THE JAZZ CENTRE UK
Situated in The Beecroft Art Gallery, Essex, The Jazz Centre (UK) celebrates the music’s heritage, art and memorabilia and actively supports and promotes contemporary performance and education.
“TO PROMOTE, PRESERVE AND CELEBRATE THE CULTURE OF JAZZ IN ALL ITS FORMS”
The Jazz Centre UK is fully wheelchair accessible. Please see our accessibility page for more information. If you have any questions, please get in touch. Our friendly volunteers are happy to help with any queries.
The Jazz Centre UK Map
Use the interactive map below to navigate your way around The Jazz Centre UK.
A DIGITAL TOUR
BY CEO DIGBY FAIRWEATHER
Welcome to The Jazz Centre UK
As you descend the stairs you’ll see our Humphrey Lyttelton heritage exhibition ahead of you and to the right our Welcome Desk. Here we invite you to sign our visitors’ book; ask any questions about our exhibits and services; maybe browse the CDs and vinyl in our record shop, books in our bookstore - and view our art exhibitions too.
HOW WE GOT STARTED
Jazz music has existed in some form in the UK since around 1880 but up until now - quite unaccountably - there has never been a national centre to act as the music's flagship in Britain. Only one unsuccessful attempt was made back in 1982 when plans to establish a 'Jazz Centre Society' in London's Covent Garden collapsed four years later. Over thirty years have gone by and in 2015 a proposal to Arts Council England to bring back the idea was greeted by Darren Henley (CEO of Arts Council England) as 'a fantastic project'.
In 1988, our CEO Digby Fairweather founded the National Jazz Archive which holds collections of books, periodicals, posters, photographs and letters. The archive is still flourishing today. In 2015, due to a lack of space, the NJA was unable to expand to take on physical artefacts such as our Humphrey Lyttelton collection - so a hunt for a new space began.
Our project began within our current Research Centre room (see map) on the lower floor of the Beecroft Art Gallery. With our important heritage artefacts, over-stock from the National Jazz Archive and other collections curated by Digby, we created an 'Aladdin's cave' of Jazz Heritage within the small room provided by Southend Borough Council.
It was at this point we realised that there had never been a flagship cultural centre for the art form in the UK - as opposed to the Cecil Sharp House for Folk Music. Because of our new space, we took the opportunity to establish a cultural centre for the craft that applies to performance, art, dance, its heritage, sound and more.
We founded The Jazz Centre (UK) in January 2016 with the aim to promote, preserve and celebrate the culture of jazz. And with its two 55-minute rail links to and from London and a newly-flourishing airport Southend-on-Sea, Essex is a great location.
With great public support, support from our patrons and funding bodies, we have managed to expand our collections, activities and premises year-on-year. In 2018 we expanded to the entire lower floor of the Beecroft Art Gallery. Sir Michael Parkinson, Paul Jones, Susan Da Costa, Southend Mayor, The Humphrey Lyttelton band and a party of nearly 400 people attended the opening event.