Festival 2019 Review

Festival celebrates its 10th birthday in growing hot spot for arts and culture

By Matt Evans

WHEN it comes to lifestyle, the Ribble Valley appears to be attracting ever-increasing coverage in national publications.

If it’s not the winding rivers and the wealth of walking and cycling trails across the borough, then it’s the food, drink and bolthole-friendly attractiveness of its picturesque country villages.

This tourism appeal is being increasingly embellished by a growing calendar of arts and culture events in a beautiful pocket of Lancashire that is fast challenging its own ‘best-kept-secret’ tag.

Culture vultures who might normally need to take the 90-minute train journey to Manchester or Leeds to enjoy a decent concert are now experiencing artistic interventions on their doorstep.  These are springing up in the Forest of Bowland, the farm fields of Sawley or in one of the excellent choice of venues in the market town of Clitheroe. 

The Ribble Valley International Jazz Festival – which took place across the May Day Bank Holiday weekend – basks in all of the qualities that the location can offer.  It celebrated its 10th birthday this year, welcoming record audiences to the market town of Clitheroe and visitors to a number of events at venues in the surrounding villages.

The festival took place over five days and nights with more than 60 gigs, music workshops and talks that featured a variety of headline music stars from across the spectrum of jazz and blues music.

If this wasn’t enough, it was also preceded by a ‘Women in Jazz’ workshop session, aimed at empowering female musicians to improvise and create music and encourage dialogue in this semi-rural setting.

The 250-seat auditorium at The Grand was also a hub of diversity throughout the festival programme, hosting European hot property including Norwegian saxophonist Marius Neset and emerging world music virtuosic xylophonist player Moussa Dembele, from Burkina Faso.

Fielding these international quality bands ensured a diverse audience from Lancashire as well as travellers from as far away as Germany. It also gave more locally rooted music fans the chance to experience exciting performances not commonly found in a non-urban area.

One of the great qualities of the Ribble Valley Jazz Festival is to take a cohesive community approach which contrasts well to more highbrow tastes. A lively free-to-attend “fringe” event attracted revellers into the streets with a street festival on Saturday. This featured community bands, party bands, barber shop quartets, Astrid, a 9-year-old jazz singer from Liverpool, and a delightful school choir from Elms Bank special education School.  

Throughout the weekend, there was a blues-heavy programme at The Rose and Crown, highlighted by veteran Jacky Bond while Victor Brox brought his well-oiled group to the upstairs of the beautifully restored Holmes Mill.

Encouraging participation is a key component of the Festival’s enduring legacy.  Top UK jazz singers Liane Carrol and Claire Martin not only performed a mesmerising duo concert at The Grand, but they hung around to present an intimate singing workshop for 12 singers on the following day.  Preston-based improvisation group Cold Bath Street also delivered a music workshop for musicians of all ages, before inviting them onto the stage of the Old School Room to play live in front of a packed audience.

Young Ribble Valley musicians also starred, with members of the highly regarded Clitheroe Royal Grammar School Swing Band having the opportunity to work with professional jazz outfit Bonsai, who wrote a specially commissioned piece to tie in with the Festival’s 10th birthday edition.

The Monday bank holiday afternoon finale was conducted by P J Rigby’s Northern Jazz Orchestra at The Grand. A spectacular big band performance with an introduction by Stanza Poets from Clitheroe who were commissioned to pen their thoughts on jazz and its history.

“It has been another hugely successful festival, promoting cultural diversity, community cohesion and a brilliant range of music,” said Festival Director Geoff Jackson. “The festival could not happen without the tremendous support we receive from volunteers, venues, the borough and town council, and of course, the audiences."

“We are also very appreciative to Arts Council England, who supported us financially to deliver the festival.”

“The culture of Music and Arts in the Ribble Valley is growing and making a big contribution, both to the tourism economy and the cultural ecology of the area.”

Matt Evans, The Grand Theatre, Clitheroe.
For further information please go to:
rvjazzfestival.co.uk or visit our Facebook site, @RVJazzEventsFestivals
Photos by: @evakahanphotography - please click here to go to our Facebook site to view all of Eva's fabulous photos!

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