The National Jazz Archive (NJA) is the UK’s research and information centre for the history of jazz, blues, and related music. It is freely available to all who wish to explore its collections for inspiration, learning, and enjoyment.
The National Jazz Archive holds the UK’s finest collection of written, printed and visual material on jazz, blues and related music, from the 1920s to the present day. Since the Archive was founded by Digby Fairweather in 1988, its vision has been to ensure that the rich cultural heritage of jazz is safeguarded for future generations of enthusiasts, professionals and researchers. The Archive’s mission is to document, preserve and make accessible the past, present and future of jazz and related music.
Objectives of the NJA
- Collect materials documenting our jazz heritage
- Preserve our holdings to professional standards
- Develop more representative and inclusive collections
- Facilitate the study of jazz history, heritage and culture
- Engage a wide range of communities through our collections and activities
Whether you’re a writer, student, jazz enthusiast or musician, our collections are available for all to explore online, but visiting the Archive itself will enable you to make full use of our resources:
- More than 4000 books
- Around 700 magazines and journals, including Melody Maker, Down Beat, Blues Unlimited and many rare periodicals and newsletters
- Photos, drawings and paintings
- Posters and programmes *
- Letters and personal papers donated by musicians and writers, including Ian Carr, John Chilton, Ken Colyer, Charles Fox, Jim Godbolt, Johnny Simmen, and Mike Westbrook
- Oral histories and interviews.
Projects, events and activities
We continue to conserve and maintain our collection, enabling online access for all, and developing an expanding resource of oral history materials to document our jazz heritage. As well as accessioning and cataloguing new material, we run an active programme of:
- Concerts by leading jazz musicians
- Talks by expert writers, researchers and music specialists
- Exhibitions, workshops and open days at Loughton and at jazz festivals around the country.
Our key staff
We rely upon volunteers to enable the work of the Archive to be undertaken. That is receiving personal jazz collections, sorting and listing collections, scanning photographs, assisting in cataloguing all the items of the Archive, helping with our events. The Archive has a growing need for volunteers with expertise in digital technology and social media.
We have two key people that help bring all our work together.
David Nathan was appointed research archivist for the National Jazz Archive by Essex County Council in May 1997. This followed 37 years working in insurance with Commercial Union (now Aviva), and ending as development manager for the City of London region.
His earliest recollection of seeing jazz was when as a teenager he went to the Hackney Empire for a special jazz evening when the bill included Tubby Hayes and Ronnie Scott, and the Ivor and Basil Kirchin Band – and he loved it! His other interests include being a Leyton Orient season-ticket holder, a member of the MCC and an avid collector of jazz CDs.
Angela Davies has worked with the NJA since 2008. She was project manager for both of the National Jazz Archive’s Heritage Lottery Fund projects, and successfully delivered the Story of British Jazz project and the Intergenerational Jazz Reminiscence project. She now runs all our volunteer projects.
Following a background in archives and records management she became involved in large-scale fine-art digitisation projects, specialising in the creation and management of metadata through the development of image cataloguing databases, controlled vocabulary and key-wording infrastructures. Since 2001 she has held the position of director of content at Heritage Image Partnership Ltd, representing the collections of prestigious heritage institutions through the Heritage Images online historical image library. Some NJA collections are now available for commercial licensing and print-on-demand products through Heritage Images.
The work and vision of the National Jazz Archive are supported by a number of eminent patrons including musicians, politicians, broadcasters, authors and critics. Read more about our patrons.
The National Jazz Archive is a charity (no. 327894), and the board of trustees is legally responsible for all the activities that the organisation undertakes. The trustees are all unpaid volunteers who are responsible for ensuring that the Archive abides by its charitable aims and delivers its vision effectively.
The National Jazz Archive has established a partnership with Birmingham City University (BCU) in order to make its resources more accessible to students, researchers and performers.
An initial collection of jazz material has been moved to create a satellite of the National Jazz Archive at BCU. The partnership between NJA and BCU aims to develop the archive’s holdings, plan new projects and expand the research base of our work. Through exhibitions, performances, talks and workshops, our aim is to create a vibrant, living archive known for innovative research and outreach programmes that are anchored in the wider community.
Birmingham City University is a leading centre for jazz research in Europe. The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, one of the constituent parts of BCU, hosts some of the country’s leading jazz performance programmes at BMus, MMus and PhD level, nurturing the next generation of great players. The internationally respected jazz academics in the Birmingham Centre for Media & Cultural Research are active in publishing books and journals, practice-based research in performance and composition along with projects which explore jazz festivals, the place of the music in the media, and the role of women in jazz.
The NJA collection is housed in BCU’s Arts, Design and Media Archives at Parkside Building. This collection is available to all by appointment with the Keeper of the Archives, Dr Pedro Cravinho, ADM-Archives-Request@bcu.ac.uk.
Our trustees are drawn from a range of backgrounds in heritage, archives, publishing, jazz, law and finance. The board of trustees has ultimate responsibility for directing the affairs of the Archive, ensuring that it is solvent, well run and fulfils its charitable objects. Our trustees also act as volunteers for the work achieved by the Archive. Read about the members of the board.
The National Jazz Archive requires your support, financially and in kind. There are many ways you can help and contribute.
Join us, sign up and follow us
Come to our fundraising events – details are on our News & Events page. For regular updates on the Archive, our events and activities, sign up for our monthly newsletter. Past newsletters can be downloaded here.