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Annette Keen Articles

Annette Keen is involved in artiste management and jazz club admin - but is still looking for a venue to re-start her own club.
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for Annette's website.

 

Confessions Of A Jazz Promoter

Annette Keen has successfully run the Under Ground Theatre, Eastbourne monthly jazz gigs for approximately fifteen years.  Internal politics has finally ended this run.  However we rarely hear about what it is like to run a jazz club. Annette tells us:

So this is the scenario: jazz lover with time to spare and good organisational skills, eager to get more involved in the music scene (me), meets small, intimate performance space with great sound potential, an impressive lighting rig, and the willingness to put up the Annette Keennecessary money for jazz gigs. Obviously a marriage made in heaven – so what could possibly go wrong? Well, for fifteen years nothing much did go wrong.

Now anyone who's run a jazz club will testify that it's hard work, not only getting it started but finding an audience and then keeping both going. I was a complete rookie and mostly just followed my gut instincts, booking local bands at first, which worked OK, but then making a huge leap forward with Ian Shaw (and barely sleeping the night before – how much money could I actually lose, and the venue? Would they ever trust me again?). It was a gamble that paid off, Ian was marvellous and did everything he could to get the creaky sound system and speakers right for him, and the venue got the biggest house they'd had in years.

 

Annette Keen

 

After that I had enough street cred for the venue to give me my head - and the sound system was hastily updated. Audiences grew, the venue started to get a reputation for jazz, everyone was happy.

I had to work on three seasons at any one time:

§  the current season – organising payments, being there on gig nights, looking after the musicians and getting to know the regulars;

§  the next season – writing press releases, resumés on flyers, advertising, establishing contact between musicians and sound engineers;

§  and the following season – deciding who to get, contacting musicians, negotiating deals, juggling dates, drawing up contracts.


Being there on the night was never a chore, always a pleasure. I never met a jazz musician I didn't like, and many of the audience Ian Shawbecame friends over the years. I had a fantastic team of people to help too, reliable techies who did the best job, volunteers who ran the box office, bar, coffee bar, and front of house - and generally left me free to have a lovely time! And I loved it.

 

Ian Shaw
Photograph © Brian O'Connor

 

After fifteen years a new management team swept into the venue with different ideas and I gave it a year before filing for divorce. Someone else took over as promoter and kept things running sweetly for another two years. Then the new broom swept past again and decreed that no fees were to be paid, only a percentage of door money, which effectively cut out professionals and left the venue with no jazz promoter. And here's the irony: I'm not a promoter now as I don't have a venue.

When I look back on my promoting days it's with great affection for a job well done, and still now a little nugget of regret that it's all over.  But I've moved on and into artist management, working with Sue and Neal Richardson, Andy Panayi and now the Paul Richards Trio, and I help out with the admin of  Splash Point Jazz Clubs in both Seaford and Brighton. Different challenges and a new 'family' – much like most second marriages.

Sue Richardson from Splash Point tells us: 'Annette is wonderful - I don't know what I'd do without her! Jazz survives on the generosity and passion of people like Annette. We, the musicians, couldn't make our living without them. She loves jazz so shares the passion but understands the weird mentality of musicians from all her promoter work. All that experience means she really understands how different clubs work. She's a gem!

 

Swanage Jazz Festival

June 2016: Swanage Jazz Festival has received a grant from the PRS Open Fund.

Almost July, height of the British summer, with more public events on offer than probably any other month in the year. For some people it can only mean one thing: Wimbledon tennis. I quite like tennis, but for me July means the Swanage Jazz Festival. Now there are plenty of other jazz festivals happening this month, and I don't mean to decry any of them as I'm sure they are all splendid in their own way, but there is something very special about Swanage. And it all starts in a rather special way about twenty-five minutes from the town, if you're taking the car ferry from Sandbanks to Shell Bay. Suddenly, it feels like you're really going somewhere.

