Not just about jazz, but social history


Matthew St Pier - I am a big jazz fan and had been aware of the National Jazz Archive for a long time before becoming a volunteer. I live in the Loughton area and had attended Archive fundraising gigs.

Volunteering had been in my mind for some time but work commitments always got in the way. However, when I went freelance two years ago with more control over my workload, I finally had the opportunity to get involved.

Prior to volunteering I had no direct experience of working for an archive but I have a lot of experience of research and system and process development that I thought could be put to good use.

My first project was the Intergenerational Jazz Reminiscence Project. I proofread interview transcripts and found them fascinating: learning about the impact that jazz has had on people’s lives: not just musicians and promoters but also fans who have spent their lives supporting the music.

Listening to their views on music and life in general gave a great insight into how the world has changed during their lifetime.

I now work on making new material accessible. The variety is amazing. Donations can range from a couple of concert programmes to boxes of memorabilia collected over maybe 50-60 years.

Being responsible for sorting and documenting this material you realise that, as with the Jazz Reminiscence Project, you are learning not just about jazz but social history as well.

Volunteering for the Archive has more than lived up to my expectations. I come from a musical family and this is a great way of being involved in a world that I love. 

I normally go in to the offices on Wednesdays and apart from anything else, it’s a great opportunity to chat with like-minded people. You never know who is going to visit. I have met musicians, students, film producers and other people from throughout the UK and beyond.


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