Saturday, 29 August 2020

Jazz Clubs and the lockdown - Scarborough Jazz

We asked jazz promoters what they had been up to during the lockdown and what plans they had for the autumn

This is from Mike Gordon, Chair of Scarborough Jazz:

We have not yet been able to restart Scarborough Jazz @ The Cask for the usual reasons. Because of social distancing we would be unable to have a large enough audience to make it financially viable and also many of our regulars fall into the vulnerable category because of age and would not yet want to go into a public performance area. However we have kept Scarborough Jazz going in a very different format as Adrian Riley, a committee member, writes below.

When you’ve been putting on live jazz 50 weeks of the year for over 35 years you don’t just give up without a fight. Only one week after closing our doors due to Covid-19 restrictions, Scarborough Jazz Club launched a new web presence – the Lockdown Club.

The idea of having a weekly jazz DJ mix during lockdown and keep the club alive in spirit came from drummer, DJ and music educator Rowan Oliver with help from Adrian Riley of local design studio Electric Angel and quickly grew into the idea of a weekly online magazine also sharing links to some of the online jazz content we hoped might spring up during lockdown, the primary aim being to encourage support of musicians who we realised were really going to struggle over the coming months.

It was also an opportunity to share music by local musicians, many of whom regularly play at the club and to continue our recently launched initiative of providing support slots for young musicians in the area through our ‘New Jazz Generation’ programme. In fact much of the content of ‘The Lockdown Club’ has been written by Dylan Riley, a 16 year old multi-instrumentalist from Scarborough who has also featured in some of the video performances shared over lockdown such as local teenage jazz-funksters ‘Purple Cheesecake’ and the town’s ‘Hip-Hop Jazz Jam’. Occasional guest DJ mixes and archive footage have completed the weekly editions which go live every Wednesday at 8.45pm – the time live music would usually start at the club.

This has been an opportunity to explore new ground too. Can a niche music like jazz reach out to a wider audience online? Our visitor numbers suggest so with online listeners sometimes double what we would see at the club – perhaps the DJ element, including guest mixes, and a more open-ended idea of what constitutes ‘jazz’ has helped spread the word. This gives us hope for the future and is food for thought about how we might package and promote the club in the future, particularly to bolster our loyal audience with some new faces.

Will we be returning to live music any time soon? It is impossible to predict at the moment although in a town with as strong a music scene as Scarborough, there are already pockets of activity as people negotiate ‘the new normal’. In the meantime we are keeping that Wednesday 8.45pm slot alive in people’s minds for when we hope to return to live jazz.

The Lockdown Club can be visited at





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