A few moments with…Cheltenham Jazz Festival

We caught up with Director of Cheltenham Festivals, Ian George ahead of The Ultimate House Party at The Lucky Onion’s No.131 to give us an insight to behind the scenes at the Cheltenham Jazz Festival

Where did such diverse programming come from for the festival e.g. world music/hip hop/blues etc – we love it!

I grew up listening to the likes of Gilles Peterson and other DJs with my mates and with the blues music that was always playing in the family home stuff like BB King and Taj Mahal. So when I was asked to book Cheltenham I really wanted to explore the worlds around Jazz and the many styles of music that have Jazz in their DNA. For me it really compliments the strong Jazz programme, and if we can get lovers of world music or hip hop to the festival and be exposed to jazz then great.

What is the silliest thing you’ve ever seen on an artist rider (a list given from artists to the event organiser to be prepared for their arrival)

There have been a few. Mr Scruff is famous for putting a random list of silly stuff together including stuff like maracas and a donkey (we didn’t provide those). Other stuff like papayas, stripy purple socks, a 23 degree dressing room and someone once asked for their dressing room to be painted a certain colour with flowers to match (we didn’t do that either).

What has been your biggest rock n roll moment to date?

If you mean during the festival then it’s a lot of late night jam sessions and lock ins. We once put a band together over night for a headliner after an artists’ band had been stuck in South Africa. They  arrived lunchtime the next day, rehearsed and then smashed a headline show with a standing ovation. When the artist told the audience they couldn’t believe it. Outside of the festival, though through a festival contact, getting invited on stage with Metallica on the pyramid stage at Glastonbury was probably the most surreal rock n roll moment.

During the 6 days of Jazz & late night sessions that prevail, how much sleep do you average in that time?

Sleep is definitely scarce. I would guess probably 4 hours a night. Though to be fair some of the sleep deprivation is self-inflicted.  The challenge I have is when the artists are down at Cheltenham they want to go for it the one night they are with us and I have to oblige and make sure they have a good time!

Where do you take artists to ‘hang out’ eat/drink?

We are very lucky to have lots of great places to hang in Cheltenham. At No.131 we’ve had some awesome parties that have got a great buzz about them. The word has spread on these with the likes of Gregory Porter, Jamie Cullum, Guy Garvey, Trevor Nelson all appearing over the last few years. This year we’ve got Jo Whiley and Cerys Matthews with others still to be announced. We really wanted to make it feel like the best house party with cool music in every room. The Hotel du Vin hosts our free jam sessions (a staple for any major jazz festival) where you’ll see band members from different bands all getting up to play together.

What talent is still on your wish list to bring to Cheltenham?

There are so many…Kamasi Washington, Dr John, Thundercat, Seun Kuti, Leon Bridges and it would be amazing to get Paloma Faith back she was great fun.

How has the festival changed in the last 3 years onsite?

We are always trying to develop the main site. We’ve got more bars this year with the likes of the Nyetimber double decker bus, Bottlegreen returns for Gin & tonics as well as everyone’s favourite Weston’s Cider. Also new for this year is a new food court with Pizza Express.

How can the people of the Cotswolds get more involved at the Jazz Festival this year?

Just come down and check it out – discover some new music maybe.  As well as gigs in Montpellier Gardens and venues across town we’ve got over 90 free gigs happening over the 6 days in bars, The Brewer Quarter, the High Street and in shops.

Make the most of Cheltenham Jazz Festival with our free Around Town performances at No.131 and The Tavern.

How do you become a member of the Jazz Festival?

Go to www.cheltenhamfestivals.com/membership for priority booking, discounted tickets and more.