Celebrating International Women’s Day 2021

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.