Jazz Promoter - Malcolm Cookson
Sailing, Vintage 3-Wheelers, & Cooking with
Malcolm with his late wife Val
For 25 years, Malcolm Cookson was the genial host at Roa Island
Boat Club where many great jazz names played including George Melly
four times between 2003 and 2006 and also Tommy Burton twice, and
Brian Carrick's Algiers Stompers who played there every year from
1998 to 2016.
Malcolm tells me he wasn't really interested in Jazz until the late
1970s but was then really taken with what he calls the, “Rhythm of
He said, “I attended big time events in Kendal and Barrow with my
late wife ,Val. We saw Chris Barber, George Melly, Kenny Ball,
Acker Bilk, Terry Lightfoot etc.
Val joined the social committee at the Roa Island Boat Club where
they needed help, as their events were on the decline. I too joined the
committee and we introduced them to The New Riverside Jazz Band. Alan
Duckles, Delia Glaister, Barrie Marshall etc. . The New Riverside
Jazz Band started playing at the Roa Island Boat Club in 1988. This
was as a Boat Club Social event. Val was an enthusiastic cook and so
we developed "Cooking with Jazz". The combination of the band and
the food proved very successful. Audiences shot up from 30 to 100.
By 1994 we had become The Roa Island Jazz Club and introduced other
bands as well as The New Riverside. Val particularly liked Brian
Carrick and his St. Phillips Street Breakdown. We all greatly
enjoyed Tommy Burton, George Melly, Keith Nichols and Spats Langham.
We used to go to The Outgate Inn at Hawkshead, where live jazz was played, It was
mainly New Orleans jazz put on by a sympathetic landlord, Graham and
his wife. They also put on very good food, and it was there in the
early 90’s that we met Eric & Jazzy Joan Lawton,
who also lived in Barrow.
Many people will remember
Joan Lawton as the jazz promoter at The
Whitewater Hotel in Backbarrow. Joan worked at the hotel as an
accountant. She and Eric started their Sunday evening/ jazz weekend
events in 1994 and ran them very happily until 2008 when a
management change refused to pay ANY MONEY AT ALL for jazz. Joan
felt that the option of a door charge would be very difficult to run
on the Sunday evenings. Joan and Eric were very heavily committed to
New Orleans jazz. Val, myself, Joan and Eric were all very happy to attend
each other's events.
Joan didn't particularly like the hard edged British Trad. History
might well prove them right. Eric died in 2011, Joan in 2012. Val's
death in 2007 was indeed tragic. I was flattened for a few months
but then decided that I owed it to her to carry on. I love the music
and am myself, now, an enthusiastic cook. The punters were, and
still are, very supportive. Norman Gibson organised a Joan Lawton
Tribute event in late 2011 at The Crown,. High Newton, and I
continued to organise the event until Nov 2014. The Rae Bros, one of
Joan's favourites, was one of the bands that played. Very
Things were going very well until, shortly afterwards, a new manager
arrived and absolutely refused to move his 'office' of a table and 2
chairs into a back room in order to allow the jazz to take place.
The previous manager, a women, had been only too pleased make room.
I haven't been to the pub lately being pre-occupied with the
transition from Roa Island to the Malt Kiln.
The Rae Brothers new Orleans Band at The Crown, High Newton.
Photo Barrie Marshall
The Roa Island Boat Club then changed. The club house became more of
a business, employing their own paid staff to put on Sunday lunches
etc. In 2018 the jazz club had a catering accident. Intense sunlight
through two windows heated some rice salad. 6 punters suffered short
lived stomach upsets. In familiar managerial fashion the Boat Club
sent me a violent letter saying that this risked putting their own
cooking into disrepute and that
I could no longer do any cooking on the premises. No argument”.
However, by 2019 we had been made very welcome by the Bardsea Malt
Kiln Village Hall. The jazz club landed on its feet with a very well
equipped kitchen, and rice salad replaced by
Cabbage/Date/Apple Coleslaw. The kitchen at the Malt Kiln is
absolutely superb. I can serve my popular Cooking with Jazz very,
very easily. The music room is ideal. Spacious, built in stage on
which my upright piano resides.
Roll on Keith Nichols in March.
Whilst we are proud of the Big Name performers, all the bands have
made a very valuable, committed contribution.
Prior to organising jazz events, Malcolm built a 37ft wooden sailing
catamaran in the 1970s. The boat is ashore at the Roa Island Boat
Club and he’s currently replacing large chunks of wood, “More basic
carpentry than fine joinery”, he says. “It's a James Wharram
designed boat. Enthusiasts for these boats are like ocean going
hippies. You can find about them on the Internet. I enjoy working on
my boat. A complete change from cooking and trying to play the
piano. I get help from a like minded friend, Les McAdam, at the
If that wasn’t enough to keep him occupied, Malcolm also has an
interest in historic Morgan 3-wheelers. He says, “I have another friend Sid Omerod
who lives at Silverdale and who is heavily into historic racing
three-wheelers. Racing three-wheeler Morgans tends to be very
expensive. Sid races a BMC mini based special, a cheaper and very
effective alternative and eligible Vintage Motor Cycle Club events
alongside the Morgans and sidecar outfits. In the spirit of the
thing I have organised the building of a three-wheeler based on
Morgan principles. A steel backbone frame with wood and aluminium
bodywork. However, the engine is at the rear. A 980cc BMW motor
cycle engine but with a Shorrock Supercharger. Five of us have been
involved at various stages and only now have we got it running
properly! We plan to enter Vintage sprints and hill climbs. A little
known fact is that Spats Langham has a Morgan three-wheeler and
enters sprints and hill climbs, including the historic Prescott
venue. Probably via the Morgan Three-wheeler Club”.
Now you and I would probably think building a boat or a Morgan
look-alike was a step too far, but Malcolm says, “More difficult is
my struggle in trying to play the Bad Penny Blues, on my home
keyboard, to sheet music. A very formal way of playing the blues. I
am getting some help from Percy. Perseverance! For myself I am
sympathetic to the Jazz and Blues concept. I'm very pleased to say
that my jazz will continue at the Bardsea Malt Kiln, Ulverston once
Covid rules permit. Three bands pencilled in for Jan/Feb/ March
If you wish to discuss any of the above, you can contact Malcolm at
Monday November 29, 2021