TRIBUTE: Roanne Dods (1965-2017)

Roanne Dods

On January 31st 2017, ROANNE DODS, the original director of the Jerwood Charitable Foundation (JCF), passed away after a long illness at the tragically young age of 51. Claire Whitaker, Director of Serious and a good friend, pays tribute to her and remembers her uniquely imaginative contribution to jazz in the UK:

Roanne Dods supported many areas of the arts which seemed less obvious in her work at the Jerwood, seeking to enable creative organisations and artists to achieve their very best. One important strand of that work was the support the Foundation gave to jazz.

As well as being one of the two original funders of Take Five, Serious’ Talent development scheme for Jazz composers and performers, Roanne also oversaw grants to a wide range of Jazz organisations, including JazzXchange to support dance training, The Wapping Project for a series of solo Jazz Commissions, Air for support of an apprentice artist manager and the Cheltenham Jazz Festival for the Jerwood Next Generation strand. She also enabled a host of individual artists attend International festivals or to be commissioned at key moments in their careers.

Tom Ponsonby, a long standing colleague and friend said:

‘Roanne welcomed me into the Jerwood Charitable Foundation in 2000 and we worked together until 2009. Welcomed is apposite: with her warm smile, sparkling eyes & great head of auburn hair she put everyone at ease and made them feel positive about themselves and the project they had brought to the table. She had great energy and curiosity, very open to new ideas and innovation and she very much believed that work should be fun. In a sense our working relationship was ying and yang. I tended to be interested in older art forms, and I came from a classical music background; she came from dance and had also qualified as a lawyer. We had many happy days and nights at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival over the years, & sitting in on the Take Five sessions that we supported with Serious’.

Roanne’s legacy continues, not only though the many connections she facilitated, often resulting in strong professional bonds and friendships, but also in the work she initiated. Since 2009, when Roanne left, JCF has continued to support jazz, including on-going support for Take Five, the Jazzlines Fellowships with Town Hall Symphony Hall, Birmingham, and a new grant to Empirical in 2016.

Cheltenham Festival was an important strand of JCF’s jazz strategy. Tony Dudley-Evans said:

‘Cheltenham Jazz Festival entered into a partnership with Jerwood Charitable Foundation in 2002 to create the Jerwood Rising Stars project and later the Jerwood Jazz Generation project over a period of eight years. These two schemes, the first focussing on young artists in the early stages of their career and the second on taking some of these artists onto the next stage, became a key part of Cheltenham Jazz Festival's approach and enabled it to develop its reputation as one of the most innovative jazz festivals in Europe. The longevity of the scheme came out of a very strong professional relationship between Roanne from Jerwood and Kate Danielson and myself from Cheltenham. Roanne was a wonderful person to work with, always keenly interested in what we were planning and supportive of the end results. It was only with Roanne’s commitment that the festival was able to provide sustained support for young British musicians, such as Seb Rochford, Pete Wareham, Ingrid Laubrock, Denys Baptiste, Abram Wilson and Gwilym Simcock who rose to prominence partly through their regular appearance at Cheltenham over the years of Jerwood’s support.

We intend to pay tribute to Roanne at this year’s festival’.


There has been an outpouring of tributes to Roanne, many of them remarking on her passion, power presence and inspiration. One of her friends, Jana Roberts summed up the feelings and thoughts of many when she wrote, “Roanne completely, unreservedly, made the worlds of everyone she touched a whole lot better, richer and more loving and warm and intelligent and questioning. She had the heart the size of the universe and always managed to give you the feeling that you are the most important thing to her when she spoke to you. She was the rarest of beings and one of the brightest lights you could have hoped for`, David Lan, Director of the Young Vic said that in the creative circles in which he moved “Roanne is considered a god”.

On a personal note, my relationship with Roanne epitomised all that is special about the kind of work we all do. We started by forming a new partnership and that relationship blossomed into professional colleagues and then to become firm and longstanding friends. Roanne became an enthusiastic attender of jazz concerts and festivals, she was particularly fond of the work of Abram Wilson and always tried to see his shows whenever possible. It was on a visit to Cheltenham Jazz festival to see him perform that our families got the chance to meet. Our sons, who are the same age, hit it off immediately and I have very happy memories of that weekend, as well as the many receptions, conferences, drinks and dinners we shared where I benefited from Roanne’s huge knowledge, insight, warmth and good humour. Quite simply she understood the creative process and had an eye for quality across a huge range of arts and artists. She is hugely missed.

Roanne Watson Dods. Born Lima Peru September 1965. Died Glasgow 31st January 2017

LINKS: Tribute from One Dance UK
Tribute from Siobhan Davies
Tribute from Craft Scotland
Roanne Dods' website

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