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New deal safeguards future of Jazz Centre

Updated: Mar 21


In a big boost for music in Southend, the City council and The Jazz Centre UK have agreed a new arrangement that will safeguard the future of the much-loved jazz mecca until the end of the 2030s. This outcome opens a new chapter for the Jazz Centre, allowing the fulfilment of its mission to preserve the history of the music and keep it alive for future generations. It could also lay the foundation for an ambitious cultural hub in Southend.


An agreed lease, just concluded, ends the uncertainty faced by The Jazz Centre UK (TJCUK) since it received notice, in 2022, to quit its premises in the basement of the Beecroft Art Gallery within a year. That notice was rescinded before the deadline, but uncertainty about the future has remained until now. Under the terms of the new lease, the Jazz Centre will remain in its present basement venue in Victoria Avenue for 15 years.


Its founder, pre-eminent trumpeter Digby Fairweather, said the lease agreement “is tremendous news.” It provides the Jazz Centre “with a safe and steady stage on which to move forward.” He welcomed the opportunity to work with Southend City Council in developing the first ever cultural centre for jazz in the UK.


The agreement was also applauded by councillor Kevin Buck, a strong supporter of the Jazz Centre who helped to push the negotiations along. “I’m absolutely delighted,” he said, “that we have secured the long-term future of the Jazz Centre within the Beecroft building”. TJCUK is a unique cultural and heritage organisation, he added. “It is now seen as the ‘go to’ place for all things Jazz in Europe and we are incredibly fortunate to have such a hard-working, dedicated team of volunteers within the City.”

Cllr Derek Jarvis, cabinet member for arts, culture, heritage, and leisure, says: “Retaining the Jazz Centre UK in the Beecroft Gallery, a place of national and international significance, is key to our reputation as a cultural destination and key to our visitor offer.


“I am pleased that we have been able to get a new agreement in place with the Jazz Centre that will enable them to remain and make an affordable contribution to the council’s costs going forward, and I want to thank officers for their role in making this happen.”


The Jazz Centre, which opened in 2016, is the only organisation of its type in the country, with its rare museum exhibits, extensive collections of recorded music in all formats, film and book libraries, and documents, all chronicling the history of jazz. Activities also include regular live music events, talks on aspects of the music, and support for young musicians.

Under the new lease the Jazz Centre will be able to present up to six hours of live music, rather than just the two-hour, popular gigs it currently puts on each Saturday. Exactly how the extra time is allocated will depend on future discussions with the Beecroft Gallery.


The gallery and the Jazz Centre will work closely together to meet the expectations of their respective audiences and to achieve the lease’s wider ambitions, which envisage the two bodies developing their joint home into a cultural hub, encouraging cultural tourism to the city.

This will also help the Beecroft Gallery meet the goals of its charter, which include the “promotion of the study of art, music and literature.”


Moreover, the establishment in Southend of a cultural hub, bringing together a range of art forms, has long been the aspiration of councillors that look at the cultural success of other seaside towns.






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