Holding a Mirror Up To Jazz: Panel discussion chaired by Paulette Long OBE

On the 19th and 20th November, The Jazz Promotion Network (JPN), the only UK and Ireland-wide network of jazz industry professionals hosted its annual conference.

The first day of the 2021 JPN Conference was hosted online and brought together promoters, venues, educators and musicians from across the UK and Ireland.

Europe Jazz Network’s president Wim Wabbes started things off with an informative keynote on how the jazz sector can make its work more sustainable. He explained how he used collective people power to turn around the demands of a multi-national corporate sponsor to save huge amounts of plastic waste and shared his European touring model which utilised train travel as a means to reduce carbon emissions. 

Wim also outlined the EJN (Europe Jazz Network) plans for a Green Touring pilot scheme, which will enlist venues and artists across Europe to take part.

Wim Wabbes & Outgoing JPN Chair Steve Mead

Delegates later dispersed for a series of breakout rooms led by industry experts Janine Irons of Tomorrow’s Warriors, Paula Kemp of the Social Mobility Commission and Rob Farhat of Serious, amongst others. The sessions covered topics such as post-Covid economic models, workforce development, socioeconomic diversity and partnership working across the UK and EU. 

Janine Irons in her session on jazz education reiterated how important inspirational role models are and why the jazz sector needs to create contexts that young people feel are right for them. She also spoke of Tomorrow’s Warriors commitment to running free workshops to limit barriers to participation and how establishing trust takes time but pays off in the long run.

Speaking on socioeconomic diversity, Paula Kemp summed up the issue with one of her opening remarks: “If we need to talk about inclusion then, obviously, exclusion is still a thing.”  

Meanwhile, Rebecca Walker from Music Venues Trust spoke of how audiences have returned to live venues quicker than anticipated and the sector has displayed remarkable resilience in the face of its biggest challenge to date. Although support from the Cultural Recovery Fund has been critical for grassroots venues, Rebecca stressed that more investment is needed to give audiences the confidence to come back to live music.

Saturday’s programme took place in-person at the Southbank Centre as part of the EFG London Jazz Festival with online delegates tuning via a Livestream. The day kicked off with a conversation between musician, composer and educator Orphy Robinson and journalist and author Kevin Le Gendre. 

Orphy Robinson’s conversation with journalist and author Kevin Le Gendre was as interesting as it was entertaining. Filled with captivating anecdotes about his life and work, Orphy offered his perspective on the current state of jazz in the UK and how the scene has changed since his career beginnings in the  1980s. Orphy was critical of streaming services and shared his experiences of making a living through multiple avenues in an ever-changing music industry. 

Orphy Robinson (right) in conversation with Kevin Le Gendre

Following Orphy’s keynote was a panel discussion titled ‘Holding A Mirror Up To Jazz’, chaired by music publishing expert and industry change-maker Paulette Long. Joining her on the panel was artist and The F-List trustee Estée Blu, Attitude Is Everything’s Natalie-South Law, co-founder of Parents & Carers in Performing Arts Cassie Raine and Mahaliah Edwards of Black Lives in Music. 

The hour-long discussion brought together the panellist’s personal experiences with their wider perspectives of inclusion in the music industry. It was a motivating and passionate conversation.

Left-right: Cassie Raine, Natalie South-Law, Estée Blu, Mahaliah Edwards, Paulette Long

In response to a question about how the sector can attract a more diverse cohort of talent, Paulette and her guests on the panel asked the audience to look at their existing networks for the answer. 

Paulette said: “If I looked at your LinkedIn profile, how many people of colour do you have in your network? How many people do you have in your phone books? How many women technicians do you have and how many universities and colleges are you in contact with to see who is coming through?”

“It’s not that the people aren’t there, it’s about access and what your network [is] like.”

The discussion posed many questions, none of them easy to answer, however the panel came with actionable strategies that all people working in the sector can employ to make their organisations more inclusive. The panel stressed that this means not only attracting gender minorities, deaf and disabled people, people of colour and parents and carers, but also putting systems in place to make everyone feel welcome and instil a sense of belonging within their teams.  

To end the conference, delegates were invited to attend two incredible artist showcases from Serious’ Take Five roster past and present.

Across the two shows were six wonderfully eclectic sets from John Pope, J Frisco, Samuel Eagles, Sarah Heneghan, Romarna Campbell and Johnny Hunter.