A popular family jazz festival is set for an incredible 20th consecutive fundraising year.
Buckley and Mold Lions Club has raised more than £35,000 for local charities thanks to Jazz on a Summer’s Afternoon, an event held annually at the Miner’s Arms Maeshafn on the first Sunday in August.
And this year will see a double celebration as the jazz band that has headlined every single event, The Original Panama Jazz Band, is celebrating its 60th anniversary having being formed on the Wirral in 1954.
The Jazz on a Summer’s Afternoon event, started by Lions Club member and former Miner’s Arms licensee Geoff Rutherford and his wife Maureen, gets under way around 1pm and goes right through until early evening drawing to a close at around 8pm.
Geoff says the event grows in popularity every year and is the Buckley and Mold Lions Club’s biggest annual fundraising event of the year.
He said: “It’s absolutely fantastic to have reached the milestone of our 20th consecutive year.
“There can’t be many local festivals that have gone on for so long nor raised the amount of money that has been raised, for several good causes, over the years.
“The event has become the biggest on the calendar for Maeshafn and surrounding villages and I think the whole village turns out to join in at some point during the day.
“We have never had a single complaint about the running of the day or the conduct of those who attend. And we have usually been fortunate with the weather too, although we have had rain the last two years.”
He added: “It was actually my wife, Maureen, who came up with the original idea. At that time we were running the Miner’s Arms and she just decided to have a jazz band playing outside on the car park.
“We called it Jazz on a Summer’s Afternoon after a 1958 film of the same name that was about the Newport Jazz Festival at Rhode Island New York.”
And this year, as always, The Original Panama Jazz Band, will be headlining the event.
The band’s leader, Jon Critchley, 67, a retired Cheshire County and Warrington Borough Council heating design engineer of Ashton Hayes, near Chester, says the annual festival has turned into a unique annual event, one the band always looks forward to.
He said: “It’s incredible that this is the 20th year the festival has been held and we have played at each and every one.
“It’s a fantastic setting and I think the whole village plays a part. It’s certainly an event we always look forward to playing at.
“The amount of money raised for charity over the years is incredible and Buckley and Mold Lions deserve great credit for all the hard work they put in.
“It’s also nice that we are celebrating our 60th anniversary as a band. There are no original members left now but I have been a band member since 1973.
“These days the band has six members - Dave Thomas, who plays clarinet and does the vocals, Laurie Cooper on trombone, Mark Owen on drums, Hugh Potter on bass, pianist Malcolm Hogarth and myself on trumpet.
“We remain Wirral and Chester-based and we all play with other jazz bands as well as The Original Panama Jazz Band. We play music to suit all occasions from Dixieland to traditional jazz and dance to background.
“I do think this year is going to be extra special and I’d encourage anyone who likes jazz to come along and enjoy what is a fantastic festival.”
But Buckley and Mold Lions President Ken Topping says it’s no longer just jazz but a whole range of musical genres that can be heard coming from under the temporarily erected gazebo at the front of the Miners Arms on the day of the festival.
He said: “We tend to find some people come specifically to see the Original Panama Jazz Band and, in truth, they have a following of their own that will come out just to hear them play.
“But we then have a local band, Universal Exports, who will have the audience dancing before the festival closes as well as other special guests.
“We tend to find that as, shall we say, more mature folk begin to drift away in the early evening they are replaced by a younger crowd who perhaps like things a bit more lively.”
And Ken is keen to point out that the event is free to attend and Lions club members raise money by rattling their buckets and providing a monster barbecue.
He said: “People come and go throughout the day and we can have anything from 500 to 1,000 people present at any one time. We never felt it was right to charge an entrance fee and instead made our money from supplying food, running a raffle and simple donations.
“This year the money raised from Jazz on a Summer’s Afternoon will benefit North Wales Air Ambulance and the Bone Cancer Centre at Gobowen as well as other local good causes.
“This year there is also the blues festival in Mold taking place over the same weekend. Rather than competing we want to complement each other although we have a pretty set audience who come along year on year.
“Hopefully, some people may come along to both events over the course of the weekend. We just want people to come along and enjoy a fantastic event while helping us raise money for terrific good causes. And there’s lots going on besides the great music too.”
Sharon Lawrence, fundraising manager for Wales Air Ambulance says she is thrilled to once again have the support of Buckley and Mold Lions.
She said: “Jazz on a Summer’s Afternoon really is a wonderful festival.
“Wales Air Ambulance has, for many years, enjoyed fantastic support and friendship from Buckley and Mold Lions, something we are very privileged to have had.
“The money they raise is vital to us. We need more than £6m a year to keep our aircraft in the air and working to save lives. The Lions work so hard and deserve to be supported.
“I will be going along, I always enjoy the event, it’s just a fantastic afternoon, something I never miss!”
Jazz on a Summer’s Afternoon will be held at The Miner’s Arms, Maeshafn on Sunday, August 3 from 1pm. Entrance is free but be prepared to make a donation.