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Students from Northumbria University Present Jazz in a New Way

12th March 2020

A new art exhibition will be on display at this year’s Gateshead Jazz festival at Sage Gateshead between 20 – 22 March. 

Students from Northumbria University welcomed the opportunity to work with international music venue Sage Gateshead and the award winning full-service marketing agency Narrative, in a competition which would see students consider the design of some new jazz festival artwork. 

As the established festival shifts into a new era this year focusing on attracting new audiences, the brief for the competition artwork was to propose a fresh look to the festival and appeal to a younger audience. Three teams from the university’s BA (Hons) Graphic Design programme, took on the challenge and came up with different concepts. They had to present their ideas, as well as talk about the process of how they reached their final artwork. Inspiration came from numerous sources including the film Bee Movie, the Quayside bridges and club posters. 

Caption:Northumbria student Joshua James SmithJoshua James Smith, a third-year student said: “The competition was exciting from the get-go! I met my best friend through our mutual love of design and have always wanted a chance to collaborate, once this opportunity appeared, we jumped at the chance! It was so much fun to reference club culture in our work, it even led to me standing in the bath with words on a paper making waves while Ellie took the photos! I’m really excited to see the work we’ve produced be printed to actual scale. Bringing work to life is always the best part! I’m also excited to see some live acts and learn some more about jazz.”

Second-year students, Niamh McErlean, George Hickey and Ben Clarke described their enjoyment working on the project: “We all thoroughly enjoyed the experience and embraced the challenge of communicating the excitement of jazz to a new, younger audience. It has also been rewarding to engage with Sage Gateshead first-hand as it has always been an important part of North Eastern culture and made us all feel more involved with the city. Working on this project has also changed how we define jazz and taught us about its place in a contemporary landscape.”

The level of entries was so impressive that all three teams will see their artwork exhibited in Sage Gateshead during the three-day festival and shared on social media. The winning designers will have the opportunity to take up a work placement with further mentoring from Narrative later in the year.

Sam Patterson, Marketing & Communications Manager at Sage Gateshead said: “It’s been an absolute pleasure to work with the students from Northumbria University. We were so impressed with their ideas, creativity and dedication to Sage Gateshead’s Jazz festival project. We’re really excited about the prospect of continuing the relationship with the university and working further with the students on live projects for Sage Gateshead.”

Chris Pescod, Creative Delivery Manager at Narrative said: “Having worked collaboratively with Sage Gateshead on their jazz festival, it was very exciting to see the creativity and enthusiasm of the students as they developed their own jazz concepts. Each group took a unique creative approach to the brief which was great to see and their presentation skills were exceptional.”

Andy Reay, Graphic Design Programme Lead at Northumbria University said: “This has been a great opportunity for the students to challenge the established perceptions surrounding jazz, and through their research and insights, explore ways to bring it to the attention of a new audience.”

With £5 tickets on offer to anyone 25, Sage Gateshead are hoping to see these audiences come and hear more than they may have previously done. Tickets will be available to all gigs programmed over the weekend.

Full details on the festival, including other artists Jamie Cullum, Theo Croker, Judi Jackson, Binker Golding Quartet and Vula Viel amongst others, visit

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