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If you’re considering visiting Derry for one of the city’s many festivals then I’m here to convince you that Derry Jazz Festival is the one! My very first jazz festival was the Elbjazz Festival in Hamburg, Germany. I remember being completely amazed by the family-friendly festival atmosphere. Ever since then I’ve had a very serious grá for jazz festivals and the City of Derry Jazz Festival is my absolute favourite. Let me tell you why…

About Derry Jazz Festival

things to do in derry

The City of Derry Jazz and Big Band Festival was originally launched back in 2001. Of course, it fit in perfectly to the rich culture of festivals in Derry city and has gone from strength to strength over the years. The festival normally takes place on the May bank holiday weekend and lasts for 5 days.

Live jazz performances take place all over the city from bars to hotels to shopping malls to public squares – basically, if there’s space a jazz performance will probably be happening there. The vibe is ELECTRIC. The city is packed, everyone is in great spirits and people of all ages bop away to the beat of world-renowned jazz musicians.

derry jazz festival

I always find that jazz festivals have this rare ability to create a wholesome yet exciting atmosphere for all ages while still having plenty of drinking, dancing and revelry. The Derry Jazz Festival does this perfectly and it is a joy to witness.

What I enjoy most about the #DerryJazzFest is the variety of venues and performances. You can find smooth soul in the craft village or rave jazz in the middle of Waterloo street. I was lucky enough to catch performances by Mr Wilson’s Second Liners, Luke Thomas & The Swing Cats, Mission Impossible Band and more. Honestly, the program is jam-packed, if you decided to visit you will be absolutely spoiled for choice.

When Is The Derry Jazz Festival 2023?

If you want to plan your visit for next year the festival will take place on April 27th to May 1st in 2023. So mark it in your calendar and get ready to have an incredible time.

Things to do During Derry Jazz Festival

derry jazz festival

Like I’ve said before in previous posts, there are a tonne of things to do in Derry. The jazz festival adds even MORE options to the list! First off, there are live performances all across the city in over 70 venues (indoors and outdoors). Make sure you check out the line up and the map of the city to see what’s happening near you.

Personally, I loved to just go with the flow and check the program as I wandered around the city. I highly suggest walking the famous Derry walls and following the sound of jazz. You get an incredible view of Guildhall Square/Shipquay Place from the walls. I watched the crowd dancing to Luke Thomas & The Swing Cats from the walls before deciding to get a closer look. It’s a great way to preview some of the outdoor performances.

things to do in derry derry jazz festival

Make sure to check out the free jazz dance classes if you’re up for it. You can drop in at any time and learn a few steps to use later on when you’re dancing the night away. Get those jazz hands ready! There are also multiple jazz dance performances around the city if you’d rather watch than participate.

The Derry Walled City Market is present in the Guildhall Square throughout the festival. It is packed full of local craft stalls and delicious food trucks. Wander through the stalls, pick up a local souvenir and grab a snack all while the smooth soundtrack of jazz plays in the background.

How to Prepare for Derry Jazz Festival

derry jazz festival

There are a few things that will make your visit to Derry Jazz Festival a bit smoother. First of all, book your hotel in advance as rooms can go fast. This year I stayed in the wonderful Maldron Hotel in Derry. It has the perfect location for walking to various jazz performances around the city and it even hosts performances which is very handy for catching one last performance before bed!

You can plan your visit by checking out one of the information stands dotted around the city or inside the Visit Derry information centre. The friendly locals manning these stands will give you tips on upcoming performances nearby and how to get to them.

derry jazz festival

If you have your heart set on eating in a particular restaurant during your visit then I highly recommend booking in advance where possible because the city will be buzzing and competition can be fierce.

Finally, my most important piece of advice – wear comfortable shoes!! You’ll be out exploring Derry, standing at performances and dancing in the streets for most of the day (and night) so the last thing you want is sore feet.

Final Thoughts

derry jazz festival

I had the best time at the City of Derry Jazz Festival. I went with my mam and we both were in our absolute element. You don’t have to be a jazz expert to enjoy it. I’d call myself more of a casual jazz fan and, like I said, I had a glorious time. You can check out my experience at the festival on my Instagram account. So what are you waiting for?! Whack it in your calendar for 2023 and get planning!




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