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Q&A With DJAZZ – Tipping Point Live 2019

Tipping Point is delighted to welcome DJAZZ to our Curator Panel for Tipping Point Live 2019. Check out their Q&A...

1. Tell us a bit about DJAZZ … how it started/ what are your ambitions/ what makes it special/any special highlights at this year’s festival?

How it started:

C: DJAZZ is the result of a chance conversation and, like all the best things, is a combination of lots of other good things. We (Empty Shop) had a venue in Durham called Empty Shop HQ which ran a long-standing monthly Jazz Session in collaboration with Newcastle’s Jazz Coop. Toward the back end of that Heather, in her role as Durham University Jazz Society president, ran her monthly Jam nights at HQ. During one of these events it cropped up in conversation that she wanted to run a one-off festival before leaving Uni; I had been thinking of a way to do more with the Jazz Sessions so it just seemed natural to collaborate – mush all of that together and you get DJAZZ!

Ambitions

H: Our ambition is to transform the city’s unusual and unexpected spaces with a broad programme of jazz which brings people together. We showcase the region’s best jazz musicians amongst exciting artists from across the UK. It’s great to see the festival grow and change every year. I guess the main ambition is to keep DJAZZ fresh and exciting year on year, to have the same mindset that brought it together and for people to come along, musicians and audiences, and have a really great time.

What makes it special

C: It’s a festival that is very ‘of the city’ – we use spaces that already exist and work with other people’s spaces turning them into venues so it feels special in that respect. We also like fuse together networks and audiences as well as musical styles. It’s one big melting pot and the support has been incredible – from bands, venues and artists alike. That DIY ethos that runs through almost everything we do is definitely present in DJAZZ, even as the festival grows year on year – It’s basically a big group effort!

Highlights

H: The programme already is a highlight in itself and we have a few changes this year which along with the headline announcements coming later this week should definitely make the list! The great thing is the catch-all ticket. It means you can take that risk on the band you don’t know in a hidden corner of the city and it might just turn out to be your own highlight.

2. Can you tell us a little about yourselves and any of your favourite work you’ve done in music over recent years?

C: I’m the co-founder of Empty Shop CIC, a non-profit arts org based in Durham. What started out with a visual arts focus very quickly moved to incorporate culture more broadly – including, for me, a 5 year stint developing and running a DIY arts venue. It was at that venue that I really got my teeth into the music side of things, mainly as a facilitator but then semi-regularly as a promoter with our own gig series ‘Seagull & Circle presents…’. I got to put on some amazing gigs in that time but the most exciting stuff for me is always in collaborating with people and creating an environment in which amazing things happen. On paper, it made no sense for that scruffy little room in Durham to host some of the things it did, but pulling off that stuff and it really working gave me loads of pretty good ‘air punch’ moments. Putting on Open Mike Eagle and Serengeti with Frux Tapes for example, or developing a jazz scene in Durham with support from the Jazz Co-op programming. The DIY music scene found a home there too and loads of musicians had their first ever gig – it’s all special because it all meant something to someone. There are way too many examples to highlight so I guess the star of the show is always going to be collaboration – without it hardly any of it would have happened.

H: I built up events work freelancing at festivals and became a Jazz Promoter Fellow under the HMUK scheme, set up to challenge gender imbalance in jazz. Aside from DJAZZ, I now work at Sage Gateshead within the Popular and Contemporary team and assisted programming at the inaugural Middlesbrough Jazz Weekender. DJAZZ 2018 and the sell out was definitely a highlight of everything so far. The musicians, the audiences and the atmosphere throughout the festival was amazing. So many people were around it, wishing it to go well and excited to be a part of it.

3. How do you feel about the new partnership with tipping point live/ why did you want to connect with TPL as curators and partners?

H: Working with Tipping Point is absolutely class. We think the festival does amazing things for emerging musicians and we’re so excited to be part of the curator list as TPL delves into jazz. Having the level of support Tipping Point and Generator provide is invaluable for artists. At DJAZZ, We’ve always wanted to do more with artist development but hadn’t had the capacity and expertise to do so. Musicians are the reason we all get together at festivals and it’s so important to create opportunities for artists wherever possible.

4. What will the partnership involve for you?

C: Helping inform something is always nice so being asked to contribute in that way is great. Supporting others is also really important too. For us, the partnership goes beyond sharing our initial thoughts and into supporting the bands that come through the festival. It means spreading the word and being there ourselves – championing what TPL are doing.

5. Which artists are you most interested in checking out at the event?

H: Really excited to see Archipelago, Taupe and J Frisco at the Ouseburn in June.

They’ve been seen at DJAZZ over the years and we think they’re mint. Also looking forward to checking out Portraits, Freese Trio and Martha Hill amongst the rest of the stellar lineup! C: Aside from the jazz (obviously) there are some class bands in there – The Noise & The Naive, Me Lost Me… but I’m most looking forward to discovering some new stuff. Freese Trio sound interesting and I’m keen to catch NE Dons.

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