Your exclusive discounted stay at Whitworth Locke

We are now just four weeks away from the mjf weekend takeover at Manchester’s Escape to Freight Island from June 11 – 13.

If you’re as excited as we are, and fancy making a night (or even a weekend!) of it then read on…

We’ve teamed up with the beautiful Whitworth Locke as our official accommodation provider for the weekend.

Not only have they been so kind as put up some of our travelling musicians, they are also offering you lot a discounted stay for two people in anything from their standard studios to one of their larger suites.

Head to their website and use the discount code LOCKEDIN to bag up to 30% off.

Whitworth Locke is situated off Princess Street, just 10 minute walk from Manchester Piccadilly Station. With its stunning communal spaces and spacious, one-of-a-kind apartments, Whitworth Locke is a truly stunning place to stay.

Central. Stylish. And unlike anywhere you’ve stayed before. Wake up in your own apartment in this stunning 19th Century cotton factory, and see Manchester differently. You’ll also be able to sample the cocktails and ever-changing menu downstairs at the Peru Perdu bar and restaurant.

Check out Whitworth Locke’s website for more on their aparthotel suites and to book your exclusive discounted stay.

manchester jazz festival took a trip down to Media City for our very own showcase as part of Digital City Festival with Stream GM. 

Digital City Festival is an annual event series exploring what makes a leading digital city. Running from 12 – 23 April, it featured two weeks of keynotes, panels, the Digital City Awards, cultural events and more, all broadcast from MediaCityUK.

On Monday 19th April, artistic director Steve Mead and festival assistant Ash Doherty were joined by two emerging jazz acts on the mjf hothouse level-up programme, for a special live broadcast. The event began with an introduction to manchester jazz festival with an eye to our talent development programme, mjf hothouse, and a virtual appearance from Talent Development Associate Helen Goodman, before welcoming artists Lara Jones and Yaatri. 

Lara Jones performed two pieces from her ever-growing body of work ‘Enso’. ‘St Panaras’ and ‘Tai Chi’ uniquely marry the emotional with the digital, with Lara’s solo lineup including her saxophone, synthsand midi controllers allowing her to manipulate audio samples live and to create a sound much larger than one human unaided by technology. She offered us an insight into the meanings behind the pieces, her upcoming installation piece with Cheltenham Jazz Festival in a geodesic dome and how mjf hothouse influenced her journey. 

Following a video delving deeper into the mjf hothouse programme we welcomed Yaatri to the virtual stage. The five-piece are led by guitarist Liam DeTar and they performed songs both old and new. Tunes from their upcoming album arethe inspiration behind their newly revolutionised live set up which now incorporates far more elaborate technical processes to achieve the same heights as the recorded music. They discussed how expanding their use of technology was a natural evolution in line with their artistic growth and vision, and expressed their interest in imagining how this will integrate into their creative practice as time goes on. 

We’d like to extend a warm thank you to Digital City Festival, Stream GM and the team at Badger & Combes who made it a pleasant and smooth experience. 

manchester jazz festival will head to Escape to Freight Island for three FREE days of new music this June!

The mjf team will bring the very best in contemporary jazz to three stages across the Piccadilly venue from June 11 – 13.

The cutting-edge street market and selection of open-air bars at Escape to Freight Island will complete the venue’s intimate vibe.

The line-up

On Friday 11 June audiences can catch sets from soul artist and favourite from the Manchester scene Yemi Bolatiwa, storming sets from Mr Wilson’s Second Liners and one of the brightest and boldest jazz talents in the UK, Rebecca Nash. DJs Pablo Blanquito and Danielle Moore will also be providing some tunes.

Saturday 12 June will kick off with Ain’t Misbahavin’, an interactive concert for 6-11 year olds and their families, followed by sets from fast-rising, global-infused Leeds band Yaatri, MOBO-nominated saxophonist Camilla George and nine piece afro-beat collective Nubiyan Twist.
Saturday audiences can also enjoy Manchester-based singer songwriter Marco Woolf, the synthesised soundscapes of Rafe’s Dilemma, pounding brass parades from Back Chat Brass and Young Pilgrims and DJ sets from Debra Richards and Harkirit Boparai.

