Last night I spent a couple of hours in a rather dismal upstairs room of a Working Man's Club discussing plastic coffee cups. And road closures. And whether we should invest in 50 stuffed sheep toys as prizes for the tombola stall. Such evenings take place about every four weeks. When not discussing T-shirt designs, litter collections or the logistics of seat arrangements, this little band of volunteers of whom I am proud to be a member will be trying to persuade local businesses to take out an advert, local Councillors to provide us with a few pounds in funding, or local residents that one weekend of communal fun is worth the sacrifice of a tiny bit of temporary disruption. For this is Marsden, set high on the moors where Yorkshire blends into Lancashire. Marsden with its stone mills, its narrow canal, and its rows of terraced houses. Marsden : the home of the annual Marsden Jazz Festival.
I have served on the organising committee of the Marsden Jazz Festival for eight years or so. Marsden is not the biggest festival on the circuit and it certainly isn't the richest. We limp along from year to year with the help of a little sponsorship from local businesses, a few grants from the Council and other public bodies, and a massive infusion of help, support and enthusiasm of a band of volunteers. Volunteers who take the tickets, make the teas, sweep the floors, and move the chairs. Volunteers who are equally driven by their love of the music and by the pleasure of being part of a Festival that gives pleasure to countless visitors each year.
This years' Festival will take place over the weekend of the 9th/10th/11th of October. We have headline acts such as Georgie Fame and Ian Shaw. But we are equally as proud of the fact that we will once again provide a venue for countless school and college jazz bands and a platform for some new bands who continue to push back the boundaries of jazz. If you are around these parts in early October why not drop in and see us. If not, spare us a thought and hope for a rain-free weekend.
As the Festival weekend approaches preparations get more and more frantic. There are leaflets to write, exhibitions to organise, rotas to draw up. It will be hard work. But come October, when the sound of a band is drifting down the valley from one of the stages it will all be worth it. After all, it is not any festival : it is our festival.
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