Ben Crosland and the festival
In the late 80s I was actively involved with Huddersfield Jazz, playing in the house band, and as a committee member. In 1990 or 1991, Mike Lucas invited us to help out with the Marsden Jazz Festival – and that’s how it all started, with a few gigs over 3 days the first year, and Digby Fairweather as compère. At the end of the festival, Mike got up and asked if people wanted another one – and it just built and built over the years!
Apart from 2012, where I messed up and took another gig elsewhere because I got the dates wrong, I’ve done at least one gig every year at the festival. It has affected me and my career massively. I have been fortunate enough to play with fantastic guest artists, some of whom have become personal friends, and some I continue to play with in bands we’ve put together. I couldn’t have done what little I have achieved without MJF.
I have also been fortunate to be commissioned twice. 2011, I put together a brass group and wrote music inspired by the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and most recently, it was the Ray Davis project, which is still touring and has produced a well-received album.
When the festival started, I was a local band leader. I started playing jazz in the early 80s, got involved in the summer course run by the Dankworths for several years, and started band-leading in the early 90s – at the same time as Marsden Jazz Festival began. My involvement has helped to give me a higher profile, and I really enjoy making suggestions for bands and guest artists – I feel like a kid in a sweetshop!
It’s a real luxury to have such a festival on my doorstep, so varied and welcoming, yet taking risks – we’ve had anything from Kenny Ball and Acker Bilk through to John Surman and everything in between, and now we also have the New Stream for the cutting-edge. Having so many local Youth Big Bands at the festival is also absolutely fantastic, and I hope it will provide a platform to many more future musicians and jazz lovers.