Behind the jazz scenes

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Rye comes to a halt as the jazz band comes marching down Market Street in 2015

As the former logistics manager for Rye Jazz & Blues festival, my role like many others involved with the festival was varied to say the least, boredom was not an option, long days were commonplace and at times, flying by the seat of your pants, the only way to get things done.

In addition to all the ‘behind the scenes planning’, and as a result of the festival’s unquestioned success, what matters most is delivering what the public expect, on the day, on time, as advertised and in the most professional way possible.

To the general public the concerts may seem straightforward and seamless, if this is the perception then the organising team have done their job. If they only knew what had to be done to achieve the high standards set they might be surprised but its time to ‘spill the beans’ and enlighten the loyal concert goers as it doesn’t hurt to hear about the nitty gritty once in a while.

Take the outdoor concerts at the Kino in August for example, the objective was to provide top quality musicians, free of charge in a tight courtyard setting on a large purpose built  covered stage, keep the audience safe and at the same time keep the Kino functioning as a cinema and St Mary’s Centre open for their bank holiday art exhibition. What could be simpler!

Live bands entertain a full house during the searing bank holiday heat.

With roadblocks in place around the Citadel, getting the performing artists to and from the Kino stage was a challenge, parking was the usual nightmare and to add to the fun we had to make allowances for the wedding taking place at the Buttermarket on the Saturday and manoeuvre the Harvey’s dray and horses into position from Rye College, via Cinque Ports Street, Landgate and West Street. A mini bus ‘shuttle’ was put in place to ferry the artists from Rye College to the Kino and back, enabling them to leave their own vehicles whilst we transported them and their gear, backwards and forwards.

From the entrance to the Kino terrace we then had to fight our way (and back again after each band had performed) through the packed crowds in searing heat, drop their gear next to the stage for them, feed and water the artists and do the same in reverse when they had finished performing. The marshals worked tirelessly to keep an access clear for the artists, despite at times having to deal with the odd heated exchange from those who chose not to move aside, making life just a little more difficult.

Chairs had to be laid out in a manner to accommodate as many as we could who had a genuine need to sit whilst at the same time containing them in a way which would not adversely effect everyone else. Safety and maintaining an emergency access route were always at the forefront of our minds, having sat through our event management plan meeting at Bexhill Town Hall with representatives from the council, police and the fire and ambulance services. All volunteers had to be well briefed, worked in shifts and had various areas of real responsibilities to look after.

After the concerts had finished, Tuesday was spent breaking everything down again, rebuilding the Kino courtyard area as it was, sweeping up and clearing rubbish, collapsing marquees, repatriating chairs, tables and armchairs, finally finishing that evening leaving everything as if it had never happened. The five street pianos had to be collected and taken into storage, marketing material collected and throughout the week items which had been hired had to be returned or stored.

Despite all of the above, the amazing team at Rye Jazz, against very tight time constraints and unforeseen logistical challenges, pulled together and made a spectacular success of it once more, setting the bar even higher than had previously been set. The end result was a feeling of great satisfaction and judging by the reaction of those who came to enjoy the music, it was all very well worth the effort.

Whilst all of this was happening outside, the remainder of ‘team Rye jazz’ were hard at it inside St Mary’s church putting on two major artists each day, a challenge of a different kind which I will cover in an article in the new year.

Image Credits: Kenneth Bird , Tony Ham .

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