A brief history of the European Blues Association
Throughout Europe and the United Kingdom, there is a healthy interest in the performance of African American music. Monthly magazines are published in France, Italy, Germany, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. National and international performers and a European audience travel widely to celebrate the common ground they share in their love of the music. A number of enthusiasts, including Dr Paul Oliver MBE (a leading authority in the field of academic research on blues music and African American culture for the past 50 years), believed there was a need to form an organisation that would become a major resource to foster an understanding of the culture from which blues and all related African American music (spiritual and secular) originated. The group wanted the project to provide a resource for study, research and live musical activities. In 1999 the decision was taken to form the ‘European Blues Foundation’ and in 2001 the name was changed to ‘The European Blues Association.’ On the 18th January 2002, the European Blues Association was confirmed as a Registered Charity by the United Kingdom Charities Commission and entered in the Central Register of Charities. The EBA is administered by a Board of Trustees, currently including Paul Oliver. Past trustees have included noted academics, well-known musicians, local broadcasters and politicians.
Working with performance
Participation through performance can be one of the key factors in the development and maintenance of a life-long enthusiasm for music making. This in turn can lead to the desire for deeper understanding of the cultural history and context that formed the music. Since 2000, the EBA has promoted and organised a range of workshops and performances held at various locations in the UK.
Working with young people
From the beginning, the EBA has been engaged in educational activities with primary and secondary schools. We have donated musical instruments and hosted performance workshops demonstrating the African American underpinnings of 20th Century popular music.
In 2001, The John Jackson Youth Scholarship Fund was established to enable young people to attend tuition events. We have awarded over £15,000 in scholarships for young people between the ages of 14-21 to attend ‘Blues Week’ (a residential programme held at the University of Northampton teaching guitar, harmonica, vocals and blues piano/keyboards). Students benefit from spending time with internationally known performers and tutors.
Working with the local community
EBA trustees are frequent broadcasters and guests on national and local UK radio programmes featuring African American music. Michael Roach presented a three-part series called ‘Deep Blue’ on BBC’s Radio 4. The EBA has been working with the Gloucestershire County Library Services since 2003 presenting concerts and events to local community groups. In 2011, we received a grant from the Summerfield Trust to produce a film promoting higher achievement involving secondary school children that was featured at the ‘Black Achievement Awards Ceremony’ sponsored by the Gloucestershire County Council’s Racial Equality and Diversity Services.
Working with the academic community
The EBA has formed a partnership with Oxford Brookes University to encourage the use of the Archive of African American Music for undergraduate and post-graduate students and academic researchers. The Archive is housed in Oxford Brookes special collections section of the university main library.
Working with the music industry
Since 2000, the EBA has been actively involved in the Gloucester International Rhythm & Blues Festival promoting concerts, seminars and workshops. Local events are held, such as the ‘Jug Band Weekend’ (Cheltenham 2009) and Canadian hip hop artist DJ Subliminal’s ‘Motivational Workshop’ (Gloucester 2010). To further our aim of ‘education through appreciation of performance’, we have featured noted African American performers such as John Jackson, Ethel Caffie-Austin, Louisiana Red, Lazy Lester, Johnny Mars, Keith Dunn, John Cephas, Phil Wiggins and ‘Philadelphia’ Jerry Ricks.