25 Years of the Glasgow International Jazz Festival: Urban Regeneration, Regional Identity and Programming Policy

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Culture & Creative Arts


In 2011 the Glasgow International Jazz Festival (GIJF) will be 25 years old. This provides a unique opportunity for reflection upon the origins, impact, ethos and meaning of the Festival, complementing academic research with the unrivalled practical experience of the project partner, Glasgow International Jazz Festival. During a time of severe cuts and frequent questions about the value of public support for the arts, for both financial and ideological reasons, evidence-based research of the contribution made by a major music festival to the wider community is of critical importance. This may not only concern such issues as vibrancy and diversity of cultural life, which only a relatively small minority directly benefit from, but also urban regeneration and questions of regional identity, which have an impact well beyond the immediate audiences themselves. The applicants have been granted unique access to the Festival's archives. In addition, the GIJF will provide access for interviews with key personnel involved in the planning, designing, implementing and assessing of the Festival, as well as to a range of leading performers from the Festival's history.

The project promises insight into the relationships between public policy, urban and regional development and culture and the arts. Founded with the express purpose of 'contribut[ing] to the growth of Glasgow as a cultural centre of international standing' (see 'nature of the partner's work'), the Festival quickly established itself as one of the leading European events of its kind, attracting the biggest stars in the field - everyone from Miles Davis, Tony Bennett, Dizzy Gillespie and B. B. King to Dionne Warwick, John McLaughlin, Al Green, McCoy Tyner, Pat Metheny, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock and Wynton Marsalis. It is not least due to this success in attracting first-rate performers and, as a consequence, sizable audiences, that the Festival is credited with preparing the ground for the city's successful bid for the status of European Capital of Culture (1990), which in turn is regarded as a model for the role of arts Festivals in urban regeneration. More recently, the Festival proved instrumental in making Glasgow a UNESCO City of Music (2008). Coupled with related architectural projects, such as the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC, 1985) and the Royal Concert Hall (1990) as well as similar Festivals, such as Celtic Connections (from 1994), the Festival has thus been a key agent in Glasgow's ongoing project of post-industrial cultural transformation, a role that demands appropriate academic scrutiny.

While the proposed supervisors believe that the postholder needs to be given the freedom to develop his or her own perspective and approach, it is anticipated that the research will consider some of the following questions:

- How has the Festival negotiated the tensions between international, national and regional levels in its programming policy?
- How has the Festival sought to maintain a balance between traditional and cutting-edge as well as between popular and high-art styles?
- How has the programming reflected or constructed an image for the city and Scotland?
- What changes can be observed over time, notably pre- and post-devolution?
- Has the Festival furthered something like a recognisable and distinctive Scottish style and scene within jazz and how does this relate to wider British, European and international jazz networks?
- What impact have different forms of funding had?
- What role did and does the Festival play in the rebranding and regeneration of Glasgow?
- What role did it play in the awards of European City of Culture and Unesco City of Music?
- How did and does the Festival fit into the City's and region's overall policy?

Planned Impact

The proposed project promises to deliver significant benefits for a range of potential beneficiaries.

The most immediate beneficiary would be the Glasgow International Jazz Festival as well as, at a further remove, its audiences and interested third parties. The benefit for the Festival would take different forms. The most immediate benefit would be from texts written by the student for the use in brochures, programme books and/or a website section on the history of the Festival. It is also envisaged that the student would curate an exhibition, featuring interesting materials from the archive to be held during the Festival. While this cannot be guaranteed, it is also expected that the student's archival work may uncover lost or overlooked materials that can be exploited in various ways: to provide income or publicity for the Festival.
As described under 'dissemination' in the case for support, it is also envisaged that the student will publish on their work in academic journals and, probably more effectively, in the regional, national or specialist press (e.g. jazz magazines) and/or contribute to radio or TV programmes. The impact of the resulting publicity for a the Festival can hardly be overestimated. Both non-academic and academic supervisors have useful contacts for this purpose. In particular, the main applicant has established links to Neon, a major TV and Radio production company.
The potentially most far-reaching impact for the Festival would, however, lie in the regular reports to the Festival Board that would form part of the student's commitments. The student will be in a privileged position to reflect on the long-term effectiveness of the policies adopted and decisions taken by the Festival in the past and they will also be able to draw informed conclusions about options to pursue in the present and visions for the future. It is therefore envisaged that the student will provide written reports for the Board every three to six months, in which they will both report on the work they have undertaken and what conclusions can be drawn about the present and future direction of the Festival.

The student's findings will also be of value to organisers of other jazz festivals. As outlined in the case for support, it is envisaged that the student will also interact with key decision-makers at other UK jazz festivals. It is therefore a question of research ethics, that they will make the fruits of their comparative research available to their informants.

Public administrators and policy-makers form a third, more indirect, group of beneficiaries. As outlined, the research promises to provide significant findings on the role of music festivals in urban regeneration and rebranding as well as regional identity. These concern primarily Glasgow City Council, which is represented on the Festival Board and will therefore benefit from the student's reports. Needless to say, there will be wider lessons to be drawn for other authorities, but the latter will presumably have to seek out the research in its publicly available form (i.e. from the student's publications).

Finally, there are potentially significant benefits for civic society in general. In a time of drastic funding cuts, the value of public support for the arts and culture is increasingly questioned. In this context, evidence-based research on the role of a major music festival in such areas as urban regeneration and regional identity has the potential to influence a debate in which strength of conviction is often obversely related to experience or expertise. For these reasons, it is intended for the student to publish not only in academic outlets but to also target the regional, national and specialist press as well as broadcasting organisations.


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