The Ilkley Suite

We have had a catch up with Jamil just after Christmas and asked about his approach to the commission

Just to talk about the approach to the commission... First things first - find things out about Ilkley. Mark, Beverley and I met up for a cheeky croissant (courtesy of Mark) and we sat around, looking at the beautiful view of Ilkley Moor from Mark and Beverley's house, discussing the history (fact and fiction) of Ilkley. 

I found out all about the legend of Rombald the Giant, who stamped on the Cow and Calf rocks, splitting them when fleeing his angry wife.... well, we've all been there! I love this story, and can immediately see the potential of bringing it out in the music. But the more I read about the town and surrounding countryside, the more I realise how vast the history is. I had no idea, for example, that the moor has the second highest concentration of Neolithic and Bronze Age rock carvings in Europe - how brilliant is that. I was also (I'm ashamed to say) pretty clueless with regards to the Roman Fort that was the foundation of Ilkley town.

And that's where I'm up to at the moment - reading up on the history and gathering as much information as I can. I think the composition will end up being a number of pieces that reflect the different stories coming to the surface. I'll get all of that in place first and then, when I feel like I know exactly what I want to write about, I'll get stuck in to the compositional work.
For me, this is a big part of the fun of writing - building up all the ideas and reasons for making the music, to the point where it should spill out pretty fluidly - that's the idea anyway.



Jamil has recorded and collaborated with many artists and recorded four albums of his own music, each of which have received national and international accolades. Jazz UK writes about Jamil: His music is both swinging and sophisticated, Sheriff showing himself to be a constantly inventive arranger. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, he’ll come up with something fresh. As a composer, arranger and pianist Jamil has toured extensively throughout the UK and performed at national and international jazz festivals.

Across is a picture of Jamil taken in Ilkley Manor House a couple of years ago, by Mark!






As we approach our 5th festival we thought in these austerity ridden, Brexit bitten times we would celebrate! So this year we have decided to commission an original composition based on Ilkley and its surrounds.

This page will give you regular updates from the festival, the composer and collaborators about the progress of this part of the project.

November 2017
Interview with Mark, festival director


What is your role in the Ilkley Suite?


Creatively I have no role in suite, I think I am more a facilitator and finance person on this occasion. Which has its benefits, as I will be able to sit back and enjoy the process without the hard work!!!


But first I have to find the money, which is 50% there, so we will definitely be completing this project, so the suite will be composed and the first performance will be at Ilkley Jazz Festival 2018 however we would like to record the suite too so I am looking for the funds to do this too!


Why is Ilkley Jazz Festival commissioning an original suite of music?

There is a variety of reasons really; it has not done before, nobody has ever written a piece about Ilkley, there is a famous song, but it was never originally written about Ilkley. This is a way of us celebrating Ilkley Jazz Festival running for 5 years, when we set the festival up we had some objectives one of which was to promote original jazz music, which we do by having acts that play their original music but as an arts organisation this is the next step.

Why now?

The festival is either at a turning point or a sticking point, after five years we are getting a lot of interest from local businesses and local people who want to help out, we are growing to the point where one or two people can not run the festival, we have 27 events across 10 venues in 5 days in 2018, so I see that the festival will change in the way it has been run, and move on from being a start-up festival to something more substantial. So in some ways this piece will be a milestone of us growing up as a festival.

How did you select the composer?

As this is the first time we, as a festival, have commissioned anything, we were looking for a ‘safe pair of hands’, someone who has taken on this type of project before, rather than a young less experienced composer. We considered various composers who were local, listened to their music and formed an opinion on that criteria. Then before Jamil decided to take on the project we listened to his ideas and his ways of working and agreed that he was the right person for us at this point in time.

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