These testimonials were provided as part of our response to a cut in Limerick Jazz Society’s Arts Council Grant in 2009. We believe they give a useful perspective on the society’s achievements in the last 30 years.

It was with real disappointment that I learnt of the significant cut in the Limerick Jazz Society’s Arts Council funding for 2010. I, along with everyone else in the jazz community, as well as the wider arts community, am very aware of the difficult circumstances in which the Arts Council has to operate especially in the current economic climate. However I feel that the Limerick Jazz Society’s cut in funding is particularly unfortunate given the unique service they provide in their region, and providing as they do one of the few support systems to working jazz musicians in Ireland.

One of the most important creative components for a jazz musician is having an ability to play and develop their skills alongside other musicians. The history of jazz is based on the development of the music through performance — it is a true performance art. Irish jazz musician operate in one of the most difficult economic landscapes in Western Europe, with a small population and consequently a small playing population, and a small number of venues that regularly presents jazz. Limerick Jazz Society is one of the few organisations that supports the performance of jazz and in doing so supports the development of the art form in Ireland.

Here at Newpark Music centre, we have over 70 students enrolled in our bachelor of arts in jazz performance programme. None of the students are under any illusion as to the difficulty of the economic landscape in which they will have to operate once they graduate. Limerick Jazz Society provides an invaluable service to Irish jazz musicians at the present time by presenting their music in a sympathetic setting and with an intelligent and informed programming policy. The reduction in the grant this year will negatively impact on the efforts of Irish Jazz musicians to find work and develop their music. At school we will graduate 16 musicians of professional standard at the end of May, the reduction in the Limerick Jazz Society’s grant will make an already difficult economic landscape for these young musicians even more difficult, as it will remove one of the few outlets for the sympathetic presentation of jazz in Ireland.

Jazz is primarily an urban music, and worldwide it exists primarily in cities and towns. Ireland has few enough towns of any size that are big enough to support a jazz community, and outside of Dublin, Limerick, through the efforts of the Jazz Society, is the only town that regularly presents jazz in a professional manner and with high-quality programming. The reduction in the Arts Council grant to the society will not only deprive the musicians of an opportunity perform, it will also deprive regional audiences of an opportunity to hear musicians of an international standard performing this music in an appropriate setting.

Once again I would like to state that I recognise the difficult circumstances under which these decisions are made, however I feel that this particular cut will have consequences for jazz musicians and jazz music in Ireland that will be far more severe than the amount involved may suggest. Jazz in Ireland already operates in an impoverished economic landscape, any major reduction in Limerick jazz Society’s grant will impact seriously on an already difficult situation. I hope that some mechanism can be found to ameliorate the suggested cut in the grant of the Society, it would greatly benefit both musicians and audiences in Limerick, and in the country as a whole.

- Ronan Guilfoyle

It is with some degree of sadness that I learn of the plight of your much-respected Jazz Society in terms of reduced funding and hence potential closure. It has served the jazz community in Ireland amazingly well and put some incredible events on over the years that the residents of that part of Ireland would never have had a chance to see unless they flew to London or New York. Indeed I can think of many occasions when the acts you brought to the jazz society in Limerick where not playing in Dublin or anywhere else in Ireland, and I dutifully made the journey with my wife, booked into a Hotel and enjoyed the hospitality in Limerick for several days.

Firstly let me congratulate you on what you have achieved. The programming was the best I have probably seen in Ireland on a consistent basis and the broad-brush brief you worked to, made your club unique. The other aspects which I greatly admired about your work was the opportunity for developing players to connect with the guests you brought in thus creating a spur not just for the next generation of fans, but for the next generation of players.

It is distressing that the true value of your organisation has not been understood by the Arts Council in Ireland, as if this action should result in your closure or a redrawing of your brief, it will give your local fans a plane journey to find jazz of a similar quality, which will impact on music education, provision, audience development, and alas, a reason to start playing jazz in the first place.

