Keswick Jazz Festival
 Is the end nigh?  What's going wrong?


17/02/16 - I thought your readers might be interested in the article below. I thought this paragraph was particularly pertinent  

"We are also aware that the people who have loyally supported the festival for many years are getting older and that younger audiences are not being attracted. Eighty-six per cent of people who book tickets are over 65 and 42 per cent are over 75."

Paul Marks


Acknowledgements to Times & Star Thursday, February 18, 2016 at 10:29AM

The town's Theatre by the Lake announced today that it will not be in a position to manage the festival in its present format from 2017. Falling ticket sales and public funding cuts are among the reasons the theatre said it could not carry on.   It wants a promoter or event manager to take it on.  Theatre bosses said the venue would be available for performances from 2017 onwards but a new arrangement would have to be put in place. This year's festival, from May 12 to 16, will go ahead as planned. Patric Gilchrist, Theatre by the Lake’s executive director, said: "We regret that we are no longer able to bear the responsibility for the festival.  "The present arrangement is unsustainable for the theatre and there has to be change if the festival is to survive.  "We hope to find an experienced and enthusiastic promoter who can devise a credible business plan to take the festival forward and ensure its financial stability by our deadline of May 9.  "If no credible offers are received by that date then 2016’s festival will be the last in its current form."  The theatre said even if a full-scale festival did not go ahead, it would commit to a week of jazz in May 2017.  A spokesman added that other factors in the theatre's decision were a shortage of affordable and flexible accommodation for artists, the complexity of managing multiple temporary venues and demands on the time of Theatre by the Lake staff.  The number of tickets sold has fallen steadily since 2011, leading to significant loss of income for the festival.  Keswick Jazz Festival's only regular financial support has been from Jennings Brewery.  It said without the Cockermouth firm, the festival would have become unsustainable several years ago.  Mr Gilchrist added: “The festival makes very heavy demands on Theatre by the Lake staff in almost all departments.  "We calculate that we allocate 165 days of staff time to the event each year.  "We are also aware that the people who have loyally supported the festival for many years are getting older and that younger audiences are not being attracted. Eighty-six per cent of people who book tickets are over 65 and 42 per cent are over 75."  After the 2014 festival, Mr Gilchrist applied to local authorities and other bodies for cash support for the festival.  He was unsuccessful.   He added: "At a time when the theatre is having to adapt to public funding cuts, with the prospect of further cuts to come, we cannot continue to support the festival in the way that we have since the theatre opened in 1999." 

20/02/16 -

Well Fred, now that this information on the future of the Keswick Jazz Festival has come out directly from 'the horse's mouth', so to speak, it shows that our recent words, not aired on your site, were relevant. It is sad that it has come to this, but Bude realised some time ago that the future was in doubt and downsized to a more manageable festival. Mr Gilchrist has highlighted the difficulties with finding affordable accommodation for artists, but this is indeed a big problem/expense for the attending jazzers. Personally, I gave up stopping over years ago and limit my visit to a selected day visit and a three hour round trip ! Mind you, last year this backfired as day tickets were sold out for the Sunday.( Sales falling ? ) It does not help that recent festivals do not have any international star players, ie Barbarin, Stafford. Heitger, et al, This years line-up again has the 'usual suspects', and, although they are all good, we can see them every week of the year at jazz clubs any time. I know I bang the drum about the FestJazz Festival at Chatenauf-du- Faou in Brittany, France, but it is so good, as they learned a long time ago how to attract young people. Young quality bands, and the whole festival is run by older experienced people at the top and a mass of young people fully involved. I've never heard it being referred to as a 'committee' - it's an enthusiastic 'team', Someone from Keswick needs to get down there and pick up pointers fast !

Norman Gibson

25/02/16 -

Whilst I cannot gainsay their argument about the declining age group etc., their idiotic comment and the significance thereof does not escape me. "It wants a promoter or event manager to take it on."

