All that jazz in Marlborough helps to beat the recession blues

Written by Gerald Isaaman on .

Yolanda BrownYolanda BrownYolanda Brown, appearing at the Jazz Festival

Recession or not, Marlborough’s International Jazz Festival is already providing evidence that in tough times people want to forget their troubles and enjoy themselves – even listening to the blues.

The weekend July event, selected by the Sunday Times as one of the five best festivals in Britain, has lost only one of its sponsors due to the economic downturn. “But we’ve actually gained three considerable new ones,” revealed Nick Fogg, founder and organiser of the festival.

“I had been thinking that it would be an achievement to get even close to last year’s sponsorship figure. But we’re up on that figure, not by megabucks but enough to give us a sponsorship income of £80,000.”

That is almost half of the £180,000 cost of the festival, whose main sponsors are the Marlborough-based financial investment firm of Brewin Dolphin, whom former Marlborough mayor Mr Fogg describes as “one of our most loyal supporters.”

And he added: “When the Sunday Times picked us out a few years back, it was absolutely fascinating to know that our ticket prices were about a third or a quarter of the other four festivals. So we are really value for money.

“We’re not totally recession proof but we’ve certainly not been torpedoed by the recession so far. We are already getting loads of inquiries and selling tickets before we have even officially launched the festival.”

But while ticket prices have been pegged for the past three years, they have gone up this time. “We had to,” explained Mr Fogg. “But you can still see the whole weekend for £60 and the highest price of £25 for a stroller ticket to see all the events on the Saturday.”

Surprisingly, Mr Fogg is not a born jazz lover, having originally launched  a general music festival in 1986, during his first term as Mayor, only to discover that promoting classical music events was the surest way to lose money.

“Opera is even a safer bet,” he recalled.  “It became obvious that a jazz festival fitted best into the topography of the town. And the jazz festival has grown by a process of evolution over the past 12 years. This year’s will hopefully be the biggest ever.”

One of the major attractions among a galaxy of international performers will be 37-year-old Clare Teal, Britain’s top jazz singer. She is the only jazz artist in recent times to have had a CD in the Top Twenty and twice been winner of the Singer of the Year prize at the British Jazz Awards.

Also on the bill is the American pianist Darius Brubeck and his trio and Frances Ruffelle, the Tony award winning star of Les Miserables, will be there with her septet, along with saxophonist Yolanda Brown, twice winner of the prestigious MOBO award.

And it is a truly international affair, the jazz performers coming from no fewer than 24 different countries, ranging from Argentina, Chile and Italy to Russia, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The festival dates are July 15, 16 and 17. For full details of the programme – and tickets – see Marlborough Jazz Festival website.