Our Story

Jazz is the music of improvisation. No boundaries. No barriers. The City of Derry Jazz Festival reflects just that. A musical legacy open to all. We invite you to get involved in the 20th year of this world-renowned celebration of all things jazz.

Originally launched in 2001 by Gerry McColgan (former Derry City Council), the City of Derry Jazz Festival has become part of the fabric of the people, the culture and the life of Derry-Londonderry ever since. Inspired by the Cork Jazz Festival, Gerry and his colleague Johnny Murray (who managed the Rialto Theatre) wanted to combine the city’s rich musical reputation, it’s unique history, and the abundance of local jazz talent on it’s doorstep.

In it’s first year, the Festival saw 6,000 people attend. Success was build on the high quality artists and music that featured in each event, a standard which has continued year on year building to hundreds of acts playing over 70 venues. Our last in-person festival in 2019 attracted over 63,000 people with visitors travelling from all over the world. Supported by the Council, sponsors, venues, and musicians, the Festival has evolved into a world-renowned destination for jazz lovers. Above all, it is truly the people of the city and the supporters of the Festival who have made it the success it is today.

In 2021, the Jazz Festival will be a blended event, delivering a roster of world renowned artists and performances while still respecting the health and well-being of our festival-goers. Our lineup will include some virtual events as well as some outdoor entertainment as part of the Council’s ‘Inside Out’ programme, all upholding the legacy of the event and the music in the best way possible. Mixing online concerts with live stream gigs, live jazz and the best of Irish Jazz, we’re excited to showcase our lineup for 2021.

We’re delighted to welcome back the socially distanced Second Line Parade which will make it’s way through the city centre streets in Guildhall Square. We welcome you to participate in an outdoor visual arts trail which will feature work from local artists specially commission for our milestone 20th Anniversary.

Other events include gigs in the Guildhall in a Jools Holland set up, presenting three stages, three times a day, showcasing the talents of local artists.

A very special highlight of this year’s Festival, and a celebration of our 20th anniversary, will be the award of our 5 Young Person’s Bursaries which will be won by young, up-and-coming Jazz Musicians. Click here to find out more about the Young Person’s Bursary.