Wood Street Jazz Festival – Q&A with Marianne

With our 10th Anniversary of the legendary Wood Street Jazz Festival coming up soon on Sunday 21st July, we caught up with Marianne Windham, Chair of Guildford Jazz – which Challengers hosts the event in partnership with – for a Q&A on all things Jazz Fest.

Tell us about yourself and your role at Guilford Jazz

I’m Marianne, a local double bass player, and I gave up my corporate career in 2011 to become a musician. The opportunity to set a club came along soon after, rather by accident as is often the way in life, but the idea took hold and Guildford Jazz was born!

What is the Wood Street Jazz Festival all about?

It’s an afternoon summer Jazz Festival on the village green in Wood Street Village, just outside Guildford. Unbelievably this our 10th year of the holding the Festival and it has become one of the biggest annual events – I think because it combines fantastic music with a brilliant festival atmosphere.

Marianne playing at the Wood Street Jazz Festival

We’re honoured that Guildford Jazz has chosen to support Challengers for over 10 years. How did you first come across Challengers and why did you choose to support us?

Challengers has been part of my life in Guildford since my own children were young and I’ve always had huge respect for what the charity does. I’ve heard first hand from families who’ve been supported by Challengers, and know what an amazing difference they make to the lives of disabled children and their families.

Reflecting on 10 years of the Wood Street Jazz Festival, is there any standout moments or performances for you?

The first one was quite special as it was the first time I’d attempted a large outdoor event, so it was so thrilling to see if all come together so well! Over the years we’ve had some wonderful artists… Sarah Dowling was definitely a highlight, as were Alan Barnes and Bruce Adams, and I can’t forget the steaming set from Nigel Price and Vasilis Xanopoulos a couple of years ago!

Wood Street Jazz Festival

Can you share any “behind the scenes” stories from previous Wood Street Jazz Festivals that attendees may not know about?

There’s a surprising amount of work that goes in to the making the day a success and planning for the next year starts almost as soon as this year’s event is over, but we’ve got a great team and we meet regularly throughout the year to ensure we’ve got everything organised. I’ll never forget the day we spent spray-painting socially distanced circles onto the green in August 2021, but also the amazing response we got from everyone who came along.

What makes Wood Street Jazz Festival so great? Beyond the fantastic music, what other elements can audience members look forward to?

It’s absolutely what you’d imagine a Summer Jazz Festival to be! There’s a large stage so you can hear and see all the artists from anywhere on the site, there are food stalls (including a fantastic Indian takeaway from the Shahin Restaurant and a fish & chip van), a licenced bar of course, plus plenty of space to spread out with rugs, chairs and picnics. Some people even set up gazebos and camper vans, making the most of the free on-site parking. Usually we’re lucky to have sunshine, but there’s a larger marquee in case the weather’s less kind!

Who would you recommend Wood Street Jazz Festival to?

It’s perfect for anyone who loves a sunny afternoon of live music – families enjoying an afternoon out together, groups of friends looking for an excuse to meet and catch up (there’s a 10% discount for a group ticket of 4 people), couples wanting to share the experience together, and of course singles looking to enjoy some top quality jazz and the friendly festival vibe!

A family enjoying the Jazz Festival
Wood Street Jazz Festival crowd

Challengers and Guildford Jazz are very excited about this year’s 10th anniversary festival which promises to be our biggest yet, featuring music from one of UK’s finest and in-demand swing bands JIVIN’ MISS DAISY, the award winning and absolutely sensational NIGEL PRICE ORGAN TRIO, plus a LATIN JAZZ set from the SOMETHIN’ ELSE BIG BAND.

Grab your tickets below and we look forward to seeing you there!