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lime Events & Activities Interview: Gary Crosby

Lime interview - Events & Activities

Gary Crosby

words by

EDITOR - Vernia Mengot

Reporter: EDITOR  - Vernia Mengot

This autumn sees 20 groundbreaking events across the UK, in the new Lively Up! Festival which includes; exciting concerts, talks and events that showcase the extraordinary talents of an eclectic mix of performers, artistes and musicians. 

Curator of the festival which celebrates Jamaica’s cultural icons; Gary Crosby OBE, is the Artistic Director of Tomorrow’s Warriors and nephew of the great Jamaican guitarist, Ernest Ranglin OD.  Crosby is one of the UK’s most highly regarded and influential jazz artists and educators;having received a selection of awards ranging from the BBC Jazz Award for Best Ensemble (Jazz Jamaica All Stars), an OBE for Services to Music in HM The Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2009; and the Parliamentary Jazz Award for Jazz Education in 2012. 
In this interview Lime caught up with Gary Crosby to talk about preparations for the Lively Up! Festival, his committed involvement with Tomorrow’s Warriors and the importance of Black History Month.

How are preparations for the Lively Up! Festival going?

We are in rehearsal stages at the moment. It starts at the end of the month on 28th September. We’re having great fun. 

What has the response been like?

Where getting lots of Facebook and tweets, with people saying “Yes, it’s about time!” There is approval especially in the artistic community. There are chats and talks, and it’s good to see there is an online presence about the Lively Up! festival. I hope the interest in the festival continues and I would like to see some more dialogue. 

Most organisations say funding is their biggest obstacle. The festival is supported by Arts Council England and PRS for Music Foundation, was it challenging to get these organisations to back your project?

We are National portfolio organisation and have been working with the Arts Council. There is a certain bit of expertise within the organisation. We’ve had fantastic results over the last 10 years. The festival is an attempt to engage with the black community and to encourage the black communities to engage in the arts. 

When did you realise you were passionate about music as an art form?

Not until early my twenties as an art form.  But music generally is something that I participated in and enjoyed as far back as I can remember.

What would you say influences your love of music?

Culture sits at the top of the tree for me. I listen to a lot of other musicians because in learning an art form, I learn something from all of them; people like Duke Ellington, Cedrick Brooks and of course Bob Marley. And I would say they’re the first types of musicians that I heard where music could be used to communicate and not from a commercial point. 

Tell us about the establishment Tomorrow’s Warriors? 

It started quite innocently in 1991 as basically an open-mic-jam session at the Jazz Cafe, to encourage more young black people from my community and getting them an opportunity to play jazz. Jazz is a social music and you have to play in a group environment. Tomorrow’s Warriors was the start of a tradition and early beginnings.

You recently received the Parliamentary Award for Jazz Education, how did that feel?

It felt good. It’s always good to be acknowledged. Although, I believe that prize was for Tomorrows Warriors; we are a team that have been working together for the last 20 years. 

What has been the highlight of your career so far?

The one thing that has been a highlight was looking at my Mum and Dad when I went for an OBE; as much as it was a struggle for me to take it and being involved in the whole process. It’s as much their award as it is mine. For African/Caribbean’s that came to this country; semi-skilled or un-skilled, it was a group of people who came to this country, who came here with hope. My parents are part of that. Taking that award was for them.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted success in this industry?

My first thing for people is to first find your social relevance; for me that comes from my politics. Success has failed black people in the music industry; potentially good human beings have been shattered, look at the story of Michael Jackson and Whitney Houston. The thing that has worked for me is... I saw music as a way of contributing back to something. It’s a function to help change the world. 


What is the importance of Black History Month?

I think it gives us a month to focus on certain issues. There are certain aspects of Black History, possibly thirty to forty years that are not spoken about. It’s an opportunity to talk about the forgotten.

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