A successful edition of the European Jazz Conference ends in Novara



On Sunday, September 15th 2019, the European Jazz Conference ended its 6th edition, the one with the biggest attendance so far. During 4 intense days, 375 delegates from 39 different countries, in addition to many musicians and journalists, walked around the city and filled the streets of Novara participating at different conference sessions, concerts and cultural activities all across the small city in the north-west of Italy.

Delegates were coming from a wide range of countries. Alongside a strong core of European-based music professionals there were participants and speakers from South Africa, Cuba, China, Russia, Canada, Australia and the US, with the vast majority of delegates being festival and venues directors, but as well with booking agents, musicians, representatives of national institutions and other networks, artists’ managers, journalists and academics. Public registrations for the Conference were sold-out, for the first time, two weeks in advance of the event.

The 2019 Conference was co-organised by Europe Jazz Network (EJN), NovaraJazz and Rest-Art association, with the support of Banco BPM, the Municipality of Novara, Piedmont region, MiBACT (Italian Ministry of Culture), I-Jazz (Italian association of jazz festivals), Puglia Sounds (within Puglia Sounds Export programme 2019), Fondazione Musica per Roma/Parco della Musica records and of the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, that is supporting EJN through its network strand for the period 2017-2021.

The morning of Friday 13 September, after the welcome remarks by local authorities, started with a keynote speech by Chinese born-NY based composer Du Yun, covering the topic of cultural ownership and the need for artists to invite audiences in spaces of “wild vulnerability”. A blindfold test on the vast Italian jazz repertoire was then chaired by Francesco Martinelli and involved some young Italian jazz musicians that were asked to recognise and comment on recorded tunes presented to them and to the audience. During the afternoon, six parallel discussion groups covered a wide range of topics relevant to the work of music professionals: the effectiveness and existing good models of showcase events; experiments on the use of virtual and augmented reality in performative arts, including live music; funding for international projects and resources that can help in discovering them; Brexit and other potential challenges for the mobility of artists; new European copyright regulations and new jazz researches published in academia.

Saturday September 14th started with a brilliant keynote speech by contemporary artist Tania Bruguera. She presented the principles that guides her artistic research and proposed to the audience a new approach for the arts, that she defined “Political Timing Specific”. The aim is to develop art that is not only reacting to the many crises and authoritarian regimes around the world but to think and act ahead of them, keeping a utopian spirit and the objective to have a political and social impact. The day continued with a plenary panel debate on new ways programming, with artistic directors from remarkable festivals from different parts of the world discussing their approach to building artistic programmes for their events.

The showcase selection presented at Sala Borsa in Novara six diverse and powerful projects from Italian artists of the younger generations: O-Janà, Piero Bittolo Bon “Bread&Fox”, Hobby Horse, Rosa Brunello “SoloNude”, Camilla Battaglia “EMIT” and the Filippo Vignato Quartet. The Gala Concert on the evening of Friday 13 September saw on stage two major ensembles of today’s Italian jazz scene: the Octet of Franco D’Andrea and Gianluca Petrella’s “Cosmic Renaissance”. During the fringe programme of concerts 10 additional bands performed in the evenings and mornings of the conference days: Saturday morning saw the solo concert of Marco Colonna at San Gaudenzio Basilica, on Sunday morning the concert of Federica Michisanti “Horn Trio” at the Canonica del Duomo, while during the evenings the performances of Eloisa Manera solo “Duende”, Mirko Signorile “Trio trip”, WE3, Raffaele Casarano & Mirko Signorile, Roberto Ottaviano “Eternal Love”, XY Quartet, Andrea Grossi “Songs & Poems” and Enzo Favata “Crossing Quartet”.

During the formal EJN General Assembly, on Thursday September 12th and reserved only for EJN members, Lobke Aelbrecht from JazzLab (Belgium) was elected in the EJN Board of Directors and Martel Ollerenshaw (Australian Music Centre, Australia) was reconfirmed for three additional years in the Board. The Board itself, meeting before and after the Conference, approved three new EJN members: Dokkhuset Scene (Trondheim, Norway), G Livelab (Tampere, Finland), Macedonian Association of Jazz Musicians & Free Artists (Skopje, Macedonia). EJN has now 156 member organisations in 35 countries.

As part of the ongoing efforts to promote environmental sustainability in the music sector with the EJN initiative “Take the Green Train”, NovaraJazz last year launched a “train challenge” for the 2019 Conference. The participant coming from further away to Novara by train would win a customised folded bike. The winner was announced during the final plenary session of the Conference: Nigel Slee, EJN member with Jazz North, came by train from Leeds (UK) with a 20h travel to Novara and therefore received on stage a NovaraJazz-branded bike. Honourable mentions were also given to participants coming by train from other distant European locations: Hamburg, Ghent, Strasbourg, Paris and Wien.

The European Jazz Conference ended with a presentation from the hosts of the next edition, that will take place in Sofia, Bulgaria, between 10 and 13 September 2020 and that will be co-organised by EJN, A to Z Foundation ( an EJN member) and the National Palace of Culture of Sofia, that will host the Conference in its beautiful venue.

Photo (c) Emanuele Meschini / NovaraJazz