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Jazz and cultural identities

Jazz and cultural identities

Rhythm Changes is Europe’s largest ever jazz research project to date, examining the inherited traditions and practices of European jazz cultures, engaging audiences, performers, the creative industries and arts agencies in the collection, interpretation and sharing of cultural experiences, resources and data:

  • Establishing networks that encourage trans-national co-operation and collaboration, enhance festival programmes, bring economic benefit and lead to new sources of funding; 
  • Increasing audience engagement with jazz as a cultural form through developing new models for Knowledge Exchange, in partnership; and
  • Collaborating with the Europe Jazz Network (EJN) in contributing to the design, implementation and delivery of the first social and economic study of its 80 strong membership over 22 countries, enabling the promotion of the value of jazz to policy makers.

Festivals and collaboration

As the largest research project ever funded for jazz in Europe, Rhythm Changes filled a gap in existing research provision at the European level, with the following aims:

  1. Understanding concepts of national thought and identity in jazz;
  2. Collating jazz-related data, moving from specialist analysis towards interdisciplinary and transnational synthesis;
  3. Showing how jazz venues and festivals preserve, reflect and inform a sense of cultural memory;
  4. Furthering pan-European humanities research by establishing networks that encourage transnational collaboration.

Through managing the Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA) funded Rhythm Changes project, Professor Tony Whyton and Professor George McKay of the School of Arts and Media have published work on the value of jazz in national settings. They have developed this research for festivals, venues and arts promoters; from ethnographic explorations of individual festival settings to online resources for jazz, from an appraisal of cultural policies and the work of national jazz agencies to practice-based engagement with professional development schemes.  

  • Rhythm Changes has provided a voice for jazz research at the European level, developing several collaborations and public engagement events with high profile national and international organisations: In addition to JazzDanmark, Bimhuis Amsterdam, MaiJazz Stavanger, Jazz Fest Wien and the Copenhagen Jazz Festival; Serious/London Jazz Festival has been a Knowledge Exchange partner of Rhythm Changes since 2010. Rhythm Changes hosted a public event at the Barbican in London as part of the main programme for the 2010 Serious/London Jazz Festival entitled ‘Another Place?  Why Jazz Festivals Matter’, which included contributions from a range of international festival directors.
  • The Rhythm Changes project contributed to new programming directions and enabled the organisation to secure additional funding: Serious received funding from the EU Culture Fund in 2012 to curate a ‘Jazz and the New Europe’ strand as part of the 2012 London Jazz Festival programme. The central themes of the strand mirrored the work of the Rhythm Changes research and Whyton was invited to chair the first public debate on Jazz the New Europe at the Royal Festival Hall.
  • Joint funding was received in August 2012 to develop a festival of the humanities in London, in June 2013. This event, entitled ‘The Time and The Place’, provided a new opportunity to build capacity, commission new works and develop pan-European collaborations. The three-day festival showcased the work of the first HERA Joint Research Programme, developing insights into cultural dynamics and questions of inheritance and identity in Europe, and reached new audiences through combining the themes of leading European humanities research projects with new arts commissions, public events and high profile concerts. The success of the Rhythm Changes’ ongoing Knowledge Exchange activities has led to a partnership with the London Jazz Festival for its 21st anniversary year in 2013.  In 2012, the Europe Jazz Network (EJN) undertook a social and economic impact study of its membership, covering over 80 organisations in 22 countries. The EJN is the principal Network for the professional jazz community in Europe and includes members ranging from Music Information Centres, National Jazz Agencies, large scale international festivals (such as North Sea, Copenhagen and London), famous venues and promoters.  As a member of the Europe Jazz Network steering group responsible for designing and implementing the study, Tony advised upon and wrote the foreword to the final published report. 'Strength in Numbers: A Study of Europe Jazz Network" represented a significant step change in the Network's ability to build capacity, enabling the network to make the case for jazz across the European cultural industries and to make the case for jazz in their national settings as well as benchmark their activities against other members and share models of good practice.
  • The report offers a strategic overview of the contribution in economic and social terms of members’ activity to national policy makers and the European Union, drawing directly on Rhythm Changes interview data and project findings. Tony provided advice and guidance on the design and content of the survey. The report is currently being used by the network and its members as a key strategy document, enabling organisations to make the case for jazz in their national settings, benchmark the activities of organisations against other members and share good practice. Rhythm Changes research, and the subsequent Strength in Numbers report, marks a sea-change in European collaboration and a blurring of boundaries between academic and non-academic communities.

Key report

 Strength in Numbers: A Study of Europe Jazz Network