BRIEF HISTORY OF THE FESTIVAL
Our 20th event coming up - and going from strength to strength
The first Jazz Festival in the picturesque harbour and artists' town of Kirkcudbright, took place over a Friday evening and Saturday, at one venue, during September 1997. The event billed as "Bonnie Galloway's First Festival of Jazz at Kirkcudbright" was conceived and organised by local businessman and jazz fan, Ally Thomson. Six bands were showcased playing mainly Dixieland and classic New Orleans jazz. The "headline bands" were the Chicago Teddybears Society Jazz Band and Brian Carrick's Heritage Hall Stompers.
Having shown the way, Ally recruited a small team and a duly constituted Jazz Festival Group emerged to run the second Festival. This event which was not held until June 1999 was firmly rooted in "traditional" jazz. With support from the Lottery, Dumfries & Galloway Council and Groundbase, it was a much more ambitious affair, featuring ten groups in four venues, performing on Friday evening, all day Saturday and Sunday afternoon. For the first time, a marching band led a decorated brolly parade through the town on Saturday morning, and a Jazz Church Service took place in the parish church on the Sunday morning. In addition the concept of "dining to jazz" was introduced at a local restaurant. Leading bands this time were Phil Mason's New Orleans All Stars with Christine Tyrell and the Apex Jazz Band from Northern Ireland.
2000 saw a further expansion of the Festival in terms of venues and bands, in jazz dining in local restaurants and, thanks to the support of locals and visitors, more taking part in the decorated brolly parade. The town was also becoming very supportive of the Festival with local businesses either sponsoring the event or supporting by advertising in the Souvenir Programme. This year saw the first visit of Mart Rodger Manchester Jazz and the very new but very well received Jazz Girl.
The next expansion took place in 2002 when it was decided to try a Thursday evening start and an extension into Sunday evening to allow a greater number of bands to be hired. This proved to be successful, thanks in no small part to bands such as Manchester Jazz, Keith Nichol's All Stars and the Ken Colyer Trust Band. This year also saw the introduction of "Patrons of the Festival" which allowed individuals and businesses to demonstrate tangible support for the event.
Up to this point, the Festival Group was indebted to the Chairmanship of Ally Thomson, the Festival instigator, who retired through ill health.
Ian McGibbon took over the Chair, and under his guidance over the next three years, the Festival consolidated its position as one of the leading Scottish Jazz Festivals. It featured a mix of the best of Scottish and English Jazz Bands playing in the traditional idiom and attracted visitors from throughout the UK and beyond.
In 2006 the Chairmanship passed to Rev. Frank Glendinning who had for a number of years conducted the Jazz Church Service. The Festival continued to adhere to its original philosophy of showcasing first class musicians playing in the Dixieland style; of using the best venues available; of providing value for money to the audiences and of improving the Festival. To this end, and for the 10th Festival, an international dimension was added in 2007 by bringing the Climax Jazz Band from Canada and the Barfota Jazz Men from Sweden.
During 2007, the Festival was re-organised and re-constituted as a Limited Company Number 315747 and as a Registered Charity Number SC038200. These changes brought benefits and drawbacks - benefits in terms of being able to claim "gift aid" on patronage and sponsorship and drawbacks in that one result was a considerable change in personnel in the organising group and a very rapid learnng experience for some of the newcomers in mounting the 11th Festival which in fact proved to be the most successful yet in terms of audience appreciation of the superb music and entertainment displayed by those bands participating. These new members deserve the greatest thanks for their efforts and an acknowledgement of their commitment to the festival and the new skills they brought to the group.
The 11th Festival saw the first venture into "big band" territory with much appreciated and acclaimed gigs from Paul Munnery's Harlem band. Unfortunately, it was not possible to bring this band to the 12th Festival but its place was taken by Ken Mathieson's Classic Jazz Orchestra, making its initial appearance in Kirkcudbright alongside Dave Stradwick's Sussex Jazz Kings and Dennis Armstrong's Oliver Band.
Innovatively, the 12th Festival saw the introduction of "themed" gigs with Dennis Armstrong's group re-creating the music and sounds of King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band while the Classic Jazz Orchestra performed one gig as a tribute to Bix Beiderbecke and the second was devoted to the music of Jelly Roll Morton. Additionally, Bill Salmond's Louisiana Ragtime Band performed music from the dance halls of 1920s New Orleans.