Lancaster Jazz Festival is bigger than ever

Empirical will headline this year's Lancaster Jazz Festival. Picture by Tom Barnes.
Empirical will headline this year's Lancaster Jazz Festival. Picture by Tom Barnes.

Lancaster Jazz Festival is set to be bigger than ever as the three-day event is held in the city for the fifth year running.

The jazz festival prides itself on being a truly artist led event.

Here it’s all about the music

Matt Robinson

And this year is no exception, with such big names as Seth Bennett and Calum 
Macleod among the well-known musicians who will be performing over the three days.

There is also dedicated space in the programme for lesser known artists and the festival is proud to support up and coming and new emerging acts.

MOBO award-winning Empirical are set to headline this year’s festival on September 18-20.

Artistic director, Matt Robinson, told the Lancaster Guardian: “We are actually doing more stuff, but we are just condensing it.

“Sometimes at a festival it is just a lot of stuff happening and isn’t about music, whereas here it’s all about the music.

“We carefully select the programme. If artists have played last year we normally try and mix it up and bring new artists in, unless they have previously done something which is amazing.”

Last year, Courtney Pine said “Jazz lives here in Lancaster” and judging by the visitor numbers, he was right.

There was an increase of 130 per cent at 2014’s shows, meaning over 3,000 visitors enjoyed some part of the proceedings.

The festival will open at Lancaster Brewery on Friday when the Lancaster Royal Grammar School Big Band will kick start the weekend before jazz scene heavyweights A Dread Supreme and Taupe take to the stage later.

Saturday will see performances split across two venues simultaneously for the very first time, with the Sun Square Stage and The Hall hosting artists throughout the day.

From 11.30am there will be a special question and answer session in The Hall featuring Lancaster Jazz Festival’s very first ‘Artist in Residence’, Seth Bennett.

He will be joined by last year’s Youth Jazz Commission artist Leo Geyer, who will then take to the stage to conduct quintet Kymerikal.

Geyer will be followed by his Youth Jazz Commission successor, young pedal-harp player Calum MacLeod, as he performs with his trio. Sun Square will open on the Saturday with a showcase of young, northern jazz musicians as part of the Jazz North Introduces scheme. This year the slot has been filled by Artephis, a quintet comprising young musicians from Manchester. Dakhla Brass and Thunkfish will follow, with the Sun Square music being brought to a close for the day by Blind Monk Trio at 4pm. Attention will then undoubtedly turn to Empirical, who will take to the stage in The Rake at the Dukes at 7.30pm.

Made up of Nathaniel Facey (saxophone), Lewis Wright (vibraphone), Tom Farmer (double bass) and Shaney Forbes (drums), Empirical are considered one of the most highly acclaimed jazz outfits in the UK.

The gig will be followed by an open jam session next door in the Golden Lion from 10.30pm.

Sunday will again see performances split between The Hall and Sun Square.

The Paradise Trio, Yesa Sikyi and Tori Freestone/
Alcyona Mick will perform on the outdoor stage with Grew & Watts, Cameron Vale and Word of Moth closing the festival in The Hall.

BID manager Liz Hickingbotham said: “As the festival grows and gains more national prominence as a visitor destination for contemporary music, it requires a bigger space, so with the BID’s help and funding, some of the artists can utilise the new venue Sun Square, which I’ve always felt is under used. It’s such a lovely space and perfect for this event.”

As well as the main stages there will be smaller gigs going on around the city in venues such as the Robert Gillow, which will host jazz breakfasts, and the Royal Kings Arms with afternoon teas 
accompanied by live jazz.

The full 2015 festival programme, which also features a number of workshops, open jam sessions and talks, can be found online at Most events are free and tickets for Empirical are £12.50 available from Check local programmes for more details on specific artists and timings.