Friday, May 29, 2009

Research grant for jazz. My true view

The heading of a letter sent to Jazzwise completely led to my being misunderstood. "Research grant misguided". The letter from Paul Jolly (of 33 Records) and myself actually said that we wanted the Arts Council to do the same as the Arts and Humanities Research Council which has awarded a grant of £500000 to study Black British jazz. So for us the Arts Council needs guiding and not the research grant.
Unfortunately, others branded us as against the grant, being congratulated in this regard by Geoff Eales in their letters page the following month, while this month Chris Hodgkins of Jazzwise criticises us among others for criticising the grant.
It only goes to show how people are influenced by the headlines and the power of the sub-editor. They don't read the article properly that follows. (It's similar to my criticism of jazz reviews having star ratings. People look at the number of stars and not the actual review.) It's bizarre in a field where people are so sensitive to nuance of the music that they are not so for words.

Here's the actual letter again for the record.
"We were intrigued to read about the grant of £495,643 from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to examine "What is Black British Jazz?" We were initially angered that such amounts of money were being channelled into research when the existing jazz scene, live and recorded, and built partly on this heritage, is itself so underfunded. However, on further reflection, we actually wonder if the researchers are truly recognising the importance of the music in a way that other organisations such as the Arts Council aren't.
Much of jazz's legacy is created through its recordings. UK labels, such as Babel and 33, are finding the environment tough, on the back of the economic crunch out there. For example, Dune, committed to releasing high-quality jazz primarily from a black perspective, has released virtually no albums over the past couple of years probably due to a shortage of funds, and certainly not due to a lack of talent. We therefore plea to Liz Forgan, as new Arts Council England chair, to make support for jazz commensurate with the Arts and Humanities Research Council. "

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