Professor Jen Wilson


Professor of Practice Jen Wilson is a musician, archivist, and published author who has dedicated her career to promoting the history and heritage of jazz women, and jazz in Wales. Today we are celebrating her achievement as part of International Women's Day 2018. 

Jen with Vaughan Gething

Jen Wilson was born and brought up in Mount Pleasant in Swansea. She is a self-taught jazz pianist and accomplished jazz musician and composer, writer and archivist. For 50 years or more Jen has played a central role in promoting jazz music in Wales and in documenting its history and social impact – and in particular the role of women in jazz.

In the early 1980s Jen joined the Swansea Women’s History Group as she became increasingly aware that ordinary women weren’t visible in mainstream history and jazzwomen didn’t feature in cultural histories.

Jen’s local research contributed knowledge of African American cultural interchange from the 1850s, e.g. café society and women’s bands featured in the 2016 ‘How Jazz Came to Wales’ exhibition in Swansea Museum.

Jen founded the registered charity Women in Jazz in 1986, continuing to add to her collection of oral histories, jazz sheet music, books, artefacts and records. Dame Cleo Laine became patron in 2003.

Notably her work has inspired radio programmes such as Alan Plater’s 3-part drama for BBC Radio 4 (1991) ‘Devil’s Music’ and Radio 4’s ‘The Lost Women of British Jazz’, which was nominated for the Prix Europa in 2015 and came fifth. She was awarded the WCVA Wales Volunteer of the Year 2014, and the Point of Light Award from Prime Minister David Cameron in 2015.

In February, she was named as the 2017 Culture Award winner at the St David Award, in Cardiff. 

The Jazz Heritage Wales archive has enjoyed several high profile visits over the past year, including Ken Skates, in his role as Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Infrastructure, Vaughan Gething, Cabinet Secretary for Health, Well-being and Sport, local AM Julie James, to the University to view the archives of Jazz Heritage Wales and Councillor Louise Gibbard,  who is the Champion for Women at the City and County of Swansea.

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