The First 25 Years:  1986 - 2011


2011 flyer

In 2011 we celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the Marlborough International Jazz Festival.   When Nick Fogg became Mayor of Marlborough (for the first time) in 1985 he made a promise to the town to set up a festival which would culturally enhance and do justice to this historic market town that earned its Royal Charter in 1204.

From its inception as the Marlborough Music & Arts Festival, and later as the Marlborough International Jazz Festival, this great event has owed its development to the generosity of sponsors both near and far, as well as to the hard work and committment of generations of volunteers and keen supporters.

Nick was as good as his word.   In early 1986 a group of twenty people from the town, led by Nick, met in the Town Hall to bring the Festival into being.   As a result of this a charity named Marlborough Festival of Music and the Arts was founded to supervise the operation of the Festival.

The first Festival was organised to take place for the entire week of June 1 to 8!   There was little time to prepare and yet the programme was exciting and broad based - the events representing a diverse spectrum which comprised music, drama, philosophical lectures and poetry readings, arts and crafts, comedy and fun children's events.

At the first Festival there were twenty events, including a Saturday of Artists at Work in The Priory Gardens.   Ticket prices ranged from £1.00 (including a free glass of wine) to £10.00 (including food) at the various events.   The Saturday of Artists at Work led to the now well established Marlborough Open Studios which currently runs for four weekends throughout July.

1990 flyer website

In 1989, for the first time, an entire day in the Festival was devoted to Jazz - the ISIS International Jazz Day.   This saw the introduction of the Jazz Day Stroller ticket.   This Festival incorporated 23 wide ranging classical music concerts, exhibitions and other arts events over 17 days, with venues from Marlborough High Street to Birmingham (a coach was arranged!).

The first 3 day jazz weekend was introduced in 1990.

1992 flyer website

The growing success of the Jazz Festival was later marked in 1993 by the first appearance of The Jools Holland Big Band.   Unsurprisingly, this was an event which, over the next few years, was to prove extremely popular and did much to elevate the image of jazz in Marlborough, both within the community and far beyond.

After this, the Festival soon began to develop an international reputation attracting bands and performers from around the globe with American and European artists being prominent.  

It was July 1997 however, which saw the arrival of the Marlborough International Jazz Festival - 30 bands in 15 venues as the main representation of the Festival.   With the car manufacturer Rover sponsoring the Stroller ticket, it became known as the Rover rather than the Stroller!

1999 flyer website

Throughout the 25 years we have been fortunate to have local artists such as Karon Staniland, Richard Shirley-Smith and Colin Palmer who have designed and created tremendous art for Jazz Festival publicity.

From 1998 through 2004 the programme format changed to a pocket sized version and the word "jazz", in its current format, was introduced.   In 2005 the size was increased with band listings and a map of venues in the centre.

jazz 2009

Of our founder committee members, Printha Ellis and her husband Mark, who were responsible for all publicity, have remained invloved.   They resigned in 1996 to concentrate on their successful careers.   When Printha was tragically killed in a car accident, Mark established the Printha Trust which has continued to support the Festival ever since.  

And, of course, there is the ubiquitous Nick Fogg with his enormous stamina and dedication.   As Festival Founder and Director, he has been with the Festival continuously since its inception - 25 years!   As Mayor, Town and County Councillor, as well as general citizen, he has been instrumental in many changes in and around Marlborough.

The path the Festival has taken thus far has been very much influenced by the presence of sponsorship income.   GWR FM was the first overall Festival sponsor, with The Hills Group Limited having contributed consistently throughout the years.   The current lead sponsor, Brewin Dolphin, has now been the lead sponsor for many years.  

We are grateful to all our sponsors and indebted to so many other individuals, organisations and businesses who have supported us.

Here's to the next 25 years!