A look ahead to the Ribble Valley Jazz Festival

Ribble Valley Big Band performing in the town centre

Ribble Valley Big Band performing in the town centre - Credit: Archant

The seventh jazz festival promises to be bigger and better than ever with 50 bands and 350 musicians taking part.

Blackburn with Darwen Youth Band

Blackburn with Darwen Youth Band - Credit: Archant

The hills around Clitheroe will be alive with the sound of music this May. It’s the seventh year of the Ribble Valley Jazz Festival, an event which sees big names on the same bill as up-and-coming musicians over a five day period across the area. It even spills out into the streets, making the Ribble Valley one of the coolest places to be.

World famous artists such as Courtney Pine and singer Claire Martin will be appearing - bookings the organisers could only have dreamed about when the idea of a jazz festival was first conceived over a pint.

‘We could have just put on a small festival with local artists, after all there are many talented musicians in the Ribble Valley - we certainly have a higher than average number here. But then we thought, why not try and attract some big names as well. We could offer a great location, plenty of jazz fans and Lancashire hospitality. They could only say no,’ said committee member, Matt Evans.

They didn’t and one of the first big names to reply was jazz royalty Jacqui Dankworth. The Ribble Valley Jazz Festival was on its way and in some style. These days, there is no anxious letter writing because musicians want to appear at one of the best jazz events in England. 

This year will be the biggest yet with over 50 bands and over 350 musicians performing at a variety of venues including The Grand; Maxwells; Clitheroe Castle; The Emporium; The Atrium and The Shireburn Arms. Warm-up events will also be taking place around the villages of the Ribble Valley from Monday, April 25th, until the beginning of the festival proper on April 28th.  

As jazz is such a broad church, there is bound to be something to suit most tastes. X Factor star Ella Shaw will be performing with local pianist Eric Ainsworth and, for those who like things a little more traditional, The Sparkle Sisters will be delivering a tribute to Glenn Miller, complete with a full orchestra and army uniforms. Renowned guitarist Martin Taylor is going to be a big draw, as will be the Ben Crosland’s quintet whose line up includes ex-Soft Machine guitarist John Etheridge.

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Courtney Pine is used to appearing on international stages but he is looking forward to performing at The Grand in Clitheroe, with the award winning pianist Zoe Rahman. He has promised mellow, stripped back arrangements of timeless jazz classics something, which judging by the demand for tickets, is going to be highly popular.

BBC Proms singer Claire Martin will be appearing at The Grand with world famous saxophonist Ray Gelato. It isn’t widely known that UNESCO have declared April 30th to be International Jazz Day and that’s the day that Claire will be performing.

Claire will also be presenting a master class in jazz vocals, as classes and workshops are very much a part of the festival - the organisers want people to become involved. Young children are not overlooked with special theatre performances for them and workshops.

This year the festival will have not just one but two musicians in residence: clarinettist Arun Ghosh and drummer Paul Rigby. Arun was named Jazz Instrumentalist of the Year and was chosen to be one of the BT Celebrity Storytellers at the 2012 Olympics. As well as performing, he will also be working with the young musicians of Blackburn with Darwin Big Band, composing a new piece which will then be performed in public.  

The free events taking place are not to be missed. There will be bandstand music at Clitheroe Castle and the Saturday Street Festival will see Clitheroe’s main street given over to jazz groups and the market will provide a backdrop for buskers. The Ribble Valley Jazz Festival is all about having a good time, whether you attend a concert, take part in a workshop or simply enjoy one of the many free events on offer. It’s on course to hit the right note for the seventh year.


The Ribble Valley Jazz Festival takes place at a variety of venues from Thursday April 28th to Monday, May 2nd. For more details of all events and to buy tickets go to www.rvjazzandblues.co.uk or www.thegrandvenue.co.uk.