Jazz festival goes down a treat despite Covid-enforced changes

A jazz festival held in the West Midlands over 10 days last month has been branded a success by the organisers – despite fears it would be cancelled.

Roy Forbes performing at the Botanical Gardens in Birmingham at the Birmingham and Sandwell Jazz Festival. Picture by Ash Kahn.
Roy Forbes performing at the Botanical Gardens in Birmingham at the Birmingham and Sandwell Jazz Festival. Picture by Ash Kahn.

The 36th annual Birmingham, Sandwell & Westside Jazz Festival was held from October 16-25, but saw a series of last-minute changes before it launched.

But, despite those changes, it saw 43 performances from 49 musicians attract full houses – reduced due to coronavirus – and viewers tuning in virtually as well.

The festival, which had been postponed from July, saw 24 alterations made to a printed guide at the last minute.

Bruce Adams Quartet, West Bromwich Library. Pic: Kev Maslin.

The changes included having to replace seven performances of The Jim Dandies, from Bassano del Grappa, when Italy was put on the quarantine list only two days before the festival.

And 24 hours later Tipitina, from Leyland, pulled out when Lancashire was placed in Tier 3 – but it didn't stop the festival from being a success.

Venues ranged from Birmingham's markets, when three bands played to the backdrop of a pop-up record fair, to bigger pubs, shopping centres, the Botanical Gardens and the unusual settings of Sandwell's West Bromwich and Wednesbury libraries, where multi-British Jazz Award winners Alan Barnes, Bruce Adams and Dave Newton played without audiences.

Backyard Music Boys at The Canal House. Pic by Jim Simpson.

Performances were filmed and streamed online and direct to festival venues with audiences, including The Brasshouse, The Bulls Head and four retirement homes.

A spokesman for the jazz festival said: "In actuality, the festival remained in danger of being forced to cancel right up until the 48 hours prior to the launch, and we feel it is a credit to the venues, musicians, sponsors and all concerned that we were able to deliver a milestone 36th year of this important Festival."

The festival will return next year from July 16 to July 25. To see the performances visit birminghamjazzfestival.com/streams

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