The London Jazz Festival (LJF) is a London-wide music festival held every November. It takes place in a variety of London venues, including larger concert halls--such as the Barbican and the Royal Festival Hall--and smaller jazz clubs, such as Ronnie Scott's and Vortex. It is produced by the creative company Serious in association with BBC Radio 3.
In the 1970s, the London Borough of Camden added a Jazz Week to their long-established Camden Festival. Over the following fifteen or more years, the 'Camden Jazz Weeks' were held at several venues around the borough--the Roundhouse, Shaw Theatre, Logan Hall, Bloomsbury Theatre, the Forum--both as part of the spring Festival, and in some years, adding an Autumn week as well. Although the 'Capital Jazz Festival' brought the familiar round of touring American stars to the city in the summer, Camden Jazz occupied an essential place in the London jazz scene, introducing key international figures including many of the emerging Europeans, and always committed to UK artists, with an active commissioning policy.
By the early nineties, the Camden Festival was no more, and although the Borough continued to support the Jazz Week for a few years, it became clear that a new direction had to be found in the light of changing budgets and priorities. With the active support of London Arts Board (now Arts Council England, London), the production company Serious--who had for some years produced the Camden weeks--engineered a transition that saw the evolution of a London Jazz Festival. Taking the mix of international and British artists--and a commitment to education activity--that had been at the heart of the Camden weeks, the new Festival began to spread its wings, with the intention of celebrating the place of jazz in a city which was becoming at ease with its rich cultural diversity, and drawing in the venues across London that present music throughout the year.
Over the years, the Festival has made a steady transition from north London to London-wide, and from May to its present November slot, to establish today's multi-faceted ten-day event as not only one of the city's key music Festivals, but as one of the major international jazz events. The highlights have been many--each year brings its own character and momentum, and the riches of the Festival can as easily be found in a packed club as in the concert hall.
A new history of the London Jazz Festival, produced to mark the 25th anniversary, was published in late 2017. Written by Dr Emma Webster and Prof George McKay, it came out of a 12-month collaborative research project between the University of East Anglia and Serious/EFG London Jazz Festival, funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council (2015-16). McKay was the inaugural Professor in Residence at the 2014 festival, and Webster Researcher-in-Residence in 2016. The book covers both the history of London as a city of jazz festivals since c. 1949 (and includes material on the early festivals at Richmond/Reading, Camden, Bracknell, Crawley) and of the London Jazz Festival which began in 1993. The book includes archive material, contemporary interviews, and around 100 images, and is available as a free download here.