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Serious, London Jazz fest founder John Cumming passes

John Cumming, founder of jazz music promoter Serious, London Jazz Festival and the European Jazz Network, passed away on Sunday (17 May), following a battle with cancer.

As a founder and director of Serious, Cumming produced live jazz, international and contemporary music festivals and events across the UK and Ireland.

Having gained experience organising Bracknell Jazz Festival and Camden Jazz Week, Cumming founded what was then known as Serious Productions in the 1980s with manager and concert promoter John Ellson, later joined by David Jones and Claire Whitaker.

Cumming then went on to found London Jazz Festival in 1992, along with Ellson and Jones. The ten-day event, which takes place each November across over 60 venues, has gone on to host acts including Herbie Hancock, Abdullah Ibrahim, Courtney Pine, Joe Lovano and Cécile McLorin Salvant.

Pelin Opcin, former director of Istanbul Jazz Festival and current director of programming at Serious, took over from Cumming as director of London Jazz Festival in 2018.

“The international jazz community has suffered a great loss”

Cumming stepped back as the director of Serious last year but remained involved with the company.

Cumming has received awards for services to Jazz at the BBC Jazz Awards and the Parliamentary Jazz Awards. In 2014 he was made an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for his services to Jazz.

“The Serious family is saddened by the loss of one of its founders John Cumming – a much-loved colleague and friend,” reads a statement on the Serious website. “[He] was an inspiring producer, loved by everyone who knew him.”

“With the passing of John Cumming, the international jazz community has suffered a great loss. His importance cannot be overstated,” says Jan Ole Otnæs, president of the European Jazz Network, which Cumming founded in 1987.

“He was an inspiring colleague and his curiosity, creativity, deep knowledge of music and ability to unearth and present new talent in every possible context, will be sorely missed.”


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Istanbul Jazz director takes over London Jazz Festival

Pelin Opcin, festival director of Istanbul Jazz Festival, is to join London Jazz Festival producer Serious as director of programming.

Opcin (pictured) has overseen Istanbul Jazz Festival – organised by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (IKSV) – since 2005, and been with IKSV since 1999, and her departure means the leading jazz event enters its 25th anniversary year “with a major change”, says the promoter.

She joins London Jazz Festival on 1 February 2018, but will remain with IKSV until the conclusion of the 25th Istanbul Jazz Festival on 21 July.

The 25th Istanbul Jazz Festival programme, prepared under the direction of Opcin and assistant director Harun Izer, will be announced in the next few days.

Some 25,000 people attended the 2017 Istanbul Jazz Festival, in a successful return following the disruption of the 2016 event by an attempted coup d’état.


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