Meet The Team
Steve Mead Artistic Director/CEO
Nataly Chambers General Manager
Toby Rathbone Producer & Partnerships Manager
Helen Goodman Talent Development Associate
Jeni Illingworth Brand & Communications Specialist
Ola Brewster Festival & Programmes Assistant
Evie Henderson Digital Creative Content Creator & Distributor
Aiyisha Williams Audience Invitations Specialist
Thanda Gumede Arts & Creative Engagement Officer
Nathan Bragg Talent Development Assistant
Here at mjf we are a small but mighty team; hover over each profile to discover more about our staff.
Steve is mjf’s Artistic Director and CEO - and was involved in setting up the very first mjf! Steve brings his passion for new music to our artist development and commissioning schemes, and of course to curating the festival programme itself, which has won mjf the Europe Jazz Network Award for Adventurous Programming. He was also instrumental in ensuring mjf was first to sign up to Keychange and Black Lives in Music. He enjoys a wide range of new music, existing people and really old things that still work. Dream festival? Jazz Sous les Pommiers – “Jazz Under the Apple Trees” in northern France has to be my favourite.
Nataly is mjf’s General Manager. In 2019, Nataly decided to work in music and the arts because she loves creating memorable experiences for others. Nataly is well connected in the Manchester music scene and enjoys varied styles of music ranging from punk to electronic and jazz. She is a regular gig-goer and can be found in any of the great venues across town. Nataly also works in visual arts and is the director of artist studio Paradise Works. Nataly loves learning and creating lasting connections with people. She enjoys travelling and even tinkers a little on the bass. Favourite Manchester gig spot? The Ritz
Toby joined mjf in 2019 as producer and partnerships manager having worked as a festivals and major events manager for various local authorities following a ten year stint as a touring musician. He's responsible for realising the mjf live festival vision and brokering partnerships with some of Manchester’s most iconic music venues as well as sponsors and commercial partners. Toby is a firm believer that festivals have the power to bring people of different backgrounds and communities together as well as engaging audiences and artists in surprising and impactful ways. Away from work he love's going on great trips in his amazing VW camper! Favourite Manchester gig spot? Band on the Wall
Ola is our newly appointed Festival and Programmes Assistant. Her previous roles have seen her engaging individuals through producing, performing and educating within the arts sector. During her most recent project – Ola was a Young Producer in residence at Marsm UK, where she created a podcast series to explore the links between culture, community and music. She is committed to creating work that makes the arts more diverse and accessible for all. Ola also has many years experience as a musician and string player. During her time as a student in South London, Ola found a passion for teaching the violin and continues to teach music in North Manchester where she is now based. Giving young people in her community access to creative and cultural opportunities is her passion. Favourite Manchester Venue? The Royal Exchange.
Helen is our Talent Development Associate & would describe herself as a ‘creative producer’ in that she enjoys working collaboratively with artists and creatively designing projects from the outset. For mjf she runs talent development initiatives, supporting artists to make new work in a lovely and supportive way. She also works for Buxton International Festival. Before joining mjf in 2019, Helen was an independent producer in dance, theatre and digital arts having worked with Lola Maury, Forward Theatre Project, MIF, Clout Theatre. She has further work experience in sector development notably as the HIPI for Hull UK City of Culture 2017. Most timeless Jazz Tune? Small Hours by John Martyn
Jeni is our new Branding and Communications Specialist. She’s an experienced and creative freelance digital marketing professional with over 19 years working in the arts sector and has a Masters (MSc with Distinction) in Digital Marketing Communications and a BA (Hons) in Music and Music Technology and has recently started a BTEC Higher National Certificate in Photography at the British Academy of Photography. Jeni also manages tour marketing, album launches and social media campaigns for bands and artists, including GoGo Penguin, who made their sell-out debut at mjf in 2015. She loves spending time with family, listening to music, attending live events, art, photography, theatre, travelling, computer games, cooking, astronomy, cross stitch, reading, genealogy, gardening, animals and a good cup of tea. Favourite Artist of the Year? I know I’m biased but I’m a massive fan of GoGo Penguin.
Aiyisha is our Audience Invitation Specialist. She has spent much of her career using art as tools for engagement, spending time working with young people within mental health and alternative education. Aiyisha studied contemporary art history at MMU and went on to study her MA in Youth and Childhood studies with a focus on art as a tool to ease trauma in early years development. Aiyisha has also worked under the title of ‘Audience engagement’ for Manchester international festival, The Turner Prize and last year for See my World festival. In all aspects of work Aiyisha believes in creating safe and supportive spaces for young people to story tell and create art. Favourite anthem of the year? I imagine my spotify playlist is going to say Rennaissance by Beyonce is my most played album.
Evie is our newest Digital Content Maker & Creator. She has a background in acting having graduated from ALRA North in 2020. She previously worked as the Digital Marketer for the hottest sushi joint in MCR ‘Umezushi’ and as the Senior Creative Apprentice for the Award-Winning Warrington based company ‘Not Too Tame.’ Evie has an eclectic music taste and regularly attends gigs on the MCR scene as well international festivals. She is thrilled to start work at mjf and deepen her knowledge and love of all things Jazz. Most timeless Jazz Tune? Nina Simone ‘Please don’t let me be misunderstood’ she’s a legend, do I need to say anything else?
Nathan is our Talent Development Assistant and Evaluation Consultant - working across the festival's talent development schemes, organising the Soundcheck jam session, and delivering the evaluation strategy for these and the main festival. He spends the rest of his time performing and writing as a musician and began working with mjf back in 2019 when completing a Masters in Arts Management, Policy and Practice at the University of Manchester. Nathan has always been passionate about supporting the next generation of artists to take the next steps in their music careers. He enjoys nothing more than listening to all types of music and finding his favourite artists at venues and festivals across the country and the world! Favourite anthem of the year? Spud Infinity - Big Thief
Thandanani Gumede is our Arts & Creative Engagement Officer. He's a vocalist & multi-disciplinary artist hailing from Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa but primarily based in Leeds, U.K. He is an Opera North pilot BAME Resonance Alumnus; Jazz North Roster Artist 2018; Manchester Jazz Festival Hothouse Artist 2019 & mjf Level Up Artist 2021; Co-founder & MD at Zulu Tradition. Thanda's multi-faceted scope of work ranges from live performances in Jazz Clubs & high profile events, World Music & Dance showcases in theatres & Folk festivals to music workshops, community out-reach & art sector advisory consultations.
mjf Board of Directors:
Kirsty Fairclough (chair), Iain McKeith (Vice-Chair), Nelson Beaumont-Laurencia, Yemi Bolatiwa, Aaron Casserley-Stewart, Gawen Higgins, Jo McCallum, Robin Phillips, Laura Pointon, Lucy Scott, Danni Skerritt, Eric Solomons, Jo Williams