Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The Value of Jazz report

I am seeing too many comments on the Value of Jazz report from Jazz Services where people are obsessed by whether they are mentioned or not. Generally looking for the gaps. That's important but people then get too much up their arses and ignore important trends. Indeed it's true that there are probably even more courses than mentioned (Chris Yates pointed out the omission of Newcastle in the list of courses in Jazz Rag.) and some venues have been missed. But these deflect from the importance of the report in giving an indication of where things are and certainly give a foundation for action. I understand that Jazz Services now wants to concentrate on updating it. That'll be like painting the Forth Rail Bridge - by the time that they've done it it'll be due for another review. Worthy as long as that's not all that goes on. Still, it keeps the bureaucrats able to further an illusion that things are getting done. In the mean time, the real world of jazz moves on and we have to find our own guidance.
The difficulty for those trying to measure the value of jazz is that the sector is similar to social capital - as much to do with the informal, unregulated and based on custom and trust as with the codified and organised systems which organisations such as the Arts Council try to work through. It's what creates much of the excitement for people and the sense of surprise. For example, I am always pleased when people come from places such as Islington to the Vortex. Very few would think that there is a jazz venue North of Ball's Pond Road: they would tend to look to Camden or the West End rather than the "mean streets of Hackney".

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