Posted on 7 March 2018

Gender equality across the music industry, within the jazz field in particular, will be addressed at this year’s Gateshead International Jazz Festival.

Europe Jazz Network (EJN) will take to the stage at host venue Sage Gateshead during the Festival weekend (6 – 8 April) to report on their work to try and tackle the issues around this subject. The seminar will take place on the 8th April.

Ros Rigby, Europe Jazz Network President and Producer of Gateshead International Jazz Festival, said: “The lack of women instrumentalists on stage has been a topic under discussion for decades in the jazz industry, and over the past few years there have been a number of practical initiatives to try to redress the balance in the UK and other European countries.

“As the leading European network representing jazz festivals, venues and support organisations, we feel that we should create a manifesto to be agreed with all our members, making a commitment to gender equality in the next few years. We will be discussing a draft version of this at the seminar in Gateshead.”

At this year’s Gateshead International Jazz Festival (GIJF) 10 of the 18 concerts feature women artists, in many cases as headline performers – the ambition of a recent similar proposal by the PRS Foundation’s Keychange Initiative is to aim for a 50/50 gender balance across a number of other festivals. Some of the female artists at GIJF include Sheila Jordan, Norma Winstone, Ruby Turner, Zara McFarlane, Kadri Voorand and all female trio J Frisco amongst others.

Joining Ros on the panel, will be Issie Barratt, who will talk about her work on redressing the gender balance. Issie is an internationally active composer, arranger, conductor, baritone player, record producer and educator who has performed at numerous worldwide leading concert halls, jazz clubs and festivals. Issie is also in residence at the festival and will be presenting her groundbreaking Interchange Dectet project featuring the work of ten UK female jazz composers representing a breadth of generations and cultural backgrounds.

Alongside Ros and Issie on the panel will be Terese Larsson (Svensk Jazz), Annamaija Saarela (Annamaija Music Company- Finland), Sunna Gunnlaugs (Reykjavik Jazz Festival and musician), Graham McKenzie (Huddesfield Contemporary Music Festival), Kim Macari (Jazz from Scotland) Steve Mead (Manchester Jazz Festival) and Kenneth Killeen (Improvised Music Company, Dublin), amongst others who will be encouraging conversation about ways in how the industry can move forward both in the UK and across Europe.

Europe Jazz Network (EJN) is a non-profit Europe-wide association of producers, presenters and organisations, with over 120-member organisations from over 35 countries who work towards supporting the identity and diversity of jazz in Europe.

Tickets for the seminar, which will run from 10.30am- 12.30 pm on Sunday 8th April, are free but ticketed. The seminar is part of Gateshead International Jazz Festival which takes place from Friday 6th – Sunday 8th April at Sage Gateshead. To book visit or call 0191 443 4661.


Notes to Editors

Gateshead International Jazz Festival welcomes some of the greatest jazz artists from around the globe at the three-day event. It is the UK’s biggest jazz festival held under one roof, filling four stages at Sage Gateshead from Friday 6 to Sunday 8 April 2018.

Amongst artists featured at this year’s festival are Ruby Turner, Maceo Parker, Sun Ra Arkestra, Tony Allen, Sheila Jordan, Zara McFarlane, Interchange Dectet, Norma Winstone, Portico Quartet, The Chris Barber Band and Georgie Fame with The Guy Barker Big Band alongside many other jazz, funk and soul artists from across Europe and beyond. View the full line-up here.

Issie Barratt will also be working with Jambone, Sage Gateshead’s jazz youth ensemble at Gateshead International Jazz Festival and teaching at the Play Jazz workshop.

Europe Jazz Network (EJN) specialises in creative music, contemporary jazz and improvised music created from a distinctly European perspective. The membership in January 2018 included 123 organisations (festivals, clubs and concert venues, independent promoters, national organisations) in 35 countries.

EJN’s mission is to encourage, promote and support the development of the creative music sector in Europe and to create opportunities for artists, organisers and audiences from the different countries to meet and communicate.


This year’s festival presents some of the jazz scene’s most powerful women jazz singers, instrumentalists and composers, across the generations and from around the world.

