The show will go on

Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival director Jim Simpson has something to say on the festival’s future.

I can categorically say that the 40th Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival will take place as planned from July 19th-28th this year.

It’s true that the City Council are unable to support this most important, ever-inclusive, always diverse event this year, but that is not going to stop us delivering a festival that the jazz and blues audience from Birmingham and the West Midlands, from throughout the rest of the UK and beyond have come to expect.

I have to say that it has been a long time since this most important arts, culture – and entertainment – event has been properly funded. For instance, last year the festival received only £15,000 from Birmingham City Council – this is for a festival presenting 182 performances, importantly, no, crucially, 176 of them free admission, in 98 venues playing to an audience of 75,188 people of all ages and backgrounds – 85% of which said that they planned to return this year – please see attached the 2023 Festival Overview.

The festival venues are wider and more accessible than those used by any other similar event in the area and include parks, libraries, hotels, restaurants, cafes, bars, shopping centres, streets, squares, museums, art galleries, gardens, clubs, stores, arts centres, opticians, apartment blocks, offices, trains, trams and buses and historic buildings.

The Birmingham Jazz & Blues Festival is also fortunate in that it has long-term funders in Sandwell M.B.C., Westside BID and the Musician’s Union as well as generous support-in-kind from a host of local companies including Hampton-By-Hilton Hotel, Fair Deal Music, Cross Country Trains, Chamber of Commerce, Genesis Radio and many more, including Acción Cultural Española who cover the costs of bringing leading Spanish bands to our festival.

In 2023 the festival featured 382 musicians in 62 bands, and this year those bands will include those from France, Spain, Italy, U.S.A, Estonia, Norway and Singapore.

Back in 2016, the Regional Observatory of Marketing Birmingham (now West Midlands Growth Company) stated that the “total economic impact for the festival can be estimated at £6.2 million”. It must be remembered that a.) the festival is much bigger today than it was in 2016 and b.) everything costs a lot more these days, therefore an accurate figure for today will be far greater.

Let’s be practical about the financial position and my confidence in our ability to stage another amazing year of this festival. It’s not the first time the festival has been underfunded and the solution has always been straightforward. I transfer my personal savings into the festival bank account, and back that up with an increase in the festival overdraft – which has already been agreed, just waiting to be triggered if and when the necessity arises.

If anyone would like to support the 40th consecutive year of this largely free festival, they can head over to our GoFundMe page and donate and/or share to their friends, family and colleagues.

Let’s do all we can to keep Hot Jazz and Cool Blues alive and well!