The new six day Jazzleeds festival (July 19th-24th 2018) will run in city centre venues including the Wardrobe, the College of Music and Millennium Square

Headline acts include jazz stars like Soweto Kinch and Greg Abate. There will be a new jazz play by Leeds author Chris Nickson and a celebration of the music of Duke Ellington marking 60 years since his famous visit to Leeds in 1958. 


Six days of the best jazz in City Centre Venues including The Wardrobe, Leeds College of Music and Millennium Square


Soweto Kinch



Ian Shaw

US saxman Greg Abate

New Briggate Blues play

“Delights of the Duke” with Alan Barnes Ellingtonians 

Celebrating Xero Slingsby, Leeds punk jazz hero

New Stream feat. Matt Bourne 

Improvisation Chamber

Busk Stops and late night Jam sessions  

Jazz in Millennium Square

plus many more…

About the Festival

“It’s about time Leeds had a decent jazz festival!” That phrase has been reverberating round the music and arts community in Leeds for long enough. For a city with such a buzzing jazz scene – 23 jazz venues (at the last count!), the UK’s best jazz club (official), the first (and still best!) jazz music education courses in Europe not having a jazz festival is almost as big cultural gap for the city as not having a Symphony Orchestra!

What Leeds has is unique – a huge, successful and fascinating jazz history (and present!) with inventiveness, skill and talent. A group of some of the main jazz promoters in the city have got together to change all that.

Says jazz festival organiser Steve Crocker

The 2023 bid and the ambition to have a big Cultural Festival in Leeds was the catalyst. If everyone else in the city was up for it, why not us? So we’ve hatched a plan – we held a 1 day festival August 2017 this year we are moving to a 5 day event and our ambition is have a ten day festival by 2023 that can really match the best in the world.”

“Jerry Godley, the principal at Leeds College of Music, along with his colleague Jamil Sheriff have been fantastic supporters, allowing us use their new rooftop venue for the big Sunday events and also to run the “New Stream” presentations of more improvised music. Leeds City Council have helped by encouraging us to apply for Arts at Leeds funding for the first time and to use Millennium Square as part of the Summer Music Festival in the city. The Wardrobe venue in Leeds city centre have welcomed us to host the festival there on the Friday and Saturday.”

When is the festival and where will it be held?

It is over six days this summer – July 19-24. There are four main venues – the Wardrobe (Friday night, Saturday afternoon and evening) The Leeds College of Music Rooftop Bar (Sunday afternoon and evening, plus a New Stream feature in Room 219), then two days of Fringe Festival Music with local and community bands in Millennium Square on Monday and Tuesday day and evening, including an “improvisation chamber” where people can try out improvising for the first time and a new jazz play with music in the Carriageworks

What is the line-up – who’s playing and why should people check these out?

Opening the festival is sax player, BBC broadcaster and rap artist Soweto Kinch at the Wardrobe in concert with up and coming Leeds band “Tetes de Pois”

US saxman Greg Abate is with us on Saturday afternoon at the Wardrobe playing his swinging mainstream jazz

On Saturday evening we welcome a double header of two of the brightest bands in the UK jazz firmament – all womens band “Nerija” and jazz punk party band “Pigfoot” to the Wardrobe

On Sunday afternoon the action moves over to Leeds College of Music rooftop bar with international jazz singing star Ian Shaw with his trio, supported by the Leeds Jazz Voices Choir

Sunday evening at Leeds College of Music rooftop bar is a feature on the best-known jazz composer in the world, Duke Ellington, 60 years on from when his orchestra played in Leeds. The evening concert will feature saxman Alan Barnes (who trained originally at Leeds College of Music) and his eight-piece all-star “Ellingtonians”

On both Sunday afternoon and evening, also in Leeds College of Music we have “New Stream” concerts curated by Leeds jazz musician Laura Cole, featuring artists such as pianist Matthew Bourne and “Shatner’s Bassoon”

On Monday and Tuesday lunchtimes and early evenings there are local and community bands in Millennium Square – with free entry

On Monday evening the festival presents the first performance of “New Briggate Blues” at the Carriageworks about the famous 1950’s Leeds jazz venue Studio 20 . Written by Chris Nickson, and directed by Ray Brown the play features Leeds jazz vocalist Jennie Smith, alongside some photographs of Studio 20 and its musicians taken by legendary city photographer Terry Cryer.

