Sunday 12 March 2023, 3pm
Cafe OTO, in association with the British Film Institute, presents a day-long immersion in another era: one in which there were only four TV channels, and a music community that was struggling to be seen and heard.
We bring together four extremely rare programmes, scarcely seen at the time and never repeated, which show Café OTO regulars and other legends of the improvisation/jazz scene at work and in concert. Marvel at the earliest known film of Derek Bailey (Omnibus: British Jazz, 1973), Spike Milligan introducing The Tony Oxley Unit (Open Door, 1974), wild film of Evan Parker and Paul Lytton in performance (Aquarius, 1975), and Fred Frith giving a comic demonstration of his approach to sound (Jazz on 4, 1983).
This event is a reflection on the struggle to get heard in the mainstream – is it better to reject a public service broadcaster, or a great way to reach the unsuspecting listener? The Musicians’ Action Group, who made the Open Door programme, fought for better exposure for jazz musicians – but it remained a struggle, and is even more so today.
These four programmes show how sympathetic producers, often fans of the music, made it possible for viewers to discover it for themselves.
From the venerable BBC1 arts show Omnibus, we present British Jazz (1973). Charles Fox (Jazz in Britain), Benny Green, Humphrey Lyttelton and others take us on a journey around the scene, all the way from trad to free. We meet Ian Carr’s Nucleus, as well as Iskra 1903 who deliver a performance on film that is almost too fast for the cameras.
Open Door: Jazz… Nobody’s Child (1974) saw the takeover of BBC2 by the Musicians’ Action Group, gaining a platform to make their case for better jazz coverage on TV. Charles Fox and Spike Milligan (The Goon Show) introduce films of Stan Tracey, The Tony Oxley Unit, Maggie Nicols’ Matter in Motion, Tony Levin, and Paul Rutherford. Norma Winstone and Gordon Beck appear in the studio.
For the afternoon panel session, Hazel Miller (Ogun Records) and Maggie Nicols will be joining event curator Ian Greaves and writer Frances Morgan to discuss the programme made for BBC2 by the Musicians' Action Group (Open Door, 1974).
Total event runtime: 150 minutes approx.
Thanks to the British Film Institute for permission to screen these programmes as part of the Performers Alliance Agreement. There is a 25% discount for entry to members of Equity, Writers Guild and the Musicians’ Union. Please present your membership card on arrival.