What's coming up at Bennigan’s from Sunday (above), updating the earlier story (below) about the weekly jazz club night in Derry (poster image: Derry Jazz Society)

Pianist John Leighton has been describing his determination to start up a jazz club in Derry, a process that has taken some time and not been easy. Yet his example might provide inspiration to anyone trying to start up a regular jazz night and above all increase the appetite for jazz in the city.

Over the past 12 months besides putting on the annual jazz and big band festival in May Derry has hosted concerts and workshops by pianist Neil Cowley, as UK city of culture musician-in-residence but nonetheless jazz has kept a relatively low profile throughout city of culture year and garnered few mass-media headlines compared to that allotted to the visual arts and theatre. The competition for artistic space, particularly for disciplines such as jazz, has been intense.

Leighton says, writing on Facebook: “In the lead up to 2013 I tried to find support to run a monthly jazz club in Derry/Londonderry over the culture year. At one point it looked very promising but then the funding fell through. Disheartened but not defeated I told myself that no matter what, I would make it happen and bring a regular jazz night featuring artists on the UK/Irish jazz scene to our city. Twelve months on and I have a weekly jazz club in Bennigan’s Bar.”

John Leighton

Though Leighton may be little known still beyond the north west of Ireland his debut album Dramatic Life was released in 2011, an album that featured such luminaries as bassist Michael Janisch, and guitarist Mark McKnight among others, and garnered some appreciative reviews in the national press for its chamber jazz and bop-derived style and demonstrated Leighton's clear talent. 


The Bennigan’s sessions have been running now for eight weeks with “some very exciting artists booked for 2014,” Leighton says. The latest gig at the weekend featured drummer David Lyttle and bassist Rohan Armstrong who played at the Belfast jazz scene gathering Jazz Day last summer.

Stephen Graham

Bennigan’s can be found, Cityside, at 13 John Street in Derry