Please feel free to include this letter should you be seeking to show support for your organisation to the Arts Council. From a selfish point of view, I see an even more serious consequence than just the demise of your organisation. The costs of touring acts are often split between promoters in Ireland to secure spreading of those costs and thus more efficient pricing to redress ticket sales against artist expenses. Losing the main Jazz Society in the West of Ireland will probably have a huge impact on the Sligo, Dublin, Belfast, Drogheda, Brae scenes as well making it all the more difficult to secure the quality of acts that other genres have the financial support and audience groundswell to regularly achieve.

I truly hope that any appeal you launch will be successful, not just for you, but for us all. Any demise to the Jazz community in Ireland would surely make the existence of an Arts Council questionable if it is not in their brief to protect the weakest art forms. Surely this will weaken the portfolio of Arts available both to Ireland’s residents and it’s tourist population. Linking in to this the Education programme for Jazz in Ireland as a whole, with Newpark in Dublin and a fully fledged PhD and Masters programme in DIT in Dublin as well as those in Limerick and Cork, it would seem that as the number of professional jazz musicians and Degree plus qualified jazz musicians in the South of Ireland grows, their opportunity to work fades. It is a strange logic and one I hope you succeed in overturning.

- Linley Hamilton

Very sorry to hear that the cutbacks, currently experienced by all of us, will impinge on the activities of Limerick Jazz Society for the coming year. For as long as I can remember, it’s done an incredible job here in the Mid-West, and on a very limited budget. This is largely due to the enthusiasms of a handful of volunteers, putting in long hours for the joy of the music. L.J.S. has – I think it’s fair to say – consolidated its stature in the past decade, especially since the decision to make a permanent move to a sympathetic venue in Dolan’s. I can remember bringing the English composer-bandleader Colin Towns along for a visit once, and he was immediately struck by the ambience of the place, the excellent acoustics, and the respectful audience: people attentive to, and appreciative of, the musicians’ efforts up on stage (something than non-musicians don’t always appreciate). I do hope that Colin will one day – as he’d hoped – have the opportunity to bring a very large big band over for a visit. The N.D.R. at Dolan’s – now there’s a thought.

The popularity of jazz in Ireland, though never likely to be something that sweeps across the nation, is unquestionably on the increase, which is why it’s especially important that the L.J.S. continues to exist. There’s been a number of encouraging signs but, for me, it’s the age profile of audiences that’s most encouraging – good to see young people coming along to hear the music.

As I see it, L..J.S. serves two main functions. For one, it provides an important platform for domestic jazz musicians (there’s little point turning out more and more jazz graduates from Irish institutions if there’s nowhere for them to play), and treats them players well on their visits. Jazz music, as an improvisory art form, will never develop in Ireland, if musicians don’t get together, to bounce ideas around and inspire one another. And the musicians must do this in a live context, before an audience – otherwise, the act of tightrope-walking will only be half as challenging.

Secondly, L.J.S. has also offered the discerning listener opportunities to catch artists they’d not otherwise be likely to see live, on stage – American saxophonist Chris Potter springs to mind (what a great night that was); so, too, trumpeter Tomasz Stanko, and his frighteningly-young backing band from Poland. To cap it all, Dolan’s Warehouse – the big venue – full for both those gigs!

For me, the best gig of 2009 (not just in the Mid-West, but anywhere in Ireland that year), was Manu Katche. I chatted to plenty of drummers in the audience that night, people who’d never gone to a jazz gig before.

Above all, who could forget the Jazz Party, in Nov 2006? This benefit for the Limerick Rape Crisis Centre -raised €17,500 in one night, if I remember – will be remembered as one of the best musical events in this part of the world – Limerick’s “Live Aid”, if you will. The vibe around town was terrific coming up to the event, and the world felt a better place for a couple of days after.

The number of performers who provided their talent, free of charge that night, is an indication of the high regard musicians have for Limerick Jazz Society.

- Eamonn Lenihan

This is very bad news. Limerick Jazz Society is definitely the most consistent and well-organsised jazz society here. You’ve brought some of the best international jazz to Limerick and, perhaps more importantly, consistently supported Irish musicians like myself. You’ve built up a strong following for jazz in Limerick too. There are becoming fewer and fewer groups like yourselves due to funding cuts and the results of this continual decline of funding are seriously affecting jazz in Ireland. I sincerely hope the Arts Council will re-evaluate its decision.

