Review: 25 Years Of The LJF

A new, freely downloadable book on the history of the London Jazz Festival mixes insights, controversies and plenty of photographic evidence

No sooner has the 2017 London Jazz Festival ended than a history of the festival's first quarter of a century arrives in print. Music From Out There, In Here: 25 Years Of The London Jazz Festival, to give the book its full (and slightly unwieldy) title, is one of the outputs of The Impact Of Festivals, an Arts and Humanities Research Council project led by Professor George McKay of the University of East Anglia.

The prospect of an AHRC project report may send shivers down the spine, but fear not: McKay and his co-author Emma Webster have produced an eminently readable book, its 100 or so pages filled with excellent photographs, amusing and fascinating tales and intriguing insights into the genesis, growth and popularity of this major jazz festival.

Webster and McKay (the latter a jazz fan and bassist as well as an academic) start the story way back in the early years of jazz, before the Original Dixieland Jazz Band arrived in the UK. They go on to discuss the first post-war festivals - including Nice and Beaulieu - and take in Bracknell, Camden and others along the way.

The LJF gets the bulk of the book's attention. There's a foreword from festival director John Cumming and comments from key individuals such as Fiona Talkington and the 606 club's Steve Rubie. There are also numerous contributions from jazz artists who have played the festival, including John Etheridge, Andy Sheppard, Camilla George and Wayne Shorter. The book takes a positive look at the festival, but doesn't shy away from discussing issues of concern, for example around funding and programme repetition.

Music From Out There, In Here is published by the University of East Anglia. It's available on line and is downloadable free of charge as a PDF from the Impact Of Festivals webpage.

Bruce Lindsay

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