Jazz surviving through hard times despite funding cuts
By Andy Roberts
BBC South East Wales
Hodgkins still finds time to play while running Jazz Services UK
One of the UK's leading jazz administrators praises a "territorial army" of volunteers who ensure the music survives despite spending cuts.
Chris Hodgkins, director of Jazz Services UK, shared his thoughts as he returned to Wales for a short tour.
The Essex-born trumpeter grew up in Cardiff and helped launch the Welsh Jazz Society before moving to London.
He says politicians need to treat volunteers with respect if they expect them to make up for cuts in grants.
Hodgkins learned his musical trade in Cardiff in the late 1960s and 1970s with bands like the Icon Jazzmen and musicians such as Vic Parker.
The late guitarist was part of a thriving music scene in Cardiff's multicultural docklands.
Since taking over the helm at Jazz Services UK, Hodgkins has been a vociferous campaigner for jazz to enjoy a fairer share of public funding, claiming it's treated less favourably than opera, theatre and other artforms.
The Welsh Jazz Society, which he helped found in 1978, now exists in name only after losing its annual Arts Council of Wales (ACW) funding of £50,000 in 2008.
And the long-running Brecon Jazz Festival in Powys was rescued by organisers of the Hay Festival after the previous promoters went bust following the 2008 event.
But Hodgkins, who is currently playing a short tour of Wales with his quartet, praised the enthusiasts who continue to promote live gigs with little or no public funding.
"Without them there wouldn't be a jazz scene," he said.
"If it was private industry there'd be tears of relief round the boardroom that they could get that work for nothing."
Chris Hodgkins (right) played with Jed Williams and Vic Parker at the Quebec
Hodgkins accepts that artforms such as opera may require a larger degree of public subsidy but stressed that a small amount of grant aid for jazz could reap large benefits.
"There comes a point with opera and theatre where you can have efficiencies but you can't get rid of the theatre entirely or slim opera down to a couple of people ... you need a certain amount of subsidy to make it work," he said.
"But jazz is ideally suited (to the economic climate) because it's flexible, it's mobile, it can do gigs in church halls, chuches, anywhere really.
"Jazz has a very secure platform ... we've always been lean, we've never had tons of subsidy, what we've had we always use wisely," he said.
"If the Arts Council puts a pound in at a local level, you get seven pounds back ... but you need that pound in the first place.
"Volunteers can give their energy but it's discretionary - they can also take it way.
"The message to government is if you want your big tent, your big society, don't forget this volunteer stuff is discretionary, so you have to treat people with a certain amount of respect."
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