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Keswick Jazz Festival celebrates 25 year milestone

Grand Parade at Keswick Jazz Festival
Grand Parade at Keswick Jazz Festival

[T]he Jennings Keswick Jazz Festival celebrates its silver jubilee in 2016 with a four-day jazz extravaganza featuring some of the very best UK and international jazz musicians. Since 1992, the festival has been filling the town with jazz music for one long weekend in May and built their reputation as an unmissable event in the calendar for lovers of traditional, New Orleans, swing, hot-club and mainstream jazz.

Started by Allerdale Borough Council 25 years ago, the Jazz Festival has taken on a variety of different guises over the years, responding to changing circumstances, whilst retaining performances of top quality traditional jazz at its core. Each year has seen different venues in and around the town hosting festival events, with events centring around Theatre by the Lake following its opening in 1999. Thirteen years ago, the Festival evolved again when the theatre’s management took on responsibility for managing the event.

For 23 of its 25 years, the Festival was programmed by renowned Jazz event organiser, John Minnion, who will be sharing his favourite stories and memories in a talk in the Studio at Theatre by the Lake at 10am on Saturday 14 May. He’ll be joined in his reminiscences by fellow Jazz Festival stalwart, John Meehan, whose Savannah Jazz Band has delighted Keswick audiences every year since the event began.

In 2014 Minnion handed over the reins to fellow musician and jazz enthusiast, Graham Hughes. To mark this year’s milestone, Hughes has put together a programme which appropriately celebrates the best of Jazz music past while showcasing some exciting talents destined for big futures.

Hughes said, “This 25th festival line-up is the most exciting ever. As well as many of the festival favourites there are many new faces of all ages, from near and far; exciting young musicians, seasoned professionals and international stars, all sharing the same stages. There will be more women performing this year than ever before, a refreshing variety of styles of bands, and a number of interesting new musical combinations formed especially for the festival.”

This year’s festival runs from Thu 12 to Sun 15 May, with 90 events taking place across 12 ‘Stroller’ venues, including the Skiddaw Hotel, the Keswick Conservative Club, the Masonic Hall, Southey Street Methodist Church and a specially erected marquee on Crow Park. Four-day, three-day and one-day ‘Stroller’ passes giving entry to these venues are available from Theatre by the Lake’s Box Office, with prices ranging from £120 to £30.

There are also a number of free events adding to the jubilee atmosphere. The now legendary ‘Grand Parade’, which sees a band of top-flight musicians lead a train of dancing followers from the Market Square to Derwentwater foreshore, gets underway at 10am on the Sat 14 May with everyone welcome to join in the celebratory spirit.

Festival Sponsors Jennings Brewery join the party for the free ‘Jazz on the Square’ event on Sunday, between 11.30am and 2pm on the Market Square, where visitors will have the opportunity to sample their range of Cumbrian ales while enjoying the sassy swing-era sounds of the Brownfield/Byrne Hot Six.

Jennings Brewery Manager Gaynor Green said, “Jennings is a long-standing sponsor of the festival and this May we are both proud and delighted to be supporting the celebratory silver anniversary event in Keswick. The festival has a wonderful atmosphere, and is all about meeting people, finding new friends and making discoveries, an ethos that Jennings also shares.”

Theatre by the Lake is also holding four extra days of special jazz concerts prior to the festival, from Sun 8 to Wed 11 May. Performers include the Clare Teal Quartet, the Bohem Ragtime Jazz Band, the Pasadena Roof Orchestra, Keith Nichols and Dominic Pipkin, and Jeff Barnhart and Spats Langham. A limited number of tickets are still available for these concerts.

For details of all the musicians playing at the festival and pre-festival concerts this year and to book online, visit or call the Box Office on 017687 74411.

The long-term future of the Keswick Jazz Festival is yet to be determined following the announcement by Theatre by the Lake earlier this year that it will not be able to continue to manage the festival in its present form after the 2016 event. The theatre is seeking approaches from an experienced promoter or event manager to manage and lead the development of the festival. Theatre by the Lake is committed to presenting Jazz music events within its programme for 2017 with a series of concerts scheduled to take place in the theatre’s Main House and Studio between Thursday 11 – Sunday 14 May 2017.

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