Hmmm .. Methinks that they took it from the original organisers, hoping to cream the profits and now, realising that there NEVER WERE ANY, because the previous folk were running it out of enthusiasm as were the visiting players, they are rather shamefacedly looking to unload it on to some poor unsuspecting sucker.. Hey.. Whats new?

They brought in Hi Flyer International jazz players, they who don't play for enthusiasm.  Any margins were rapidly absorbed, nay deleted.

They would have benefitted more, had they left it as it was, and educated the local trading idiots who were "Closing Early during Jazz Festival!" 
(Local supermarket restaurant. Sandwich and Bakery shop on left going up main street. )

Big hotel on same side.. an  actual jazz venue, had a sign behind the bar - "Freshly cut sandwiches."  "Sorry Sir.. They've all gone!"   Me - "Well. Bloody well, freshly cut me some more!! Is that too difficult for you?"

When you, as a local trader, complain that your local authority or Chamber of Trade and Wotsit does nothing to generate business in the town and if, when they DO organise attractions for lots of out of town visitors, you then shut up your shop, you're an idiot, a full blown, hard to disguise, total prat. 

I'm strangely drawn to the inevitable conclusion that the town and its organisers is bursting at the seams with sub-prime experts.

Keswick, if you think from the foregoing that I'm gloating over your demise, well at least sometimes you do get something right. In the last line of Goody Goody.. Sinatra sings - "I'm satisfied that you got yours!"

La Lah Li Lah Lah!

I'm sure that all Musos can insert the melody line to my mockery 

Howard Murray

25/12/16 -

Re- the Keswick Jazz Festival. After attending all but one for the last 15 years, can't say I'm surprised by the news, as it's been limping along for the last two years at least. In their own 2015 Festival brochure, 2016 was advertised as our 25th Anniversary, and join us for a special weekend. Well so far 2016 must be the worst line up ever. No foreign bands, no star names, in short nothing to attract an audience expecting New Orleans / Traditional Jazz. The special atmosphere that Keswick festival held was in the multiple venues go from band to band and being able to wander around the town. The festival now consists of the Theatre and the Marquee and two small Hotel rooms in the town plus two or three venues with a trio or quartet, the theatre now creams off most of the food / coffee/ beer sales, meaning we don't spend any time at all in the town. Sorry to all the good people of Keswick after the winter floods, but we and many others won't be coming this year, not because of the floods, but because of the Theatre by the Lake. When you substitute bands for modernists/ fiddlers / vocalists / trio and quartets surely that's the death knell for any traditional festival

Colin Gill

17/04/16 -

Hi Fred, Thanks for all the good work you do in keeping us jazz fans informed. It occurred to me that unless some information is forthcoming about Keswick 2017 then the Festival will die by default. Graham Hughes has informed me that The Theatre by the Lake is putting on events (at the Theatre) on Thursday to Sunday 11th to 14th May 2017, and this will amount to next year's Keswick Jazz Festival. But I would imagine that the pubs, restaurants and accommodation establishments will be feeling a bit left out and be anticipating empty pockets, so I think they might become especially jazz-friendly. So Isabel and I have booked our accommodation from Monday 8th for the whole week in 2017, and we intend to have some active jazz in the town - we'll try the pubs and restaurants first, and it may end up just in the streets, but we'll do our best to provide some jazz for anyone there, at Keswick in 2017. We'd like to encourage people to become involved; book your accommodation and try to fix some gigs in Keswick for your bands for that week. It will give opportunities particularly for the local bands - don't let's be beaten. Malcolm Hogarth (Jazz evangelist and nut-case - funerals a speciality)

Malcolm Hogarth.

07/05/16 -

I have just posted a message to the world.

In the absence of any other volunteers, I have started the ball rolling ( ha! ha! ). Some of your readers may be interested.

