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Jazz UK saved by Mission Impossible?

Updated: Jun 27, 2023

Review of Policy and Resources Scrutiny CommitteeThursday, 8th June 2023 at 6:30pm 


When politicians, political officers and councillors make decisions that do not quite make sense, the key is to ascertain the root intentions.


Jazz UK, the epicentre for jazz in Britain (Read all about about them: https://www.thejazzcentreuk.co.uk) and their intentions are to share jazz and it’s history with the country, and it is an honour that founder Digby Fairweather should have chosen Southend for its base. If a political party were to uproot this cultural gem from Southend they would therefore need a very good reason to do so.


Before the recent local elections in May, the Labour, Liberal Democrats and the Independent Group coalition pushed through a budget that included ending Jazz UK’s occupation in the Beecroft Gallery - potentially ending their presence in Southend.


This decision no doubt was not taken lightly.  Money cannot buy such a pocket of cultural importance and its impact is far reaching and unknown, so cutting them loose should have been the Z plan.


The cost to the taxpayer was said to be £15K to rent the space. As it turns out, this cost was merely a notional figure as highlighted in the meeting. This means that keeping them in there was costing next to nothing to the taxpayer.


It could be argued that the space was taking away a revenue raising opportunity but there were no such opportunities.  It was to allow the museum more space to showcase more artefacts, which was previously stated by the former Caninet member whose portfolio it was at the time.  This was the public justification, except we now hear that there are floors of the Beecroft that currently lay empty!


To summarise, neither money or space seem to be satisfactory justifications.


So, the intention of the Lab, Lib, Indie administration was…?


August was to be when Jazz UK were to be shipped out, and if the previous administration were re-elected that is exactly what would have happened.


Against the national trend of the current Tory implosion, Southend went blue.


And because of that decision this meeting presented truths that may well have not come out. 


Yet still, Cabinet members of the coalition stuck rigidly to their guns arguing that their supposed subsidy does not represent fairness to other charitable organisations around the city.


Cllr Collins underpinned this by saying he was still "grumpy" about the overturn and ‘"we cannot look after them forever". He seemed also to unhelpfully insist that they go for accreditation as a museum, presenting an expense of time and resources they could well do without.


I do not normally name drop people for various reasons, but I found these statements too much to lay buried in the council webcast.

It was a myopic view that I am relieved is out of power.


To be or made the example?


However Jazz UK were able to find Southend and this particular funding model, we should want to write it down and replicate the trick for other significant areas of art.  They are an example of just what to do to enhance the culture of Southend, not to be made an example of.


Jazz UK look after Southend, and if there is any good that has come out this, it is that they have received a lot more attention than they otherwise would have.


Some may point towards this as the nefariously good intentions of the Rainbow coalition all along.  Perhaps they sat there in high level discussions with Mr Digby with the precise need for a marketing strategy like no other.


“Complicated, yes”, said one councillor in a darkened room, half a face in the shadows, “but I believe it can be done”.  And with that the meeting ended, missions known and exploded.


The Rainbow coalition will lose the local election by producing a budget that includes taking out Jazz UK in order for Jazz UK to attract a wider audience through the most audacious PR ruse job in modern jazz history.


This is the only plausible explanation I can think of!


What Now?


As it happens, conversations are underway with the new administration that will go through financial contributions Jazz UK will make in the future, as well as other factors such as their location in the Beecroft and how long they will stay for.


They are safe for the time being and long may they continue.


Well to done Jazz UK for fighting the council on this and to everyone involved who managed to just about keep one of the now not so hidden gems in Southend.


For more information about Jazz UK see:

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