Chichester Jazz Club marks its quarter century

Alan Barnes
Alan Barnes

25 years ago this month, the Chichester Observer carried a small article entitled “New jazz club swings along”, announcing a new jazz club was starting in the city on October 31.

A quarter of a century later that club is still going strong as Chichester Jazz Club celebrates its silver anniversary.

It does so with a top-quality programme in the months ahead, culminating next June in a date with the CJC 25th Anniversary All-Stars.

“A fairly small group of enthusiasts and jazz fans thought that the city would benefit from a jazz club of sorts,” recalls chairman Hugh Ashton. “And at that stage, that meant a few hardy souls meeting eight to ten times a year to talk about jazz and play records.

“In the late 1980s, Bob Crosby, the founder of the club, was a lecturer at Chichester College and his students said to him ‘Hey, Bob, don’t you think Chichester could benefit from a jazz club?’ He picked up the idea and stirred some interest, putting an ad in the Chichester Observer.”

A small group got together in the pub which is now the Chichester Inn: “Bob, being a lecturer, had access to the college and the music department, and he could exploit that connection.”

Hugh joined the following year, by which time the club was 40-60 strong. It still offered a programme predominantly of talks with two or three live music opportunities a year.

“It was like an appreciation society. We outgrew the college and we moved to the New Park Centre. Before that, there was a time when we were at the Chichester High School for Girls. But the New Park Centre was a very positive move. The late Barry Boyce was a major player at that time, and then around the turn of the century, we moved to the Pallant Suite where we are now and where we decided to go for it big time and have nothing but live music. We decided to get some funding behind us and do some special concerts that would yield some revenue. We used to run big-band concerts at the Venue. It spanned the generations and had a wider appeal, and we sold a lot of tickets. People were quite happy to pay a reasonable price, and it generated some income. We did it for three years in a row. They achieved what we wanted them to achieve, and we were able to buy a piano.”

With its size and good acoustic, the Pallant Suite has proved a good place to be: “We feel we have had a poor night if we don’t get a hundred people. We generally get around 100 to 120, and our membership is 130, which is OK. A number of people don’t want to join. They just dip in and out. We welcome guests. We welcome people who just turn up at the door. We could always use a few more members, but financially we manage to break even or a little bit better than that, and what we make, we invest in improving the venue.”

Coming up at the Pallant Suite: September 30 – Josh Kemp Quartet – Ellington Tribute; October 21 – Winston Clifford Quartet; November 11 – Tommaso Starace/Michele Di Toro Duo; December 2 – A Christmas Carol – The Alan Barnes Octet.

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