David Ball


Keswick Jazz Festival, I believe will have an uphill battle. I had difficulty going through his letter finding anything constructive and/or encouraging contained therein ! Back on Feb 20th. I gave the best bit of advise I could possibly give to any existing struggling festival promoter, or new one, and that was to visit FestJazz Brittany this year at Chateunauf du Faou. This would be an extremely enjoyable way to spend a long weekend, and most of all, learn just how our jazz music is evolving, and attracting the young jazzers we desperately need at UK Festivals. I'll be there again of course !

Norman Gibson

16/05/16 -

"Graham Hughes tell us at "Just Jazz" that Keswick fans needn't despair - there is likely to be a Keswick Jazz Festival next year, albeit in a slightly different format. Talks are under way. So watch this space!". - Pete Lay. John Meehan also telephoned to tell me that plans were afoot to keep the festival going, and the Savannah Jazz Band which has played at all 25 past festival events, would be happy to support the event in any way they could. John along with John Minnion, the man who created the festival and directed it so successfully for 23 years, recounted tales from the past 25 years at the festival which ended yesterday.

June 15th. 2016

The plea from four days ago has produced no response. I therefore, reluctantly, must abandon any hope of forming a Keswick Jazz Festival company limited by guarantee. Thank you to the few who expressed serious interest, and to those who joined the mailing list. It is simply not possible for an event of this nature to be run by a tiny volunteer group, all of whom live over 100 miles from Keswick.

It now is apparent that another initiative has been in existence since at least the first day of this year's festival. This fact has not been made public until now, and has only been known to me for a fortnight. This alternative approach would appear to be in the form of a commercial venture, contrary to the format I thought ideal. It has the enormous advantage of an enthusiastic leading light with vital local knowledge and connections. I understand that a "bigger and better" event is promised for 2017, and that a wonderful website will soon be available to view, along with the identities of those involved. I am aware that a Limited Company with an appropriate name has recently been formed; anyone wishing for further information should visit the Companies House website. We will all no doubt be following the course of events with interest.

Until the new organisers have their website up and running, I shall continue to post any newsworthy item. I shall also, today, contact all members of the mailing list advising them of the changed situation. In addition, I will be contacting the venues holding provisional bookings made by me.

I hope that the new team will be able to engineer a successful Festival for 2017, and indeed for following years. I thank all those who have expressed their interest in and support for my efforts. Email details will not be passed on by me; I will, however, inform everyone when I receive details of the new organisation's website and email addresses, plus the promised telephone number.

02/09/16 - The internet is a wonderful source of information, except that is, when the information is out of date. Go to and you'll see all about the festival, snag is it took place in May this year. As someone who spends time every week checking the 556 pages on this site to make sure they are kept updated, I find that frustrating. In the latest edition of Just Jazz Magazine which has just come through the letterbox, there's an article in there on this year's Keswick Jazz Festival written by Graham Hughes, who I understand had a hand in booking the bands. It ends by saying, "So what about next year? The plan is to run a smaller festival in Keswick around the town in 2017. This will be advertised in Just Jazz and Jazz Guide, or check in the autumn, by which time I hope we will have more information". Hasn't Autumn arrived?

04/09/16 - Further to my comment on the official site at, there's been an update on the unofficial site at with a report on progress (or lack of). The web site owner is asking if any bands out there have been booked, to please let him know.

09/09/16 - I went down to the 2016 Bude Jazz Festival (30 Aug - 2 Sept) as usual and am pleased to report a thriving scene. The festival has been downsized and is now run by a local committee including the local jazz club. All volunteers. Still stroller tickets. The remaining venues, around the town, were well attended. A wide selection of excellent bands, not all trad. Some younger musicians. A very active jive dancing element. It would be good if Keswick could find its feet again with local support. Why not? OK, Cornwall is a holiday destination but so is Keswick. - Malcolm Cookson (Roa Island Jazz Club)

01/10/16 - Despite the official website of Keswick Jazz Festival still advertising last year's festival, and the unofficial site displaying no progress as at September 3rd, John Meehan (Savannah Jazz Band), called me this morning to say that his band had been booked (the first booking so far), and this makes the band's appearance at Keswick Festival, the 25th, meaning they have played there every year since the Festival began. I understand that several venues throughout the town are to be involved, so watch this space.

