The Story So Far

The Story So Far

The Birchfield Jazz Festival is a celebratory weekend of free live music based at the popular St Mary’s Church in Handsworth Birmingham in the month of July. Following a successful launch in 2017, the festival returns in 2018, and hopes to become a permanent fixture for many years to come. Founded by acclaimed and award-winning musicians Lekan Babalola and Kate Luxmoore through the Ifa Yoruba Contemporary Arts Trust, this jazz inspired weekend aims to showcase Birmingham based musicians and the diversity they represent as well as celebrating their musical roots and influences taken from Jazz. As professional musicians themselves who have worked across many genres of music, with Lekan receiving two Grammy Awards for his work with Jazz Diva Cassandra Wilson and Blues Legend Ali Farka Toure, both Kate and Lekan want the festival to champion Jazz in it’s broadest sense and encourage access to its different styles and genres.

The talented duo also want to showcase local talent and help to nurture the next generation, which they have begun to do through their programme of holiday arts activities for young people in Birchfield in association with the Birchfield Big Local. 2018 will also see the incarnation of the Birchfield Jazz Festival Ensemble which will provide an opportunity for young musicians in the city of Birmingham to learn the intricacies of Jazz and its various genres, culminating in a performance at the festival itself. This aims to give young musicians a unique chance to work with seasoned artists from a variety of musically diverse backgrounds. The Birchfield Jazz Festival is passionate about educating and encouraging people to listen to live Jazz, by bringing the beauty of this type of music to the doorstep or the local community.

We’re been fortunate enough to have two highly respected patrons supporting us – introducing Herlin Rlley and Vanley Burke.


Master drummer Herlin was playing in Jazz musician’s Cassandra Wilson’s band when he first met Lekan who both through their passion and dedication to drumming and percussion, became firm friends and have consistently supported each other’s work since their meeting of minds and love of music. Herlin has since set up his own band and runs a range of projects from his home town of New Orleans, encouraging young musicians to develop their craft, inducting them into a very special kind of ‘musical family’. Herlin’s commitment to sustaining the power of music within the community inspired Lekan and Kate to work towards setting up the Birchfield Jazz Festival in their own local area. Herlin agreed to become patron in 2017 and plans to visit, perform and deliver masterclasses in the UK in the near future.

For more information on Henri Riley, visit:


Vanley Burke is often described as the ‘Godfather of Black British Photography’, whereby his iconic images have captured the evolving cultural landscape, social change, and stimulated debate in the United Kingdom over the past four decades. He draws strength from remaining a humble man of the community, whose personable character allows him to capture the intimate and private nature of people’s everyday lives. Vanley is a regular supporter of the Ifa Yoruba Contemporary Arts Trust and is well known within his own community and beyond.

For more information on Vanley Burke, visit:


We’ d like to give a special mention to the wonderful Dorrette Hanson and Community Development Worker Andrew Simons who were instrumental in the inception of the Birchfield Jazz Festival. Kate and Lekan met them through the Birchfield Big local (a well-established organisation, committed to bringing people together in order to make the local area a better place to live and work). Whilst in discussion with Dorrette around support for running regular music workshops in schools, she suggested that the areas own Jazz festival would be a great accompaniment to the workshops… and there it all began! A huge thanks to Dorrette for having the insight which means we are here, bringing the festival into its 2nd year following the success of its launch in 2017.

Associate organisations: THSH Jazzlines and Birchfield Big Local