‘There are so many fantastic jazz musicians living 
on the south coast’

Claire Martin
Claire Martin

A major new south-coast festival hits the ground running this week when the South Coast Jazz Festival 2015 kicks off with a sell-out opening night.

No tickets now remain for the Jazz Vocal Celebration on Friday, January 23, at 8pm at Shoreham’s Ropetackle, home to the festival which runs until Sunday, January 25.

Jazz singer and festival founder Claire Martin is delighted at the thought of a year’s hard work paying off.

“It’s the brainchild of myself and Julian Nicholas who is an very well established saxophone player, from Brighton as well. We are old friends, the old guard! And we were moaning about the fact that Brighton doesn’t have a jazz festival any more. There was one until the late ’80s. It has not been around for years, but there always was one.

“The Brighton Festival is amazing, but it does not necessarily shine a massive light on jazz, and yet there are so many fantastic jazz musicians living on the south coast. So we just thought: ‘Let’s do something about it!’ We contacted the Ropetackle. It was just the right place to start. We had approached the Old Market but they weren’t interested. But the Ropetackle were really up for it, and it was the sort of place we could get some Arts Council funding for. It has got a beautiful foyer. We can do jam sessions out the front. It had such possibilities.

“It took a year, but we have managed it. It was months of hard work. Well, maybe that is over-egging it a bit! Some of the hard work was in a pub with a pint of Guinness! But there was a lot to do. We had two applications to the Arts Council, the second of which was accepted. We have appointed a festival administrator and so on.... but now we are at the point where hopefully we can just look forward to it and enjoy it.

“January is such a rubbish month. We think people will want to shake off their January blues. We had a big push about giving tickets as Christmas presents. People are ready by the end of January to start going out again.

“And now we have got the template for it all. It has been time-consuming, but the format is now there. We hope it will be a growing thing. We are aiming to get bigger and bigger and maybe work with a succession of venues in the area.”

Claire admits that putting on a festival is not something she’s ever remotely done before, but as opening night looms, all the signs are good.

“At the end of our first festival, we can have a glass of wine and think that we really did deliver something which was great. The figures are looking good tickets-wise, but the big thing will really be the general vibe about the whole thing, that people will come along and they will hear some great music and have a great time.”

Other festival events:

l Saturday, January 24: Jazz For Absolute Beginners With Kevin Le Gendre, 3pm-4.30pm (£10); and Bobby Wellins & Geoff Simkins With The Gareth Williams Trio and Mark Edwards’ ‘Cloggz’ featuring Julian Nicholas & Ben Sarfas, 7.30pm (£20).

l Sunday, January 25: Dreams Are Free (Film) With Gary Barber & Bobby Wellins, 11am; Jack Kendon Band (Al Scott, Peter Adam Hill, George Trebar), 12.30pm (free – Ropetackle Foyer, includes jam session); and Peter Long’s Echoes Of Ellington Orchestra – Duke’s First 30 Years and The Mingus Underground Octet featuring Mark Bassey, 7.30pm (£20).

Tickets from the Ropetackle Centre. Visit www.ropetacklecentre.co.uk/visit/south-coast-jazz-festival