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.

comments (10)

Corey Mwamba

2nd Jul 2014 | 6:43am

The singer Emily Saunders has started a petition.

Corey Mwamba

2nd Jul 2014 | 7:27am

More thoughts.

Jazz Services does have access to an alternative form of Arts Council funding: Grants For The Arts. There is nothing to stop Jazz Services from applying for up to £100,000 for a specific project; and there isn't anything to stop them from applying for repeated activity as long as that activity has developed in some way.

The problem is that this isn't near enough to fund everything they do; but if this were combined with other funding, they may be able to build a case for being added back onto the national portfolio in 2018, if that's what they really want.

Corey Mwamba

3rd Jul 2014 | 4:12am

After the initial news, there seemed to be some more... whispering going on with regard to how Jazz Services spent their money. I'm glad to see Jazz Services counter this with actual figures.

Corey Mwamba

3rd Jul 2014 | 4:22am

And now I will add a bit more. There are things I said yesterday on Facebook that bear repeating here.

  1. It's important that we understand what's being talked about before we say anything.

  2. Some of us are very good at saying there's no point to arts funding whilst at the same time benefiting from it by doing gigs in arts centres; going on tours funded by arts funding; and so on.

    This empty criticising of arts funding seriously needs to stop, as it comes from no form of intelligent thinking that I can see. There are people out there busting a gut writing applications to ensure that we as musicians can work and get paid. Perhaps—as we are doing with Jazz Services now—we should show some respect for them. It isn't easy.

  3. It's important not to be too negative about this, I think. I imagine Jazz Services is going through what's been said, and talking with the Arts Council. So together, we'll all fix it.

Corey Mwamba

3rd Jul 2014 | 4:27am

I will also repeat, in case you weren't aware: you can comment on here! It's very easy to sign in and respond with your thoughts.

Corey Mwamba

3rd Jul 2014 | 4:43am

Reading other posts.

In his reflective post, Peter Bacon quite accurately points out that "axed" and "killed" are not quite accurate. "Killed" is the more inaccurate word and—if spread to a wide enough base of people—the most damaging in terms of morale and people's willingness to support Jazz Services. And in a situation like this, it does not pay to be negative about Jazz Services' prospects of survival, especially before it had any chance to say anything.

After Jazz Services' statement saying that it in fact was not dead, Seb Scotney on London Jazz thankfully added a response from Peter Slavid to his original post.

Corey Mwamba

3rd Jul 2014 | 5:07am

There are two sticking points for me.

  1. Jazz Services break the penalty of being a smaller organisation in London?

  2. How can the jazz community actively support Jazz Services between March 2015 and the middle of 2018?

In case you missed it, Arts Council England's national portfolio is funded for three years.

Corey Mwamba

3rd Jul 2014 | 6:24am | replying to Corey Mwamba

Related to the figures: time for some maths in plain sight.

For 2014-2015, Jazz Services received £356,863. According to Jazz Services' statement, they are set to spend £265,200 [74%]. This leaves £91,663.

£70,000 [just over 26%] of the allocation is for national touring; and £31,500 [just under 12%] is for the rural touring scheme.

Corey Mwamba

3rd Jul 2014 | 7:06am

Visiting Jazz Services' entry on the Charity Commission site makes for interesting and [for me] disheartening reading.

Within the 2012-2013 report, there are indications as to why Jazz Services may have been removed from the national portfolio. For example, under "future developments":

> The company will continue to receive a grant from Arts Council England and pursue its objectives in the forthcoming period.

and, under "risk management":

> The company's viability is reliant upon the continued general subsidy from the Arts Council England.

There has been a figure of £288,000 being passed around, and this is where it is from. But that figure is only accurate for 2012-2013: it isn't accurate of 2014-2015.

Corey Mwamba

8th Jul 2014 | 4:53am

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