Celebrating Swansea's jazz heritage


The University of Wales Trinity Saint David has hosted a lunchtime event bringing the focus on Swansea’s rich history of jazz.

Group photo

The event was held in the Pierhead Building in Cardiff and was attended by Julie James AM, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas AM, and Jazz Heritage Wales, the jazz archive housed by the university and curated by Professor of Practice Jen Wilson.

Julie James AM said: “Last year, Swansea narrowly missed out on winning the UK 2021 City of Culture but on the back of that campaign, the city remains very much Wales’ capital of culture. This event highlighted the unique sounds of jazz and gave everyone the chance to hear first-hand from the speakers of how we can all play our part in promoting the arts and culture across Wales. Promoting the Arts including bringing Jazz to new audiences is part of a continued cultural conversation that Swansea is leading on in Wales and one that I am passionate about”.

Jen Wilson said: “The story of jazz in Wales is a story that is unexpected, unplanned, and rich in heritage. It can be traced from the anti-slavery movement, and from the Underground Railroad that brought people to Swansea’s shores. It is a story of politics that is mixed up with music and the café culture that sprung up in Swansea in the early 20th Century. It is also women’s history that is being told here. The floor shows and jazz cafes that took place in Swansea in the early 20th Century were led by women while the men were away at war, they were the ones who took the lead, rehearsed the acts, booked the bands. You can’t have jazz without politics and it is a social history that is being told here.”  

The University was also delighted to welcome award-winning jazz saxophonist Alan Barnes who gave a performance with the support of Dave Cottle, the organiser of Swansea International Jazz Festival, and his band. The Swansea International Jazz Festival is an annual event that takes place in and around Swansea.

Jazz Heritage Wales is the only multimedia resource to focus on the contribution made by Wales to a British jazz identity. It was started by Jen Wilson in 1986 and is now housed by the University of Wales Trinity Saint David. In 2017, Jen received a St David’s Award for her contribution to Welsh cultural life. Later that year, she was made a Professor of Practice by UWTSD.

Further Information

For further information, please email: press@uwtsd.ac.uk