5th October 2019 Leytonstone Ballroom, Leytonstone, East London

Mark Kass – CEO – London East Jazz Network & Jazz East Festival Director writes…

“Blimey, that was hard work!”

Those were the words (or in a similar, unprintable veign) I heard myself say as I lay in bed in the early hours of Sunday morning! Turning your passion into a product clearly ain’t as simple as it seems ………and the production of a Jazz Festival is absolute proof of that !

Saturday 5th October saw the culmination of two years R&D, planning, schmoozing, gig-hopping and head-scratching as I launched the first ever Jazz East – East London’s Jazz Festival. A mix of free-stage community jazz and premium ticketed live jazz in a very cool venue in the outer reaches of East London, I think I pulled off  this one-day, indoor showcase as Jazz East met all the objectives I’d set well in advance (although the 12 berth yacht with heli-pad in Monaco may just have to wait a couple more years).

Planning the music and dealing with the bands was the easy bit. The support from new and experienced bands and artists was incredible with advice, warnings and hints and tips in abundance so a big thanks to all 58 of them (in 13 bands!) making my life less stressful. We had phenomenal performances from Scotland leading collective Fat Suit, Rob Luft, Xhosa Cole & Jay Phelps, the awe-inspiring Tomorrow’s Warriors Female Frontline, uber-busy Wild Card,  Dee Byrne’s exciting new Jazz Saxtronica solo electronic sax project and local young guns, The Sonus Jazz Quartet performing only their 5th gig ever and their first ever jazz fest!

Avoiding public funding – although tempted to apply- made it a scary, risky venture but the adrenaline that pumps through you ensures focus and attention to detail as you make every penny of your own and your sponsors money count…and we broke even!  Hosting Jazz East in Waltham Forest, the London Borough of Culture was interesting to say the least. Despite earlier promises, no funding and very little marketing support came our way but the ability to use their logo was a big plus as it attracted new local and enthusiastic audiences, young and old.

Locally resident bands fronted by Maria Rehakova, Olli Martin, Lara Eidi, Ritter + Ambuehl and Sam Knight enticed baffled but later, enthralled local neighbourhood audiences that included babies, dogs and a white ferret called Colin (yep, we always knew jazz attracted interesting audiences) on our community free stage and this really helped drive ticket sales for the other 8 gigs upstrairs in the Ballroom.

Working with the venue did indeed have its moments and I learned very early that you’re on yer own once the room is booked! And relying principally on social media to sell tickets is mind-blowingly-stomach-churningly the most nerve racking way to sell event attendance! What happened to planning your going-out well in advance?? The bulk of our sales came through in the last three days and from on-the-door sales which is enough stress in 72 hours than any one person can deal with

With live music from midday to midnight, we expected some rather barren audience numbers but so many turned up at midday with thermos flasks, tupperware boxes and copious snack-filled bags and stayed right through to the bitter end. We had the obligatory local audience but with so many folk travelling from across London, the Home Counties and East ANglia, (and one couple form Martinique in the Caribbean!). Despite the picnics, the Venue had to close down the restaurant early as they couldn’t cope with the demand and the KFC Franchisee next doo reaped the rewards of our success too!

All-in-all, an amazing experience, a full on mix of stress, fun, fear and excitiment. It great to have something on your bucket list fulfilled; you can normally strike it off and move on.Not this one. Would I do it all again?……just try stopping me!