Wakefield Arts Partnership members remember Chris de Saram

 

Dean Freeman, Festival Director, Long Division

“As a music promoter, I learnt a lot about the world of Jazz through Chris. Much of that world was so different to my Indie / DIY roots, yet we also shared similar challenges and goals. I was always impressed that Chris didn’t want to rest on his laurels and was always looking for a new way to engage people with Jazz. Back when I was at Unity Works, we introduced a Jazz programme, but were both keen it wasn’t hidden up in the halls, but down in the cafe where we could ‘inflict’ it on the Westgate passerby. It was also a great way to support young performers. We got no support from the management, and the bar staff were utterly bemused, but we both found delight in it. We always wanted to do the same with Long Division Festival and I’m so glad in 2018 we did. Chris had a batch of bands he admired but was never sure if the regular Wakefield Jazz audiences would engage, so we found a slot for Shatner’s Bassoon at The Hop. They divided opinion completely – which is great – and I heard some remark it was the best performance they’d ever seen. I was shocked to hear of his passing, perhaps most because I’ve only ever seen him passionate, engaged and fully ‘alive’ in all he’s done. I couldn’t imagine him not being there. He deserves huge recognition for his work with Wakefield Jazz, in particular his outward looking approach and keenness to connect outside the city, and outside the genre – it is a large legacy to have left behind. ”

 

Judi Alston, CEO, One to One Development Trust 

“It’s hard to believe that Chris is no longer with us, his passion for Wakefield Jazz and for the arts in general was very apparent and consistent over the many years we knew each other. I will remember Chris as always being extremely helpful and open to ideas, like when we were looking for musicians to support or perform as part of a film project with Friends of CHAT Parks on the Wakefield Castle film, Chris linked us up with musicians and offered his full support of the project. Chris was like that, open, helpful and a doer, he was also very committed to supporting young musicians and emerging talent. I was very pleased when Chris joined Wakefield Arts Partnership and he offered his insight and expertise on many an occasion including organising the music for one of the first WAP events. We had discussed working together on an archive project about Wakefield Jazz, I hope one day we can realise this in his legacy. Chris was a significant and well-respected person in the cultural scene of the Wakefield District and he will be much missed. Our condolences are with Chris’s family and close friends.”

 

Fran Smith, Principal Consultant, Beam

“Chris clearly had a knowledge and expertise about Jazz which was reflected in the consistently high quality programme he presented over many years at Wakefield Jazz Club – but he was also unwaveringly outward looking towards other artforms and generous with his expertise. His energy and enthusiasm to embrace opportunities for new collaborations and experimentation between jazz and other artforms was inspiring. Chris was always keen to work with others to find new ways to share his love and passion for Jazz and to introduce the artform to new audiences. I was lucky enough to work with Chris when he proposed the idea of staging an event, ‘Sailing to Byzantium’, with renowned jazz singer Christine Tobin as part of Wakefield Lit Fest in 2014. The event which fused poetry and music, with the performance of a collection of songs based on the poetry of WB Yeats, was my first introduction to Wakefield Jazz Club and was a revelation both to me and the festival audience who attended – many who had not been to a jazz event before. As one of the founding members of Wakefield Arts Partnership and a close colleague and collaborator with many of us over the years he will be sorely missed.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections on Long Division 2018

By Dean Freeman, Festival Director

Capturing the buzz and excitement of an event like Long Division in words, a few months after the whole thing took place, is incredibly tough. It’s so ephemeral, you quite truly ‘had to be there’.

I’ll come back to that. But what I can talk about is cold, hard numbers – which I actually find quite exciting. It was the largest Long Division Festival to date; we doubled our audience, using 25 different venues over five days. We programmed music (from electro to jazz to punk to folk) alongside art exhibitions, Q&A sessions, spoken word, workshops and all manner of things that fall between the cracks of those mediums. It’s now unquestionably the largest music & cultural festival in the district.

Charlotte Hatherley at Wakefield Cathedral by John Jowett

 A big step for us was the addition of free to attend events. 114 events / performances were free, plus 37 days of free to attend exhibitions. This was only made possible with the support of Wakefield BID. Although Long Division has always been very good value, I realised that 25 pounds is still a large barrier if you aren’t culturally engaged or feel you understand what the festival is, and who is performing. The barrier was not the cash value, but the cost of taking a risk. The absolute majority of the new attendees were from the Wakefield District.

 One of my favourite stats was that 81% of attendees said they had visited a venue or place they’d never been to before during the festival. More than ever before, it felt like we took over the city centre. The BBC Introducing stage on the precinct was hard work to organise but was a revelation. Seeing people in the streets of Wakefield laughing, smiling and dancing was wonderful. Drawing so many people from across the UK to the city and to have them explore all the cool and sometimes secretive parts was great too.

It was those moments that encapsulated the buzz of the event. Wakefield felt like Berlin or a New York Borough – except it didn’t; it still felt like Wakefield, but a brighter Wakefield, one more alive.

Crowds gather for Billy Bragg at Wakefield Cathedral, Long Division Festival, Wakefield, 2nd June 2018

It was the great leap forward we needed. To work with so many partners, venues and artists was very rewarding and we are excited about 2019 already.

In the interim, we will be launching our Manifesto For A New Wakefield book. This will compile materials from the thirteen commissions from Wakefield based artists that appeared at the festival, alongside write-ups and information on organisations and businesses we feel are really pushing Wakefield forward.

The launch will be at an event at 7A Project Space on December 15th. This unique warehouse like space is run by Neon Workshops. There will be live performance, food and drink and a chance to get hold of a copy of our limited edition book. You can find more information here.

 

One Day after School, Precinct Stage, by John Jowett

Banner image: Wakefield precinct by Alexandra Vaughan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Long Division Live Sessions: Simon Widdop – I Saw I See. Introduced by National Coal Mining Museum for England

A series of live sessions for Long Division Festival 2018. Filmed by Skysail Studios and commissioned by Wakefield Arts Partnership as part of a series of collaborative commissions. Each musician, performer or band is introduced by a different Wakefield Arts Partnership member.

Long Division Live Sessions: Simon Widdop – I Saw I See. Introduced by National Coal Mining Museum for England.