The Jazz Centre UK has won its 11-month fight for survival now that Southend City Council has taken the final steps to rescind the order evicting it from its home in the Beecroft Art Gallery building. Official confirmation that the eviction notice has been repealed was greeted with huge relief by the Jazz Centre’s trustees, its army of volunteers and the great many music lovers that it has served for the last seven years.
Founder and moving spirit behind the Centre, Digby Fairweather said, “Now that the Jazz Centre's future has been secured, we intend to focus all our efforts on making it the beating heart of jazz in the UK and beyond, demonstrating that it truly is the unrivalled protector, preserver and promoter of this very special music." Jay Taylor of The Music Venue Trust said,
“We welcome the reversal of the decision to evict The Jazz Centre UK from the Beecroft Art Gallery. We are encouraged that this valuable Grassroots Music Venue has been recognised as a key cultural space and diverse contributor to Southend On Sea’s live music offering, and that of the UK.”
Under the shock notice to quit, issued last summer, the Jazz Centre was required to vacate its home in the lower atrium of the Beecroft by the beginning of August this year. It would have involved finding a new venue for the Centre’s extensive collections and archives, documenting the history of jazz. With no suitable alternative space available, the Centre launched a widely supported campaign to stay in its present location. This resulted in a petition of well over 3,000 names backing the cause.
Although there has seemed to be broad cross-party support from the Council to rescind the notice of eviction, it was the Tories’ decision to include a pledge to do so, in their May local election manifesto that crystalised the position. Now heading the council, the Tories have honoured that pledge. At a council cabinet meeting in late June, several councillors referred to the Jazz Centre in glowing terms. Councillor Derek Jarvis, the new cabinet member for Arts, Culture, Heritage and Leisure, described it as an “excellent area” of a kind that does not exist anywhere else in the country for this music genre. “You would have to go to New Orleans to find anything as good.” Councillor Kevin Buck said it would be a
“travesty to lose this cultural heritage.”
Underlining his support for the Jazz Centre, Cllr Jarvis later congratulated Digby Fairweather and the Trustees. In a statement, he said
"They have all done a lot of hard work over the last seven years to create the centre which we see as an exciting and important part of our visitor and cultural offer, and another great reason to visit our new City."
Formal confirmation that Southend City Council had reversed last summer’s eviction notice opens the way for fresh discussions on the precise arrangements governing the Jazz Centre’s future tenure within the Beecroft Gallery building.
Chairman Gareth Evans says,
"Now that the future is secure, our Centre’s trustees intend to return to their mission to promote, preserve and celebrate the culture of jazz in all its forms for a diverse and growing community. The trustee and volunteer team will be strengthened and new funding will be sought to fully establish us as a national centre of excellence for jazz education, outreach and performance."