manchester jazz festival was founded in 1996 to celebrate our region’s musical talent and bring new music to new audiences.

For the past 23 years, we’ve been providing opportunities for North West musicians to try out new ideas, helping them to realise some of their artistic visions. In 2009, we launched mjf originals, commissioning artists to create works especially for the festival.

Irwin Mitchell mjf originals deepens our celebration of the work of North West artists by offering musicians the chance to devise and realise a performance of new work, which previously would not have been possible, and in doing so provides our ever-growing audiences with a truly memorable experience not available anywhere else.

Last year’s new commissioned work, Light Gatherer, by Esther Swift explored poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy’s literature. Esther’s interest in her contribution to the arts, and especially the voice she gives to women, inspired her to deconstruct the works, focusing more on their mood and rhythm of speech, and create new texts using the same themes that inform much of Carol Ann’s work.

Producing a major piece of commissioned work can be very demanding on your time and energy but it will also add to your track record as an artist and equip you with a sense of achievement and confidence; we will of course provide assistance along the way wherever we can.

mjf originals is supported by Irwin Mitchell.


What can be commissioned?

Funding will be directed at budgets for projects that develop the work and profile of emerging and ambassador North West jazz musicians and composers by supporting the production of new work. mjf will continue to submit funding applications to other organisations (PRS for Music Foundation, Foyle Foundation etc.) to complement ACE’s investment in this strand of activity; it is therefore likely that projects will be subsidised by funds from a variety of sources.

When the term ‘commissioned’ is used, it is intended that an individual or group of artists will be appointed by mjf to produce a major piece of new jazz work for presentation at the festival. mjf will not set limits to the content of projects (e.g. stylistic boundaries, number of participants, instrumentation etc.) but will encourage musicians to take artistic risks and experiment with new processes. The participation of North West musicians will be a primary concern when assessing project proposals, and mjf will be open both to national/international composers creating music for regional players, as well as regional composers writing for national/international level artists.

Although there is a fixed financial limit available for this scheme, mjf will initially not set any individual budgetary constraints on project proposals. This is to allow for flexibility in their nature and content, and in the number of proposals we are able to appoint each year. Shortlisted artists will be expected to demonstrate an awareness of the extent of the costs involved, and a detailed budget will be agreed with successful applicants.

A key issue arising from the consultation process highlighted the major difference between the ways in which most new jazz works are produced compared to other genres. Specifically, that the input of the performing musicians and the provision of collaborative creative sessions, as opposed to ‘standard’ rehearsals, are very specific to the success of the genre, given the role of improvising jazz musicians as interpreters of written work. It has not been easy to convince funders to invest in such working methods, since traditional compositional methods do not normally require such a high level of input from the performing musicians at the compositional stages of new work. mjf will be open to providing such sessions where appropriate, and our funders can be confident that they are, via mjf, providing direct support for artists in a tailored – and pioneering – way.

Thus, mjf will support:

  • concept
  • composition
  • collective creation
  • innovative creative processes

How to apply

There is a two stage process:

  1. Register your interest – Stage 1 simply involves giving us a short summary of your concept
  2. Apply – Stage 2, once we’ve agreed your suitability, we will send you a password protected link to the application form – you’ll need to tell us about you and your project by answering the questions trying to be as detailed and precise as possible. We realise that it may be difficult to specify certain details about your project at this stage, but please indicate if some elements are fixed. All sections of the application form must be filled out.

Each section is subject to an upper and lower word count limit which you must adhere to. (An easy way to check your text is using

We don’t want to limit creativity by imposing financial restrictions at the initial stages. However, we expect you to outline anticipated expenditure for the project above and beyond composition, performance and rehearsal fees, which will be agreed with the successful applicant(s). Examples of costs might be travel costs for musicians, instrument and equipment hire, performance and rehearsal space hire, printing, binding.

Composition fees are determined on a case by case basis depending on scale and length of composition and your track record as a composer. Performance and rehearsal fees are set at fixed rates. Exceptions will be considered for high-profile artists.

Projects are assessed against the following criteria, which you should consider when completing the form:

  1. Likely artistic quality – the selection panel will use its knowledge of the sector and your previous work as outlined in your application form to determine the potential of your project
  2. Seriousness of professional intent – the extent to which you can demonstrate commitment to a career in jazz and how this project fits within those ambitions
  3. Achievability – how realistic the project is in terms of your ability to deliver within the time and resources available
  4. Originality of concept – how the project sits within the context of jazz composition and the extent to which the project embraces new ideas
  5. Ambition beyond your safety net – how the project challenges you to explore new territory
  6. Marketability to the festival audience – why you think this project would appeal to new and/or existing listeners
  7. Likelihood of future performances – what makes your project either attractive to or problematic for other promoters?
  8. Extent to which the project benefits the work and profile of artists living and working in North West England 
  9. Distinction from previous works commissioned by mjf
  10. The panel’s overall impression of your proposal – including the quality of your application

We will also consider budgetary and practical concerns which may arise from your proposal.

If in previous years you have been shortlisted, but not successful, and wish to resubmit your idea, please ensure you have addressed any feedback previously given. Please note that we can not guarantee that previously shortlisted applications will be shortlisted again. If you have submitted a proposal which was not shortlisted, please do not submit the same proposal again.

To give you an idea of the type of work we commission, view the previously commissioned works.

Deadline for 2019 submissions

Candidates wishing to apply for the Irwin Mitchell mjf originals commission will have to register their interest no later than 11.59pm, Monday 17 September 2018.

Register your interest here