And one local couple will be enjoying their ‘home from home’ experience to make sure they make the most of it.
After reduced, virtual programmes in 2020 and 2021, thousands will flood into the city’s hotels, restaurants, theatres and bars once again over the Bank Holiday weekend for NI’s biggest and best Jazz celebration.
The festival sees musicians and revellers travel from far and wide to be part of the five-day musical extravaganza, but one couple, who are some of the event’s biggest fans, come from a little bit closer to home.
Anne and Paul Gallagher live in the city, but every year they pack their bags and make the short trip up the Strand Road to get checked into the City Hotel and soak up the vibrant atmosphere of the Jazz Festival. A tradition that started as one night quickly turned into two and now three and, as they explained, it’s a weekend that they look forward to every May Bank Holiday.
“We just love absolutely everything about the festival,” said Paul. “It’s the bands, the atmosphere, seeing old friends and meeting new ones as well. It’s something we can’t wait for every year.
“The whole thing is just phenomenal,” added Anne. “You’re walking around with a constant happy feeling, the buzz about the place is amazing. I was first properly introduced to Jazz when I worked in Jackie Mullins Bar in Great James’ Street and we had a Jazz night every Wednesday which was lovely.
“Then one night the Jive Aces were in and I came home after work and said to Paul you have got to see these boys perform. The energy was unbelievable, they were in the yellow suits running all over the bar.
“Seeing bands like them at the festival is class and it’s not just the jazz music too but the blues, the swing, you have all kinds of everything. That’s what makes the festival so special.”
After two years of having to watch the festival from their own living room, the couple said that they can’t wait to be back out in the city centre again enjoying the uplifting buzz and excitement of the event with a full crowd.
“Two years ago when we had the first virtual festival we were all set for it in the house but it just wasn’t the same at all. It was great to have something, but you miss that feeling of meeting up with everyone and making new friends,” said Anne. “Everyone knows us at the Jazz Festival and we’ve made friends from America, Spain, Cork – everywhere. We’ve really missed that side of things, so we’re delighted to have the normal programme back again now this year.”
While some people might find it unusual to book a weekend away in your own city, Anne and Paul said that checking into the City Hotel each year makes their experience of the festival even more special – getting the opportunity to mix with visitors and with musicians taking part, enjoying every element of the event, and supporting local in the process.
“One year we decided to stay for a night at the City Hotel for the Jazz Festival and then it was two and then we just thought to hell with it, we’ll do the three nights from the Friday over the weekend,” laughed Anne. “The City Hotel is such a great hub for it as well. The staff are first class, they treat us so well and the vibe in the hotel is just amazing.
“You hear about people who save money to go away to a capital city, to London or Paris or somewhere like that, but as soon as the festival is over we start saving our £20 note each week for the next year and by the time it comes around we have a wee kitty that we can take with us to have the most amazing weekend ever.
“The way we look at it is that we’re giving it back to the local economy and where else would you want it going than to local businesses and people? We’re counting down the days now until we’re getting checked back in again because this year is going to be bigger and better than ever before!”
The 2022 City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival will take place from Thursday 28th April to Monday 2nd May.
To view the full programme, visit cityofderryjazzfestival.com or download the What’s On Derry Strabane app.