Sunday 13 June will see The Untold Orchestra ft special guest Mali Hayes, high energy beats and traditional African vocals from Ubunye, the Binker Golding Band led by the multi-award winning saxophonist & composer and sessions from Jazz North’s northern line bands Nishla Smith Quintet and John Pope Quintet.
High energy brass covers of pop gems from Twisted Tubes and Break Out Brass keep the tempo up, along with a DJ set from Jenna G and her Freight Island favourite, From MCR with Love.

Take a look at the full line up here and book your table.


General bookings are now open!

mjf at Escape to Freight Island is entirely free to book, you are just required to reserve a table (similar to if you were visiting a pub or restaurant). Each reservation lasts for 2½ hours.

All our events are free, but you’ll be asked to give card details at the time of booking as Freight Island will charge a £10 per person cancellation fee if you don’t cancel your table within 24 hours notice of attending your chosen booking.

You can reserve for a specific stage, date and time in The Ticket Hall, The Round or The Pavilion. You will NOT be allowed to float around between venues, so make sure that when you book you are booking for the venue and time corresponding to the acts you wish to see. You are allowed to book multiple time slots across the days and weekend, for example you could book for Saturday from 12.00 – 14.30 in The Ticket Hall, 14.30 – 17.00 in The Round and then 17.00 – 19.30 in The Pavilion if you wished!

Be sure that wherever you sit and when, it will be an amazing three days of unmissable music, great food and drinks in one of Manchester’s most exciting new venues.

In line with COVID-19 restrictions, table service will be available for food and drink during the event.

manchester jazz festival will take over the full venue and three stages across The Ticket Hall, The Round and the Pavilion.

Audiences can book socially distanced tables with their household bubble free of charge for up to 2.5 hours in the different areas of the venue in advance. There will be no entry on the door during the festival without a table booking.

In line with COVID-19 restrictions, table service will be available for food and drink during the event and audiences must not roam around the venue.

Take a look at the full line up here and book your table.


We are proud to announce that manchester jazz festival has signed up to Black Lives in Music’s Charter as one of the founding members.

Black Lives in Music – or BLiM – supports the music community to act on and achieve diversity and inclusion so we can move towards a truly representative music industry.

Recognising poor access to quality music education for those of colour, a lack of diversity in senior leadership positions and in fact a lack of overall data to throw light on the full scale of these issues, BLiM works to provide better professional development opportunities and to help realise equality for black professionals in all areas of the UK music industry. They also support organisations to challenge racism and discrimination and promote greater well-being in black musicians.

At manchester jazz festival we believe in promoting diversity and equality in all areas of our work, but we recognise this is ongoing and there is always more to be done.

mjf Artistic Director Steve Mead said: “mjf is committed to ensuring that the people with whom we work (on-stage and off-stage), the audiences we serve, and the teams behind the scenes genuinely reflect the population of our catchment area: the north of England.

“We’re proud to be one of the founding partners of Black Lives in Music. We’re working together to support mjf’s development and championing of culturally diverse work, artists and partnerships.

“Partnering with BLiM will help us strengthen our reach to diverse artists; eliminate barriers in our recruitment processes; ensure our communications speak to a diverse range of people; and refine our talent development offer to reach an even wider range of diverse new artists.

“We aspire to ensure that our work reflects not only the heritage of jazz, but the people with whom we all live.”

This week, BLiM launched a survey and are looking for responses from Black musicians and professionals. There is currently no data on Black musicians in the UK. Opportunity and access has been denied to many Black creatives in the industry, and with no formal platform to have a voice, many have gone unheard.

BLiM want to change this, and are looking for the experiences of Black musicians.

