EFFE Laureate - 12 Points Jazz Festival
One of the clever things about Dublin's 12 Points jazz festival is that it does not always happen in Dublin. Neither is it very prescriptive about timing. In the last five years the nomadic 12 Points has popped up in Porto, Umea, San Sebastian and Aarhus, and because it often attaches itself as the international adjunct to a local event, it can take place whenever it suits the host. It can also network with other festivals in the same area at the same period, giving the performers a chance to have a tour and enhance their reputation across a whole region. The name reflects the relevance of the number twelve in the festival's design – it selects 12 acts from 12 interchangeable European countries.
There is no great necessity for it always to take place in a particular season. “Over the past five years it happens to have been in summer,” says Director Kenneth Killeen, “but part of the bi-location factor is that it can be at other times to suit the host cities and funding criteria. Next year, though, when it returns to Ireland, we will move it back to the autumn which we like best.”
12 Points even programmes its events on Mondays which, for a three or four day festival, is a real rarity, especially for those visiting a European city who so often find themselves culturally stranded on a Monday evening. “It's the time of the week when musicians traditionally have a night off so it allows those who are not busy to come and listen to some new colleagues.”
Enhancing reputation is at the heart of the idea, which is to stage an intense but relatively short showcase for 'young, creative and ambitious artists'. This means that Kenneth is relaxed about the exact genre that comes under the general heading of 'jazz', adding on 'related music' to it in recognition of the way the music is defined. “One of our functions is to challenge stereotypes of the genre, to push the boundaries of the styles that people want to amalgamate and reflect what's going on in our time. We are interested in great music – we say to the players, 'why don't you show us what that is?' They don't like labels and we try not to stick them on.”
12 Points is, he says, “about contemporary jazz in Europe. We forget what a young genre it is – it's only been going for a hundred years and there's no need for it only to stick with an American heritage form of popular music from the 1920s – 40s. Now European young musicians are using their own local folk traditions and explaining how they improvise in them.”
When the festival returns to Dublin in 2018 it will have the usual basket of a dozen acts but it will extend invitations to another eight, “of our All Stars – musicians who have gone on to much bigger things thanks to 12 Points.”
By Simon Mundy for EFA