Corey Mwamba


Jazz Services

This may be long, but I'll try not to make this a copy-and-paste article: there have been far too many of them about jazz recently. I should add that I'm not an expert at this, but I did sit on the board of the East Midlands regional council for five years, and saw the change in the Arts Council's thinking from regularly funded organisations to NPOs.

In short, Jazz Services is no longer on the Arts Council's national portfolio of organisations, and you can read their statement.

It's worth knowing [briefly] what being on the national portfolio means, as it isn't a simple "have some money to do some art" situation. That situation [with some restrictions] is covered by Grants For The Arts.

You can read more about the "NPO relationship", but I'll try to summarize what being a national portfolio organisation (NPO for short) means.

  1. It means extra accountability for the organisation in terms of how they spend and acquire their money over a three-year period. An organisation cannot be solely reliant on one pot of money, and there is more emphasis on examining how an organisation is doing financially;

  2. It requires plans for the organisation to develop and grow in the ways it performs, grows the sector, and is governed. This requires the organisation to be self-reflective and responsive and to produce evidence of these things; and

  3. It adheres that organisation to the Arts Council's goals and priorities.

There have been a couple of voices on Facebook and Twitter that have hinted [but I should add not yet clearly articulated] that Jazz Services may have fallen at the first and second of these. But from where I sit, this isn't the time for whispering. It may need changes to grow and respond, but being cryptic about what it needs to do this—especially as Jazz Services is about to talk to the Arts Council about the decision—is perhaps less than helpful.

It's also worth noting that there are more music organisations outside London that are on the portfolio. And with regard to NPO funding, Jazz Services is not seen as a national music organisation—it's seen as a music organisation based in London.

But Jazz Services is a binding organisation in our field: whatever else some of us may disagree on, many of us agree about the importance of a national organisation that is approachable and works on a human level, to give musicians opportunities to get their work out there. Given the budgetary constraint that Jazz Services has had to contend with decade on decade, it has done this as fairly as it can; and as an organisation it supports the scene nationally in ways beyond the financial. This is why the news has hit the scene so hard, and it is also why we who love the music feel a range of emotions from sadness to disgust about the decision.

But Jazz Services is not dead: and if we care enough about it, we all have until next March to do some deep thinking about how to save it. Let's encourage some smart people to start speaking up.