Ever fancied trying jazz improvisation? Now you can at the “Improvisation Chambers” in the Carriageworks run by Dave Evans on Monday and Tuesday afternoon!

The finale of the festival is ‘Celebrating Xero Slingsby’ – a concert at the Wardrobe about Leeds ‘punkjazz’ legend Matthew Coe who died in 1988 and with some musicians from Ghent in Belgium where his band “The Works” often played

As well as these there will be lots of jazz in the streets and bars of Leeds – Busk Stops” – Friday and Saturday afternoon with busking jazz bands in Lands Lane curated by young Leeds musician Jemma Freese, late night Jam sessions after house in the Domino Club in Grand Arcade and a “Soul rebels” funk and Jazz late night Saturday session upstairs in the Wardrobe with DJ Lubi

Three festival highlights people shouldn’t miss!

“The Ellingtonians”: Sunday evening 22 July at Leeds College of Music

Music in celebration of the sixty years ago in 1958 when Duke Ellington met the Queen in Leeds on Saturday, October 18, 1958. The Queen and the Duke were guests of honour at the finale of the Leeds Centenary Music Festival. The Duke sent Her Majesty a copy of his 1959 composition as a gift and it remains one of his most remarkable, but least well-known, works “The Queens Suite”. It will feature in the Ellington Celebration concert at the festival with music by saxman Alan Barnes and his eight piece “Ellingtonians” band.

“New Briggate Blues”: Monday evening 23 July The Carriageworks

Studio 20 was the Leeds main 1950’s jazz club on New Briggate run by tuba player Bob Barclay. Over the years it featured musicians like bluesman Jimmy Rushing, traditional jazz legend Ken Colyer, vocalist and raconteur George Melly, and sax legends Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott. Studio 20 also features in some of the crime novels written by Leeds crime writer Chris Nickson. Chris has written a jazz play as a commission to be performed at the festival about Studio 20 , directed by Ray Brown and featuring the jazz vocals of Jennie Smith

‘Celebrating Xero Slingsby’: Tuesday evening 24 July at the Wardrobe 

Curated by Sally Coe this event is about Matthew Coe who become the leader of punk-jazz band Xero Slingsby during the 1980’s.  He formed a band called Xero Slingsby And The Works with bass player Louis Colan and drummer Gene Velocette. The idea was to present free jazz with punk-type brevity and was remarkably successful: the “Works” became part of the ‘punkjazz’ flowering in England that included Blurt, Rip, Rig And Panic and Pigbag. Baritone saxophonist Alan Wilkinson and drummer Paul Hession readily acknowledge their debt to Slingsby’s inspirational belief in musical communication. After fighting brain cancer for three years he died in 1988.

The obituary in The Wire concluded: ‘As jazz at the end of the 80s faces the twin temptations of purist pessimism or commercial betrayal, Slingsby’s scorched alto sound, his booting lines and clamorous compositions, as well as his understanding of music as event and spectacle, could well become the crucial lessons.’

How much are JazzLeeds Festival tickets?

Early Bird tickets are £90 for  the main festival weekend until end of April – these go on sale Monday 19th February. Tickets can be purchased here –

Afternoon tickets (Saturday and Sunday afternoons) are £20 each, evening tickets (Friday Saturday and Sunday evenings) £25 each.  “New Stream” and “New Briggate Blues” tickets will be £10 each, Improvisation Chamber tickets £5 – these will go on sale later in early March.

Finally, why should people give the Jazz Leeds Festival a go this year?

It’s more than just another jazz festival – it’s a celebration of Leeds as a city! It’s also the start of something big– so be part of it!

Get Involved


You can buy online (a booking fee applies), or if you wish, you can reserve tickets to be picked up at the concert – half an hour before the start time- by email to [email protected]. We will email you back a confirmation

Buy online now


On second and fourth Monday each month evening led by Tessa Smith @Inkwell Potternewton Lane, Chapel Allerton. 7-9pm, cost £6 per session £30 for the series e: [email protected]


on first and third Sundays each month @Inkwell 10.00- 12.00pm, cost £10 (or £8 conc) per session. e: j[email protected] tel 0113 2370700.


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