- David Lyttle

I am writing to express my support for the Limerick Jazz Society in there application to retain their previous level of funding. It is my opinion that the Limerick Jazz Society are the most consistent and professional regional jazz club in the country. The support they give Irish musicians is second to none and they are a vital part of the network of clubs that enable groups to do Irish tours.

Up until now, Limerick have been able to offer a good guarantee, accommodation and a meal for a touring band. Often the Limerick fee and accompanying lack of expenses makes up for the lower fee and expenses that a group will incur in other counties.

Knowing the amount of work that goes into running a jazz club or a jazz festival, I can vouch for the many hours of unpaid work that the members of the Limerick Jazz Society put in, in order to keep this art form alive in the regional parts of Ireland.

Very soon, the touring Irish jazz group will no longer have a feasible network of venues to tour too in order to make it in anyway viable for Irish musicians, let alone International musicians. It is with great pleasure and complete sincerity that I happily lend my support to John Daly and the others at the Limerick Jazz Society to obtain some form of support to bring their funding back to previous levels.

- Damian Evans

I am a young jazz guitar player from Belfast, Northern Ireland. I would like to attest to the support I have received from John Daly and the Limerick Jazz Society and go some way towards explaining the beneficial effect this has had upon the development of my career over the past 15 months. As an active member of the Irish jazz community I would also like to witness the massively positive impact of similar assistance in nurturing and advancing the talents of a considerable number of other young jazz musicians in Ireland.

I have now played at Dolan’s on behalf of the Limerick Jazz Society on two occasions; firstly in October 2008 (with a quintet under my own name) and in September 2009 as a member of fellow Northern Irish musician David Lyttle’s group (featuring US saxophonist Tim Warfield).

In the first instance I approached John Daly for two reasons; firstly, I was organising a short tour with German pianist Benny Lackner (whom I initially met at the Galway Jazz Festival 2007), secondly, I was due to record my debut album the month after (November 2008) and required a final opportunity for both myself and the bass player taking part in the recording to perform the material before the session itself. Despite my relatively limited experience as a band leader at this point Mr Daly was 100% supportive of me and offered a gig with an 800 Euro fee, thereby making the tour financially viable.

As a direct result of the futher experience gleaned performing my music on this tour I was able to approach the recording (which took place in NYC and featured some of the city’s leading jazz musicians) with a degree if confidence that would have otherwise been difficult to attain. I believe this confidence impacted upon the quality my playing and my ability to successfully lead the band in the session itself.

This album has since opened many doors for me in Ireland and beyond. I have, for example, been offered:

* A tour with the European Jazz Orchestra.
* Performances on BBC Radio 3.
* A performance at the 2009 Cork Jazz Festival which resulted my being named the “Best Young Irish Musician 2009”.

Taking into consideration all of the above I cannot overemphasise the impact of the support provided by the Limerick Jazz Society in my own case, support that I can assure the reader has had a similar influence upon the development of a great many other Irish musicians. I would encourage any funding body to seriously consider the ramifications of cutting financial maintainence to this organisation as doing so would essentially destroy what is certainly the most effective Jazz Society in Ireland and thereby remove a significant catalyst to the further development of jazz in Ireland.

- Mark McKnight

I’m writing in support of Limerick Jazz Society. My work as a composer/ vocalist in the contemporary jazz field has been nurtured and encouraged by Limerick Jazz Society and I’m extremely grateful for the many concerts I’ve been asked to perform throughout the past 10 years.

It is a most professional organisation and artists are treated with the utmost of respect.
The Limerick audiences are extremely appreciative and they surely deserve to have a continuation of the service which Limerick jazz provides.

My many friends in the music world have nothing but wonderful praise for every aspect of a performance in Limerick from the welcome, always given wholeheartedly by the devoted members, the venue which is beautifully presented, and the top sound quality, a credit to their engineers. It is always a great pleasure to return.

I would humbly suggest that this society deserves, not a cut to their funding, but additional funding, as it couldn’t be better deserved.

- Dorothy Murphy