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.

As the music world welcomes signs of recovery with cautious optimism, we’re looking forward to welcoming gig-goers safely back to live music with our weekender at Freight Island.

Over the past year, as music practitioners have had their careers turned upside down, we’ve been supporting northern jazz artists to turn uncertainty and anguish into creativity and focus, offering paid opportunities and one-to-one support where it’s needed the most.

You’ll have the chance to see some of their work throughout the summer, be it ground-breaking mjf originals collaborations, under 25s mjf soundcheck artists from Greater Manchester making their public performance debut, or our mjf hothouse artists celebrating new releases, commissions and national awards.

We think their stories are inspiring, moving and reflected in our lives – and they embody the spirit of improvisation that is such a fundamental part of the music we all love, and love sharing with listeners.

And so, on international jazz day, we’re considering what it will mean to be international, yet sustainable, what it will mean to be strong partners, yet retain our own distinctive vision, and how best to celebrate heritage and reflect our communities.

Join us at Freight Island this June to feel live music again, and be part of that continuing journey.

Steve Mead

Artistic Director, mjf

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! 




Manchester Jazz Festival and The Met have joined forces for an exciting collaboration of intimate gigs in 2021.

From January to April, music lovers can be in the audience for a diverse programme of live performances brought to you by Manchester’s longest running music festival at the popular Bury-based venue .

Audiences have the chance to be part of an exclusive, intimate audience in The Met, or to join live streaming audiences across the world.

Unfortunately, as the Covid-19 situation evolves we have had to cancel the first three of these gigs. We will keep you updated with any further programme changes.

The programme includes:

*CANCELLED* Friday 22 January – Camilla George Quartet 
The MOBO-nominated, Nigerian-born saxophonist and star of award-winning Jazz Jamaica, leads her own critically-acclaimed project showcasing the stars of the new UK jazz scene. Her music is a hypnotising blend of Afrofuturism, hip hop and jazz, and is politically minded and heavily linked with African history.

*CANCELLED* Saturday 20 February – Dennis Rollins’ Velocity Trio
British trombone player Dennis Rollins MBE has established a reputation as an artist of excellence, and has lent his unique talents to some of the world’s top jazz and pop personalities such as Courtney Pine, Maceo Parker, Jamiroquai, US3, The Brand New Heavies, Blur, Monty Alexander, Pee Wee Ellis and Jean Toussaint. His Velocity Trio is a brilliant marriage of refined contemporary jazz arrangements with simmering grooves that appeals to multiple generations of jazz, funk and world music fans.

*CANCELLED* Friday 26 March – John Helliwell’s Ever Open Door
Ever Open Door is an eclectic collection of ballads, songs, and folk tunes from an intimate sextet led by the enigmatic sax legend that is John Helliwell. Here, his lyrical and heartfelt sound is bathed in strings and the soulful wash of the Hammond, in the hands of another northern musical enigma, John Ellis.

Friday 23 April – The Breath
Ríoghnach Connolly and Stuart McCallum are the creative heart of BBC Radio 2 Folk Award nominees The Breath. Ríoghnach’s deeply soulful, utterly engaging, stop-you-in-your-tracks voice coupled with Stuart’s understated brilliance and their exquisitely crafted songs give The Breath such emotional depth.

Steve Mead, mjf CEO and Artistic Director, said: “Along with the rest of the population we’ve been desperate to see the return of live music and are excited to announce this series of intimate gigs from some of the UK’s most exciting and diverse jazz artists.
“Audiences can enjoy the music live at The Met by booking a limited number of individual tickets or tables in the venue, or from the comfort of their own homes via a live stream.
“We formed a great partnership with The Met after streaming some of our 25th anniversary festival with them earlier this year. We’re thrilled to be back in the venue and working with them again.”

Audiences should keep their eyes peeled for news on mjf2021 which will be announced next year.

The Met have introduced a number of extra measures to ensure the venue is COVID-safe for staff and audiences including additional cleaning, socially distanced seating and table service.

Those purchasing online tickets will be able to watch their chosen show for seven days.

Tickets for mjf @ The Met are on sale now here.

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.