Harpist Esther Swift awarded Irwin Mitchell commission for Manchester Jazz Festival 2018


The Manchester Jazz Festival (mjf) returns this year from 20 to 28 July at venues across the city. Ahead of the announcement of the full programme on 24 April, the recipient of the festival's Irwin Mitchell Award commission has been presented to harpist and composer Esther Swift (pictured). Her composition 'Light Gatherer' will be performed by harp quartet, string trio, piano, saxophone, trombone, voice and percussion at the festival. Very much reflecting the mjf's longstanding commitment to programming new and innovative music, this year's Irwin Mitchell award is also aimed at championing women in music in the centenary year of women being given the vote in Britain. 'Light Gatherer' will showcase the harp in a contemporary jazz context, as well experimenting with "words, texture, purpose and expectation". Commenting on the commission, Swift said: "The Irwin Mitchell: mjf originals commission is a bit of a dream come true for me. It has come along at a really exciting point in my creative development and I am itching to write the music and play it with my friends."

The festival's commitment to supporting and programming female jazz musicians saw the 2017 edition feature 50% of all bands that played include women in their line-up, translating as 49 out of 98 gigs having a strong female presence. And this trend is set to continue with the mjf's association as a member of the PRS Foundation's Keychange initiative, which is encouraging music festivals to sign-up to a 50:50 gender balance by 2022. MJF artistic director Steve Mead, said: "I'm absolutely thrilled that Esther will be producing Light Gatherer for mjf 2018. Not only does it promise to be an intriguing piece of new work, but it helps us build on our historical achievements in celebrating female creative talent across our programmes, it adds to our increasingly impressive canon of commissioned work and it brings together some of the outstanding artists we have living and working in the north west. The 2018 suffrage centenary, and our appointment as a Keychange Associate, naturally add a special dimension. My priority is for mjf to sustain its solid reputation for balanced, adventurous programming that continues to inspire audiences and support artists – and always questions the norm."

The full Manchester Jazz Festival line-up will be announced on 24 April – watch this space for details.

– Mike Flynn

Photo by Mike Guest

For more info visit www.manchesterjazz.com