mjf2020: Jazz Unlocked - our first fully digital festival

mjf 2020, our 25th anniversary festival, had been planned for 21-25 May. Due to increasing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were forced to  cancel the physical festival on 23 March, just 10 days after it was launched.

Undeterred, we quickly decided to stage an online festival in its place.

mjf 2020: jazz unlocked was a bold, defiant statement of mjf’s 25th anniversary and provided audiences and artists with a high quality, diverse and distinctive engagement experience during the height of the UK COVID-19 lockdown period.

It was produced and streamed in partnership with Jazz North and United We Stream, and in addition to a wealth of specially-created content, pioneered some of the first staged live jazz ensemble performances in the UK since lockdown restrictions began.

The headlines

- We produced 37 hours of content, streamed over four days which attracted 38,777 views across Facebook and YouTube. You can view the full line up here
- 194 individual musicians participated – all live performers were paid
- mjf is a proud Keychange associates pledging a 50/50 gender balance in our programming. mjf2020: Jazz Unlocked saw 58% of performing ensembles features female-identifying artists
- Of all musicians featured, 74% were based in the north; 44% based in Greater Manchester
- The festival featured six premieres of specially created material
- The entire project was successfully delivered with minimal additional budget, thanks to in-kind partnerships and previously budgeted artist fees

Programming our first online festival

We wanted to ensure that while still having the opportunity to celebrate our 25th anniversary online, mjf 2020: jazz unlocked should reflect our ambitions for high quality and diversity and supporting commissioned work, northern artists and talent development.

Our online programme featured:

- 10 performances of regional artists live from Bury Met, co-streamed with United We Stream
- Live and pre-recorded home concerts by national and international artists
- 25@25: illustrated interviews with previously commissioned mjf originals artists
- Roundtables discussion on new releases by emerging artists reviewed by sector peers
- In-depth ‘At home with’ artist interviews and masterclasses
- Topical panel debates with key industry personalities and artists
- Premieres of new films, new releases and new work
- Film feature on our talent development programme mjf hothouse
- Best of mjf 2019: footage of performance highlights from last year’s festival

Read our full report on mjf2020: Jazz Unlocked here: mjf2020 Jazz Unlocked final report