You can fill in the survey here.

Click here for more information on equality, diversity and inclusion at mjf.

We’re thrilled to announce the creation of five pioneering new works as part of the mjf originals commissioning scheme.

Ranging from AI-generated musicians and historical commemorations to immersive drum performances and dirty cinematic electronica, the pieces will be created and shared with audiences over the coming year.

The suite of five works sets a new record for the number of commissions awarded to artists in any one year by mjf, with just one or two mjf originals piece normally being created.

The 2021 mjf originals commissions are:


Meet Me in the Real by Dirty Freud. The unruly prince of electronica, Ninja Tune fave and Glastonbury electronic artist brings together some cutting-edge improvisers and soulful vocalists for a set of anything-goes collaborations, mashing up their jazz lines with infectious grooves, animations and his own personal style of dirty cinematic electronica.

Gandering by Mark Hanslip. A radical digital audio-visual work in the form of miniatures fusing five solo improvisations from fellow musicians with AI-generated imagery that itself responds in real time to the music being created. Borne out of the surreal dystopia of lockdown and responding to the barriers to physical and musical interaction, the resulting pieces will be a fitting reflection of our recent collective experience, as well as a ground-breaking methodology for creating new work.

Spaces by Night Porter. Led by Leeds saxophonist/composer Emma Johnson and singer/composer Nishla Smith, Night Porter will create four melodic, evocative and experiential songs tethered to specific types of space: trees, water, garden and buildings.
Audiences will be encouraged to visit such spaces near to them and to listen to the pieces in the environments for which they were intended, creating a connected yet remote listening experience that each audience member can make their own.

Elegy for the Departed: Remembering Tulsa 1921 by Alexander Douglas and Hymnos. An instrumental suite that marks the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. Through spoken word from an informed historical perspective, archive footage and an original score for chamber jazz ensemble Hymnos, this intimate work offers an opportunity for audiences from Britain and beyond to discover the haunting, disturbing story of what happened to the Greenwood neighbourhood of Tulsa, Oklahoma a century ago, offering a chilling reminder that the triggers behind today’s #BlackLivesMatter movement have been present for generations.

Power Out by Sarah Heneghan. An immersive, powerful duet between solo drummer Sarah Heneghan and contemporary dancer Megan Hatto, in which Sarah’s EDM-inspired Sheffield beats explode with dynamic lighting design, improvisation and movement into a full-length show that was originally evolved through the mjf hothouse talent development programme.

The mjf originals commissioning scheme supports northern artists to create jazz-related new music. Since the very first commission in 2000, mjf originals has produced 25 major works, each premiered at the annual manchester jazz festival.

mjf Artistic Director Steve Mead said: “For artists and our audiences, the mjf originals commission is a highlight of the annual festival.

“This year, we’re taking a new approach to tackle the challenges of creating new work in unpredictable times. Our values for the scheme are still the same: artist-led, high-quality, ground-breaking, northern-focussed, and championing artists from all backgrounds. But in a time when gathering large forces of musicians and audiences in a physical space is unpredictable, we still want to provide our cherished platform for artists to innovate new creations for our festival audiences.

“That’s why we’ve awarded five commissions to artists working in a range of mediums that can be shared and experienced by audiences throughout the year on various digital platforms.

“We’ll have news on this year’s live mjf activity soon, but meanwhile, we’re proud to announce these five challenging, surprising and diverse stand-alone new pieces from our 2021 mjf originals artists.”

At manchester jazz festival, we have a long history of championing a gender balanced scene across the music industry, from supporting new and established female-identifying artists to the make-up of our staff teams and crew.

In 2018 we became the first UK jazz festival to join the Keychange initiative, pledging to achieve a 50/50 gender balance in our festival programmes by 2022. It’s worth noting that we were already achieving this, so we were proud to support Keychange’s global mission. In fact, the very first festival line-up in 1996 boasted a 60% Keychange achievement.

