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Students from Northumbria University Present Jazz in a New Way

Posted on 12 March 2020


A new art exhibition will be on display at this year’s Gateshead Jazz festival at Sage Gateshead between 20 – 22 March.

Students from Northumbria University welcomed the opportunity to work with international music venue Sage Gateshead and the award winning full-service marketing agency Narrative, in a competition which would see students consider the design of some new jazz festival artwork.

As the established festival shifts into a new era this year focusing on attracting new audiences, the brief for the competition artwork was to propose a fresh look to the festival and appeal to a younger audience. Three teams from the university’s BA (Hons) Graphic Design programme, took on the challenge and came up with different concepts. They had to present their ideas, as well as talk about the process of how they reached their final artwork. Inspiration came from numerous sources including the film Bee Movie, the Quayside bridges and club posters.

Joshua James Smith, a third-year student said: “The competition was exciting from the get-go! I met my best friend through our mutual love of design and have always wanted a chance to collaborate, once this opportunity appeared, we jumped at the chance! It was so much fun to reference club culture in our work, it even led to me standing in the bath with words on a paper making waves while Ellie took the photos! I’m really excited to see the work we’ve produced be printed to actual scale. Bringing work to life is always the best part! I’m also excited to see some live acts and learn some more about jazz.”

Second-year students, Niamh McErlean, George Hickey and Ben Clarke described their enjoyment working on the project: “We all thoroughly enjoyed the experience and embraced the challenge of communicating the excitement of jazz to a new, younger audience. It has also been rewarding to engage with Sage Gateshead first-hand as it has always been an important part of North Eastern culture and made us all feel more involved with the city. Working on this project has also changed how we define jazz and taught us about its place in a contemporary landscape.”

The level of entries was so impressive that all three teams will see their artwork exhibited in Sage Gateshead during the three-day festival and shared on social media. The winning designers will have the opportunity to take up a work placement with further mentoring from Narrative later in the year.

Sam Patterson, Marketing & Communications Manager at Sage Gateshead said: “It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with the students from Northumbria University. We were so impressed with their ideas, creativity and dedication to Sage Gateshead’s Jazz festival project. We’re really excited about the prospect of continuing the relationship with the university and working further with the students on live projects for Sage Gateshead.

Chris Pescod, Creative Delivery Manager at Narrative said: “Having worked collaboratively with Sage Gateshead on their jazz festival, it was very exciting to see the creativity and enthusiasm of the students as they developed their own jazz concepts. Each group took a unique creative approach to the brief which was great to see and their presentation skills were exceptional.”

Andy Reay, Graphic Design Programme Lead at Northumbria University said: “This has been a great opportunity for the students to challenge the established perceptions surrounding jazz, and through their research and insights, explore ways to bring it to the attention of a new audience.

With £5 tickets on offer to anyone 25, Sage Gateshead are hoping to see these audiences come and hear more than they may have previously done. Tickets will be available to all gigs programmed over the weekend.

Notes to editors: 

Sage Gateshead

We present around 400 events and festivals each year for a live audience of 350,000, 6 million people hear our work via stream or broadcast and 500,000 visit our building, often national and international visitors. Each year we support over 100 musicians through our artist development programme and we work with 30,000 children and young people and 20,000 adults in our creative learning programme.

We are home to the acclaimed Royal Northern Sinfonia as well as our popular, annual festivals SummerTyne Americana and Folk on the Tyne. We are dedicated to supporting emerging artists, as well as established names, offering residencies such as our Summer Studio and Folkworks Summer Schools.

Alongside our music performance and learning offer, our iconic building, designed by Foster & Partners, provides the perfect venue to over 100 conferences and events a year.

As a charity, the financial support we receive from Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council, Arts Council England and our donors helps to ensure everyone in the community can experience the joys of music. Positioned as one of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisation, our continued ambition for the future is to work to significantly to increase the number and range of people connected with music.


In our first decade, our economic impact was £283 million. We are for audiences, for artists, for the North and for the long-term. Everything we do is guided by our values: Creative, Diverse, Focused, Leading, Responsible.


Jazz 25


If you’re aged between 16 to 25 you can get tickets to any Gateshead Jazz gig for just £5.

Simply select the 16-25 ticket option when you choose your seat.

You may be asked to produce identification when you pick up your tickets from our Box Office.

Sage One, Sage Two and NRFH only.

Subject to availability.

Arts Council England is the national development body for arts and culture across England, working to enrich people’s lives. We support a range of activities across the arts, museums and libraries – from theatre to visual art, reading to dance, music to literature, and crafts to collections. Great art and culture inspires us, brings us together and teaches us about ourselves and the world around us. In short, it makes life better. Between 2018 and 2022, we will invest £1.45 billion of public money from government and an estimated £860 million from the National Lottery to help create these experiences for as many people as possible across the country.