Down with Jazz 2015
Celebrate the 80th anniversary of the 1935 Public Dancehalls Act with some jazz dancing
Cormac Breathnach must be spinning in his grave. Back in May 1933, the esteemed TD for Dublin North and president of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation (and future Lord Mayor of the city) made a stand against the scourge of jazz music. Speaking at a ceili at the Mansion House in Dublin attended by 2,000 fired-up juvenile high steppers, Breathnach said that the enthusiasm and skill of the participants meant that jazz could be banished from the land forever. The news reporter for the Irish Indo who covered the marking does not record Breathnach’s problem with jazz, but it’s clear that the anti-jazz crew were very much at large in the Ireland of the 1930s and Breathnach was a newly elected Fianna Fail TD (after switching from the National Labour Party) and they used to be good at spotting the mood of the crowd.
All of that anti-jazz fervour at the time – led by the Catholic Church and Gaelic League who viewed jazz as some sort of filthy, foreign infliction on the pure Irish psyche (check this documentary for the full story) – led to the 1935 Dancehalls Act. This act was intended to stamp out the wicked jazz infidels (who knew that Ireland of the 1930s was up there with New Orleans for the jazz?), but instead the efforts to control and ban illegal jazz dances managed to also ban a whole range of informal traditions such as “dancing at the crossroads” and trad hooleys in gaffs in favour of dancehalls, ballrooms and other more formal settings.
All of the above has inspired a bunch of jazz renegades to remember the bad old days with the annual Down With Jazz festival. Now in its fourth year at Dublin’s Meeting House Square, the event fondly remembers those anti-jazz nutters from 80 years ago with 10 of the freshest and most innovative jazz, world and experimental acts around this weekend.
Sunday’s line-up includes Electric Freeplay, Sidiki Dembélé Sextet, The CEO Experiment (led by experienced saxophonist Michael Buckley), Leo Drezden and Dublin City Jazz Orchestra. Doors open both evenings at 7pm and admission is €20 for a weekend pass or €15/€12 per night