FEATURE: Newport Jazz Weekend (Isle of Wight, 1st - 4th June)

Newport IoW
Photo credit: Ian Mitchell

Mention the Isle of Wight to people of a certain age and it usually stirs up memories of childhood holidays on golden sandy beaches. To some it is home to one of the world’s most famous sailing events with Cowes week whilst others remember the hippy sixties and the world famous musical festivals. Well the music lingers on but these days it is the annual Newport Jazz Weekend that is stirring up the interest. Ian Mitchell(*) tells us more: 
Started in 2011 by a small group of local jazz enthusiasts the event has gone from strength to strength and is now a recognised feature on the UK jazz calendar. The event is based in the island’s county town which is itself steeped in history. Charles 1 is reputed to have regularly visited the town’s oldest pub, under armed guard, whilst he was held prisoner in Carisbrooke Castle.

Dave Newton
Photo Credit: Ian Mitchell

Much industry has vanished in recent years but the legacy has been put to good use as a former riverside brewery now houses the local Quay Arts Centre where the Anthony Minghella Theatre, named after one of the Island’s more famous sons, is one of the Jazz Weekend venues.

Nick Page
Photo Credit: Ian Mitchell

Event director Jim Thorn said “Newport is the heart of the Island but is very compact. It is very easy to walk between venues and as well as the Arts Centre we have the Apollo Theatre which has superb acoustics having started life as a church. We also use the local Methodist Church and the Minster for some of our main concerts and the town has a buzz with a series of free fringe events dotted around the town.”

Derek Nash
Photo Credit: Ian Mitchell

The Sunday usually sees an event at the local Medina Theatre and last year saw Stacey Kent close the weekend to a standing ovation. This year the organisers have booked the National Youth Jazz Orchestra to play there and with many of their graduates now gracing the scene this is a great opportunity to see some of the names of tomorrow.



The whole weekend is packed with what promises to be a superb event with concerts ranging from Island based guitarist Nick Page premiering his new “Isle of Wight Suite” to the Savoy collection, who are an offshoot of the famous Syd Lawrence Orchestra, who will be performing some big band jazz classics. Zoe Rahman closes the Friday night and the highly popular Lianne Carroll appears on the Sunday.

Liz Fletcher
Photo Credit: Ian Mitchell

Festival favourite Alan Barnes makes two appearances, both co-incidentally jazz brunches, on the Saturday with vocalist Liz Fletcher whilst Sunday sees him with pianist David Newton. There will also be a double appearance from Sax Appeal front man Derek Nash who on Saturday afternoon will be rocking the Apollo Theatre with his Quintet before re-appearing in the evening with fellow Sax Appeal front man, and local boy, Gary Plumley who fronts in a funk style aggregation known as the Alley Cats.
Gary Plumley
Photo Credit: Ian Mitchell

Well those sandy beaches are still there and the Island is easily accessible. There are direct road links to the ferries and bus routes serve the cross Solent foot passenger services. The Island is also well served with hotels for visitor accommodation. The event is timed to fit in with half term so why not combine a traditional beach holiday with some of the best names in jazz.(pp)

(*) Ian Mitchell is an Isle of Wight-based photographer and a member of the Newport Jazz Weekend Committee. He presents a specialist blues and jazz programme on local community radio station Angel Radio Isle of Wight.

Check out Newport Jazz Weekend for details of the full line up, and ticket prices.

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