American singer Sheila Jordan is a living legend and one of the surviving performers of the Bebop generation. A superb scat singer Sheila moved to New York City in the early 1950s to sing in clubs and at jam sessions with some of the city’s jazz giants, including Charles Mingus, Herbie Nichols, and Charlie “Bird” Parker. and in 1952, she married Parker’s pianist, Duke Jordan. Ten years later, she made her acclaimed first recording, showing her vocal finesse on a ten-plus minute version of “You Are My Sunshine” on George Russell’s album The Outer View. Thanks to Russell, she released her first album, Portrait of Sheila, on Blue Note, the first female vocalist to record for the label.

British jazz singer Norma Winstone has won multiple awards both in UK and Europe, first attracting attention in the late 1960’s when she shared the bill at Ronnie Scott’s club with Roland Kirk. Although she was known initially for evolving her own wordless approach to improvisation, her extraordinary versatility means she is equally at home with the standards repertoire, performing with small groups, orchestras and big bands. In recent years she has also become known as a very fine lyricist, writing words to compositions by Ralph Towner, with whom she appears at the Festival.

Soul and jazz singer Ruby Turner was born in Jamaica and grew up in Montego Bay. Moving to England when she was 9, Ruby has lived here ever since. Her career to date has included major tours, theatre and TV appearances, and touring with Jools Holland, with whom she is one of main vocalists.
Jamaican Londoner Zara McFarlane has been compared to artists like Erykah Badu and Cassandra Wilson; in 2010, her self-produced EP caught the ear of Gilles Peterson who signed her to his Brownwood Record Label. Her third album, Arise, released in 2017 has attracted excellent reviews and Zara appeared on Jools Holland’s ‘Later’ in late 2017.
British jazz instrumentalist, composer, educator and tireless activist on behalf of women performers, Issie Barratt has performed across Britain, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, South East India, the USA and the east coast of Canada, with bands and orchestras of all sizes, and also with her own ensembles. The most recent of these is the INTERCHANGE Dectet who appear at the Festival, performing the work of ten British female composers. The Dectet includes some of the foremost female jazz instrumentalists on the UK scene including trumpeter Yazz Ahmed, saxophonist Tori Freestone and vocalist Brigitte Beraha. Issie also appears with Sage Gateshead’s youth jazz ensemble Jambone, for who she has composed new works for the Festival.

Slovenian pianist Kaja Draksler studied jazz piano in Groningen, Holland, and classical composition in Amsterdam, where she now lives, and is emerging as a unique voice in contemporary European jazz. The mix of influences she has taken on board includes her Slovenian heritage, her teachers Vijay Iyer and Jason Moran; Cecil Taylor; Ligeti; Monk, Duke and stride pianists.

Jazz singer and composer Kadri Voorand is one of Estonia’s growing number of outstanding jazz performers. In 2017, she gained Best Female Artist of the Year in the Estonian Music Awards and her album “Armupurjus” (“Love Intoxication”) was voted Best Jazz Album of the Year.

London based band Kokoroko are one of the young black British ensembles that have grown out of the work of Dune Records’ Tomorrow’s Warriors’ project, and gained recent profile through the Jazz Re:freshed Festival and regular gigs. An Afrobeat collective honouring the music of Tony Allen and West Africa, the band is led by trumpeter Sheila Maurice-Grey and features an all-female horn section including saxophone player Cassie Kinoshi.

All female trio J Frisco are Jemma Freese (Keyboards, Lara Jones (Saxophone) and Megan Roe (Guitar), all three of whom graduated from Leeds College of Music in summer 2017. The band combine art and poetry with improvised music, aiming to change perceptions and break down boundaries through improvisation. Their original approach led to their being chosen as one of two bands under the ‘Jazz North Introduces’ scheme aiming to bring the work of dynamic young jazz performers to a wider audience.

For further information, images, interview requests, competition or review tickets please contact:
Gaynor Ellis, PR & Communications Manager, Sage Gateshead
E. T. 0191 443 4690 M.07826 552945