07/10/16 Terry Cheney has kindly sent me a copy of the advert that will be going in the November issue of Jazz Guide for Keswick Jazz Festival. First thing of note was that it is now called Keswick Jazz & Blues Festival. Quite a few well known musicians and bands booked, yet two seconds ago and the official visitor website for Keswick are still advertising the 2016 event. I just don't get it! If you are thinking of going you'd better subscribe to Jazz Guide and find out what's on.

22/10/16 - The Keswick Jazz & Blues Festival 2017 web site is now up and running under it's new web address, but for some reason all the old 2016 pages have been left on the net for people to still come across via Google.

06/11/16 - I see that Keswick Jazz Festival website has just been updated. Tickets should have been on sale from 11:00 am tomorrow, but there has been an unforeseen technical problem that may take a day or two to resolve. Initial ticket prices will be £90 for a 3 day stroller and £120 for a 4 day stroller which will give access to all of the venues for the duration of the ticket. The Programme is still being finalised, but you can see a list of the musicians who have been booked.

07/11/16 - Having just looked at the Keswick Jazz Festival website, I am sorry to see whoever has taken on organising next year's event are not showing any sponsors' logos. That would indicate to me that they are hoping to cover their costs from the ticket sales. A group organised a repeat music festival in Lancaster over five days the last weekend of October. Every event was free and held in a pub or cafe - the programme, priced at a pound, was full of adverts and sponsors' details. It is hard to believe businesses, in Keswick, can't be persuaded to put a bit of cash into the festival which is good for the town. What happened to Jennings ? I feel sure they could have put in a lesser amount than previously, and help prompt others to do likewise! -

Norman Gibson

10/11/16 - Ref. Norman Gibson's item about The Keswick Festival.

In no way do I find it difficult to believe that the tight fisted local traders of Keswick can't be persuaded to 'put a bit of cash into the Festival.' They clearly hold the opinion that it's of no good whatsoever for the the town. It just generates crowds and extra work.

Under the earlier regime for the festival, I played there and in one break, we went to find food, i. e. SPENDING FESTIVAL-EARNED MONEY with local traders, apart from any spent by the Jazz Fans.

1) Local supermarket restaurant "Sorry. We've stopped serving. We're closing early for the festival" They must have been terrified of customers arriving in numbers.

2) Local High Street Bake and Confectioners shop : Window sign "Closed for the Festival." It wasn't the only closed trader in town.

3) Large hotel on left going up the high street, a participating jazz venue, would you believe? Had a sign over the Bar.."Freshly Cut Sandwiches". Me.. late afternoon " A pint of bitter please and 'What sandwiches do you have available?" Barman "Sorry... They've all gone!" Obviously NOT FRESHLY CUT! Me: "Well go and freshly-cut some more for me." "Sorry. Can't do that.. Too late!" Me " Well it's not too late to push that freshly pulled pint, back up the tap or any other idea which might occur to you!" Picked up the money and left the venue for ever... even if, in the unfortunate & unlikely event that my footfall should ever again land in hick town Keswick.

Traders moan to local councillors that they need action to boost trade. Local Chambers of Trade and Commerce take some action and then traders pull down the shutters, not wanting to be inconvenienced.

Closed traders should be noted by the council and reprimanded, even listed publicly.

An earlier, similar rant of mine was to be found above.

Howard Murray.