Our annual festival continues to champion female and female-identifying artists, and our talent development schemes mjf hothouse and the newly-launched Soundcheck go further, by tackling head on the barriers to music-making, offering bespoke support and opportunity for those under-represented in the jazz sector.

Esther Swift’s Light Gatherer

Some ground-breaking new works led by female artists have been realised through the mjf originals commissioning programme. The most recent include Esther Swift’s Light Gatherer in 2018, inspired by the works of Carol Anne Duffy, the weird and wonderful video and soundscape pieces in Maja Bugge’s Northern in 2019, and Nani Noam Vazana, who worked with Abel Selaocoe in 2019 to create Both Sides of Africa.

Watch out for more news on our 2021 commissions very soon that continue to champion diverse talent from across the north.

Whilst it’s tempting to continue blowing our own trumpets (excuse the pun), it’s so important to recognise that more work needs to be done to achieve gender equality across the music industry.

mjf’s staff team is 50/50 gender balanced, our board sits at 58% female and our team of volunteers is always equally split.

A recent report by Dr Sarah Raine in partnership with Cheltenham Jazz Festival details frequent gender discrimination, direct sexual harassment and barriers in education still experienced by female musicians.

Dr Kirsty Fairclough, manchester jazz festival’s chair of the board of trustees, said: “We have always adopted a ‘show, don’t tell’ attitude in our approach to gender diversity in the hope that the gender balance in our programming, talent development schemes, staff teams and wider work will set good examples.
“However, we recognise there is always more work to be done and we renew our pledge to challenge gender imbalance, discrimination or any barriers to opportunities wherever we see them.”

We’ll be sharing news about the incredible women we work with all this week. Join in on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages.

mjf Soundcheck is our newest Talent Development programme and is for 18-25yr olds based in Greater Manchester. It is a space for emerging musicians to introduce improvisation into their music-making, with 1-1 industry mentoring, group feedback and sessions with the mjf team. 

We’re delighted to be working with 8 unique artists, each with their own musical influences, ambitions, and experiences. The artists applied to our open call with an idea for a new piece of music. Initial meetings are now underway and include peer online sessions, where they have been introduced to each other and to jazz they might like. The artists have been set personal challenges to overcome, as they create a new piece of improvised music, which they will share to the group at the end of the programme.  

The artists have also been assigned an artistic mentor from our mjf hothouse scheme and we’ll personally introduce participants to some Manchester-based music industry legends and influencers along the way. 

Hopefully we’ll have new music to share with you from these brilliant emerging artists over the coming weeks! 




mjf is delighted to announce a trio of development and performance opportunities for artists.

We are now inviting artists to submit ideas for new work as part of the mjf originals commissions scheme.
The open commissioning scheme supports northern artists from all backgrounds to create high-quality, ground-breaking new work to be premiered live at the annual festival and beyond. And this year, we’re calling on artists to get creative and embrace the challenges of devising new work during the global pandemic.

We can now also announce the launch of mjf soundcheck, our free, online development programme for diverse musicians aged 18 – 25 across Greater Manchester. In this inaugural round of the new project, up to ten young musicians at the start of their careers can benefit from industry mentors and bespoke workshops as they are encouraged to make new work using improvisation or jazz for the first time.

In addition to this, we have extended the current round of mjf hothouse, our in house talent development scheme for more established artists. We will continue to work with our current cohort of six artists until April 2021 offering them further bespoke support to guide them through the COVID-19 pandemic on areas such as recording and broadcasting from home, mental health and wellbeing and planning around uncertainty.

Steve Mead, mjf CEO and Artistic Director, said: “This has been a really tough year for musicians and for live music so it feels positive for us to end 2020 by announcing this trio of opportunities for artists.

“mjf understands the pressures on independent artists and we want to support brave, new ideas that push the boundaries of jazz and help people who demonstrate potential.

