Arts Derbyshire


Big bands back in Buxton big-time

Big band music is back big-time as the 2022 Buxton International Festival (BIF) celebrates the town’s tradition for live music and dancing.

The newly refurbished Pavilion Gardens Octagon will once again come alive to the sounds of its 1950s and ‘60s hey-days when on July 17 the BIF Dance Band plays music made famous by the big names of the day, such as Joe Loss, Victor Sylvester, Geraldo and Ted Heath.

Professional dancers will show the audience all the moves they need to tango, foxtrot, jive and rumba when they get on the floor to the sound of the ten-piece Band and guest singers Andy Bayley and Emma Holcroft.

Behind the BIF Band is Neil Hughes, Director of BIF’s first Jazz Section. Neil, who sold his share in a highly successful IT business to become a music promoter, is determined to put Buxton back where it belongs on the map of top destinations for live jazz and swing.

Jazz has long been a feature of Festival programmes, but Neil, who created the Cinnamon Jazz Club in Manchester and led the Southport Jazz Festival for many years, believes Buxton has everything it needs to attract the growing army of fans who travel the country in such of great live music.

“It’s just got some brilliant venues,” said Neil, whose BIF 2022 programme includes creating an intimate jazz club in the Palace Hotel, bringing the National Youth Jazz Orchestra to the Pavilion Arts Centre and award-winning singer and BBC Radio Two presenter Claire Teal and her Sextet to the Opera House.

“BIF already had a substantial amount of jazz so I don’t see this as a major change,” said Neil, “What we’re are doing now is tapping into a massive jazz stream. People are desperate to get out and listen to live music again.

“And people still want to dance!”

The Octagon is just the place to go. Built by the Victorians for dancing and looking like a giant bandstand, it originally came with its own Buxton Band, employed by the Buxton Improvements Company to bring in the tourists.

In those days, Buxton modelled itself on European spa towns, and in its 43rd year, BIF is continuing that tradition.

“There is a long history of music development In France and across Europe where lots of mayors are investing in festivals to attract tourists,” said Neil, who is impressed by BIF’s longevity and ability to adapt.

“It started with opera, adding classical music, then it’s added books and musicals.”

Now it has all that—and all that jazz, too.

Check out BIF’s jazz programme, which has drawn talent from Vancouver to South Africa, and inspiration from The Kinks to Joni Mitchell and David Bowie and book tickets at

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