14/11/16 - Looks a good line-up for the Keswick Jazz Festival – but where are the large enough venues, without the marquee and the theatre, apart from the cinema and the Methodist church. We stopped going for a few years because of the small venues. - Barbara & Jeff Swire

14/11/16 - Re: Norman Gibson's item on the news about Keswick Jazz festival, he mentions the Lancaster Music Festival, its thick programme for a pound, over 200 events just about all free. Ben Ruth, the organiser has a small dedicated team, including at least two pub landlords who all work for free, he gets no funding from The Arts Council and no funding from Lancaster Council, I don't know how he does it. It’s one of the most popular music festivals in the country and all the pubs are overflowing, he uses Lancaster Castle as a main venue and that belongs to The Duchy so he has permission from them. He has got the local brewery to do a festival ale and the brewery is also a venue. He invites some bands to play and others can apply, and he has to turn down some who want to play here. He has bands from all over the world but the bulk of them are local bands, we have a lot of musicians in Lancaster. -

Barrie Marshall

14/11/16 - Graham Hughes and others are doing their best to ensure there is a 2017 Keswick Jazz Festival, other than the Theatre By The Lake offerings, but it needs a lot of effort and co-operation.

Isabel and I have booked our accommodation for the week 8th to 15th May in anticipation, and we are hoping to run Guest Sessions, as usual. We have the 'house band', but we want to know that there's going to be other musicians to come and join us. These may be players in bands to be booked, but we don't know of any bookings yet, so we're looking for the other players, the enthusiasts, stalwarts, nutters, entertainers, people that will come to Keswick despite everything else. Would it be possible to have a famous Fred Burnett page where people in the North West (and readers beyond) can offer their intentions, to build up a surge of interest?

Malcolm Hogarth

14/11/16 - I've had a look at the Keswick Jazz Festival 2017 Website and I'm delighted that a photo of the Lake Records All-Star Jazz Band (in performance at the Theatre by the Lake) 'pops up' in the slide show on the 'home' page. Hopefully this will lead to many inquiries, but I have to be honest and say that I no longer have the white trousers, although the jacket has survived! From what must be an extensive archive of photos it seems odd to choose one of a Band that's not actually booked to appear, so I trust this doesn't cause too much disappointment! I have many happy memories from playing every year for the first 21 years , particularly as I was actually resident in the Town for the first 3 years! Probably because the economy of Keswick mostly depends upon followers of outdoor pursuits 'splashing the cash' after an exhausting day on the Lake or Fells or in outdoor clothing outlets , the fact that some people prefer sitting indoors all day listening to Jazz has never quite been looked on sympathetically by many of the Town's catering establishments. My favourite memory (in pursuit of food ! ) was the mis-spelt notice stating: "SANDWINCHES ARE AVAILABLE AT THE BAR". A gritty prospect! It's difficult to imagine the festival without the involvement and patronage of the excellent Theatre by the Lake but remember that in the early years the Theatre was still only the 'Blue Box' - a 'mobile' box on wheels! Nevertheless I wish the 2017 Festival every success- because bands and musicians out there deserve an audience ! And you can always take your own sandwiches and a vacuum flask and enjoy the views ! This year we have witnessed unexpected results from two major political events , so perhaps it's time to ignore opinion-polls, avoid negative presumption, and just try to support a future event in the shrinking world of Jazz music ! Finally, I have to say I am grateful for the publicity . I still have the Double Bass too! -

Roy Cansdale.


Keswick JF 2017 is by no means a forgone conclusion, but people are beavering away trying to make it happen. Audiences have dwindled considerably, but I felt that, as festival programmer, Graham Hughes was making a go of giving it a new lease of life..

Paul Adams

19/11/16 - Re-sponsorship and Keswick Jazz Festival. I've just been looking at AberJazz Jazz and Blues Festival website, as I'm fancying a look down there in Fishguard next year. I see they have been going about half the length of time as Keswick and yet they have got a string of sponsors on board, among them The Lottery, Stena Ferries and The Arts Council of Wales. Surely if they were able to do it Keswick promoters must be able to !!   I've just been looking at AberJazz Jazz and Blues Festival website, as I'm fancying a look down there in Fishguard next year. I see they have been going about half the length of time as Keswick and yet they have got a string of sponsors on board, among them The Lottery, Stena Ferries and The Arts Council of Wales. Surely if they were able to do it Keswick promoters must be able to !!

Norman Gibson


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