“Thanks to the launch of our new mjf soundcheck scheme for younger musicians, we can now support artists at all stages of their career. We hope musicians will graduate on to programmes such as mjf hothouse and then in a few years be premiering new work with us through the mjf originals commissioning scheme.

“In addition to these schemes, the team is working with event partners on potential plans for our 2021 festival , which we’ll announce in due course. Artists should keep their eyes peeled for when general submissions to play at mjf2021 open in the new year.”

We are accepting applications for the first round of mjf soundcheck until noon on Friday 15 January.

Artists have until noon on Monday 25 January to submit their ideas for the mjf originals commissions.

The next round of hothouse will open for new artist applications in 2021.

For more information on each scheme click here.

The trio of artist development schemes have been made possible thanks to funding from Arts Council England, Help Musicians UK, PRS Foundation, Youth Music and Greater Manchester Combined Authority.

Manchester Jazz Festival has been awarded £64,968 as part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to ensure we have a sustainable future through the coronavirus pandemic.

The investment, administered and awarded by Arts Council England, will allow mjf to re-stabilise, research and deliver a hybrid live / online festival in 2021 and continue redevelop our talent development work to that supports and champions diverse up and coming artists and champion diversity.

mjf CEO and Artistic Director Steve Mead said: “We are so grateful to be named as one of the recipients of the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund. This year has been a turbulent time not only for mjf, but also for artists and all those working behind the scenes in the north’s west’s wider music ecology.
“This vital lifeline will allow us to play our part in seeing supporting artists and the city’s music scene through these difficult times.”

Manchester Jazz Festival is the city’s longest running music festival, presenting exciting new work in venues across the city each May. We also champion diverse up and coming artists through our commissioning and deliver year round in-house talent development programmes such as mjf hothouse.

Earlier this year, mjf was forced cancel the physical 25th anniversary festival and move all content online. Although mjf paid full cancellation fees to its programmed artists and ensured that mjf’s virtual festival was a resounding success, it meant virtually nearly all projected income from the 2020 festival was lost.

mjf is one of 1,385 cultural and creative organisations across the country receiving urgently needed support as part of the very first round of the Culture Recovery Fund grants programme being administered by Arts Council England.

Chair, Arts Council England, Sir Nicholas Serota, said: “Theatres, museums, galleries, dance companies and music venues bring joy to people and life to our cities, towns and villages. This life-changing funding will save thousands of cultural spaces loved by local communities and international audiences. Further funding is still to be announced and we are working hard to support our sector during these challenging times.”

Culture Secretary said: “This funding is a vital boost for the theatres, music venues, museums and cultural organisations that form the soul of our nation. It will protect these special places, save jobs and help the culture sector’s recovery.
“These places and projects are cultural beacons the length and breadth of the country. This unprecedented investment in the arts is proof this government is here for culture, with further support to come in the days and weeks ahead so that the culture sector can bounce back strongly.”

Manchester Jazz Festival simply could not take place each year without the rich mix of support from theatres and independent venues across city and the dedicated staff that work behind the scenes within them.

As the city’s longest running music festival, we’ve been devastated to read about forced cut backs and redundancies at arts organisations in Manchester, many of whom have shown us such amazing support over our 25 years.

Yesterday’s Government announcement of a £1.57 billion rescue package to help UK culture weather the impact of coronavirus is an incredible boost that could not come soon enough.

Live music, the arts and culture brings millions of pounds to our region each year and are vital to local employment and our economy more widely. But let’s not forget, they also bring so much joy and connects us as a community and a city in so many ways.

We must wait to see how this support is rolled out and work together to find a real way forward.

In the meantime, supporting arts and culture in the city and beyond is crucial. If you can, buy a ticket for an online gig, pay for and download an album from your favourite regional artist or buy a gift voucher or t-shirt from a Greater Manchester venue.

A world without arts and culture is unthinkable and we must unite to do all we can to support this industry.

Kirsty Fairclough, Chair of the mjf Board of Trustees.