Now in its 39th year, Manly Jazz pioneered the jazz festival movement in Australia with the commitment to take jazz music in all its forms, to the Australian public.  The festival grew from one stage on The Corso with a handful of musicians to the five stage three day event it is today, with around 800 musicians performing.

“Manly Jazz is a festival that was born out of passion of a few who rallied the community to create an event that help give Manly an identity 39 years ago.  Manly Jazz is unique and is as much about building a sense of community and social interaction as it is about the music. Long may it continue.” Caroline Speight

On his retirement from his school teaching Manly Jazz Festival Founder, John Speight said, ‘My main aim during retirement is to purse my interest in music through promoting student music ensembles and jazz music to a wider public”.

And that aim has been maintained since the festival’s inception.  Hundreds of students benefit each year from their involvement in Manly Jazz, playing alongside professional musicians and learning from them.

On chatting to Caroline, the current Artistic Director of the Festival she explains that “The long term success of Manly Jazz has been based on being inclusive to all jazz styles.  While jazz may have changed over the years, Manly Jazz has always been programmed to ensure a variety of jazz music is presented.   Audiences can always find some music they would like to listen to throughout each days line-up of artists.

There are number of ways the artists are identified and ultimately selected – direct approaches to me, application via the website and recommendations from other musicians and individuals working on the music scene.

Another key feature of the event has been the mentoring aspect where youth is encouraged to play and appreciate jazz.  Since the very beginning school and youth bands have been invited to play in recent years that was extended to community bands. These days one stage is programmed entirely for high school bands.”


This year’s festival runs from the 23rd September, culminating over the October long weekend on the 3rd October.

The lineup includes big bands, jazz, world, new Orleans and more.


Image Carl Lockett, one of the headline artists of this year’s festival, you can also catch Mr Percival, the Vampires, the Strides, Paul Derricott Trio and many more.