazz Festival regulars the Jaydee, Boom Strutt, Hyde Park and Back Chat Brass Bands, as well as the DLD Second Line Prade, to look forward to.

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The City of Derry Jazz Festival is led by Derry City and Strabane District Council with support from Diageo and Tourism Northern Ireland.

Head of Culture with Derry City and Strabane District Council, Aeidin McCarter, said: “The Jazz Festival is always a firm favourite and we are expecting a brilliant turn out this year. It’s a fantastic draw for visitors who get to see Derry at its very best, and I know local businesses will be looking forward to a bumper weekend with so many people out and about.

“I would advise anyone planning a visit to book now as accommodation is like gold dust, it’s really going to be a spectacular weekend and the perfect way to kick off summer.”

Looking ahead to the event, Martin Venning, Diageo Northern Ireland, added; “We are delighted that Guinness is back once again to sponsor the City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival 2023. Live music plays a key role in Northern Ireland’s tourism and hospitality attractiveness and we are thrilled to be part of this fantastic event.”

Check out the full listing of events and plan the ultimate Jazz Festival experience cityofderryjazzfestival.com.