Back in 2001 the first ever City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival took place in the city. Gerry McColgan from the former Derry City Council, saw a gap in the market for a music festival to fit within the Council’s existing events diary. He travelled alongside his work colleague, Johnny Murray who managed the Rialto Theatre, to attend the Cork Jazz Festival to see how that worked as a model with the aim of developing a bespoke Jazz Festival for Derry.
Derry~Londonderry was well placed to host such an event considering the city’s musical reputation and its unique musical history and heritage, as well as the wealth of local Jazz talent on its doorsteps.
Once Council agreed to proceed with the planning stages of the Derry Jazz Festival, the first bank holiday in May was identified as the most appropriate date for the event as a Bank Holiday on both sides of the border that would maximise the potential for more visitors to attend.
In the early stages the Council worked very closely with local jazz artists and venues to agree a programme. The idea of having a free Jazz trail within the festival was particularly appealing to venues and the close proximity of venues within the City Centre made this very accessible.
The first City of Derry Jazz Festival in 2001 saw 6,000 people attend over a five-day event. Venues were enthusiastic from the very beginning and showed a real willingness to make the festival work.
A key factor in the success of the festival has been the decision to have quality artists and music from the start and those high standards have been retained throughout the 17 years.
With the assistance of a number of teams within Council, various sponsors, venue owners and musicians who have supported the festival since inception, the event has grown from strength to strength and now proudly attracts 60,000 people over the five days. This is an incredible achievement and something we are very proud of. Our reputation as a top host for jazz music is renowned and the number of artists and followers coming back year after year is testament to that.
Most importantly it is the people of this city and further afield that have made the Jazz Festival the success that it is. They have really embraced the festival, they have taken jazz into their hearts and made it their own. However, without their support and enthusiasm the festival would not be where it is today. Here is to 2018 and another year of success to everyone involved.