 

Swanage

 

If you've never been there you may not know that Swanage is the quintessential English seaside town. Set on a perfect little bay, with a three mile long sandy beach that descends gradually in a child-friendly way into calm waters, brightly painted pedalo boats and stripey deckchairs, it's picture-postcard pretty. There are little boats bobbing about on the sea, and a Victorian pier jutting out into it. Until a couple of years ago there was even Punch and Judy on the beach but sadly the most recent Punchman retired in 2015. It's encouraging Ice Cream Wafersthough to know that the local council are looking for a replacement, so if anyone reading is interested in a career change, the Punch and Judy concession is up for tender.

Swanage town is heroically stuck in the 1950s. It has a smattering of coffee shops and restaurants, fish and chippies, some interesting shops and many good pubs. There are no big supermarkets, no high street chains and no pedestrian-only shopping centres. It is essentially the same as it was when I went there as a child on family holidays, although I can't now find the shop where they sold delicious fat wedges of blackcurrant ice-cream sandwiched between wafers. The town boasts a steam railway and an open-top bus, and some swanky new beach huts along the prom.

The jazz festival (now in its 26th year) fills the town with people and music for three days. If you leave it too late you'll have a job getting a room to stay - many people do as I do and book for the following year when they pay their bill. Restaurants, pubs, takeaways (yes there are some of those...) are busy throughout. British seaside towns have had a hard time of it Alan Barnesin recent years, so it's no wonder that Swanage welcomes the festival back each year, it's good for business and that's good for the town.

Alan Barnes

What I particularly like about this festival is that you don't end up sitting in the same place all the time – there are four stroller venues nicely spread out and a flash of your wristband will get you into any of them. Two marquees, which host the bigger gigs, are perched on a grassy field overlooking the bay, and from here the route to the other venues cuts through the town in two directions – there is a shuttle bus available for anyone unable or unwilling to walk, although the distance is not great and the views are lovely. Local student bands entertain on the quayside and some of the pubs are free venues. Something of a carnival atmosphere pervades the town on festival weekend. It can be a bit hectic getting round all the gigs you've marked off in the brochure (there are overlaps), but at the same time it's a pretty relaxed vibe - you're at the seaside and there are ice-creams and bags of chips and exceptional jazz to enjoy.

The music policy at Swanage is '...an established mix of well-known names and some of the younger generation who are keeping jazz alive in Britain.'  Styles range from New Orleans to Dixieland to mainstream to contemporary. Something for everyone in fact. Keeping the whole thing afloat at the head of the Festival Board is Artistic Director Fred Lindop, ever-present throughout the weekend as he bikes from venue to venue. The President is Alan Barnes, who's played at every Swanage Festival to date. In 2012, after months of wet weather, the marquees had to Henry Spencerbe abandoned and last minute replacement venues organised. That threw the budgeting into turmoil and put the 2013 festival in jeopardy, but donations from fans and supporters saved the day and Swanage Jazz Festival emerged, a soggy phoenix, to a triumphant jazzy fanfare.

This year, we hope the weather holds. Music will range from the Dixieland of the Shooting Stars, Alex Welsh Remembered, and the Buck Clayton Legacy to the Kofi-Barnes Aggregation and many top musicians including Andy Panayi, Arun Ghosh, Tim Garland, Dave O'Higgins, Bobby Wellins, Art Themen, Henry Spencer and Juncture, Ian Shaw and Remi Harris as well as the Dorset Youth Jazz Orchestra and other student bands.

Henry Spencer

Of course there are other brilliant jazz festivals in the UK but maybe they don't all have the fringe benefits that Swanage does. If you haven't been there yet I urge you to try it. Go for the day or go for the weekend. I can't think of a good reason not to - unless of course you're related to Andy Murray, which is only barely excusable ...

Swanage Jazz Festival takes place from 8th to 10th July 2016. Click here for details.

 

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Jazz Bass Trombone
Jimmy Thomson
The Dixie Ticklers
Just A Gigolo

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