Lancaster Jazz Festival: Preview

By Dav Williams

Updated Posted

Widely considered one of the most exciting jazz festivals in the UK, Lancaster Jazz Festival returns this week with an ambitious line-up featuring a whole host of Leeds Conservatoire staff, students and alumni. Taking place between the 11 and 15 September in venues across the city, this year’s headline artists will include the likes of Camilla George, Vula Viel and Led Bib.

More than just an annual event, Lancaster Jazz Festival runs a year-round artist development programme, building a strong reputation for championing emerging artists who specialise in jazz and improvised music, both in the North and further afield.

To discover what Lancaster Jazz Festival means to them - we interviewed a handful of the acts featuring Leeds Conservatoire alumni performing during the five days of live music:

freese trio are a heavy trip-hop dark-jazz band featuring Jemma Freese (BA Combined 2017), Chris Sellers and Theo Goss (BA Jazz 2017).  Their combination of hypnotic drum patterns, bold sub-bass riffs, dark harmony and daring yet intricate vocals contributes towards their bespoke sound. Their Lancaster performance, on the 13 September, takes place as part of Jazz North’s northern line showcase day, which will provide a platform for some of the Northern jazz scene’s most exciting artists. freese trio will commemorate their gig with an album launch for ‘the beast in the blueprint’ on the same date. Discover the band’s unique sound by listening to their latest single - ‘pleasure island’.

Bringing a subtle mix of jazz, electronic music and rock to create an intriguing sound, Rafe’s Dilemma features Leeds Conservatoire’s Programme Leader for Jazz, Jamil Sheriff, alongside alumni Katie Patterson (BA Jazz 2011), Nel Begley (BA Jazz 2015) and Sam Vicary (BA Jazz 2009). The band was originally formed as a commission by Bolton Worktown Festival in tribute to the work of playwright Bill Naughton. Using a mix of spoken word, improvisation, synthesised soundscapes and carefully crafted songs, the band have recently received a Project Grant from Arts Council England towards costs of a national album launch tour. The 12-track album, which was released at the end of August, is a suite of music that depicts the story of Naughton’s play ‘Spring and Port Wine’. The work is available to listen to on Bandcamp.

As testament to the festival’s aim of exploring the porous boundary between jazz and contemporary music, BA Music Production graduate Weezy Jefferson, an artful Leeds-based MC, will take to the stage with a band of five jazz musicians to play a new set of original music on Saturday 14 September. 

Lucy Woolley, Festival Manager for Lancaster Jazz Festival and Project Manager for Jazz North added:

“We are delighted to be partnering Jazz North’s northern line scheme with Lancaster Jazz Festival. The showcase will bring a brilliant collection of artists from across the north that will compliment and extend the full festival lineup, which feature fantastic commissions, up and coming musicians, local and international artists. We can’t wait!”

The festival will open with a performance at Lancaster Brewery from Leeds-based quartet Vipertime (Ben Powling, Matias Reed, Charlie Grimwood and Luke Reddin-Williams). Elsewhere, alumni quintet Yaatri, who have recently been selected for the Jazz North Introduces programme, will make their first appearance at the festival. Learn more about the programme and its benefits through our recent article with the band.


Bands including Leeds Conservatoire students, staff and alumni are as follows:

See the programme from this year’s Lancaster Jazz Festival

If you’re heading to the festival, check out this nifty guide

Find out more about our BA (Hons) Music (Jazz) degree programme

Find out more about what our successful graduates have been up to in our Alumni Profiles

Are you a Leeds Conservatoire graduate? Reconnect with us here



By Dav Williams

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