Jazz at The Bonded Warehouse

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The Bonded Warehouse

Within touching distance of the bridge over the river Stour (the town unsurprisingly taking its name from the 15th century original), The Bonded Warehouse sits alongside what is now the eastern end of the Stourbridge Town Arm canal, a few hundred yards from the town centre. The canal, constructed in 1779, was extended under the main road in the 1830's to form the Stourbridge Basin, and met the Stourbridge Town Branch Line railway in 1870, but unfortunately both the canal basin and the railway terminus were demolished and subsumed under the Millrace Lane trading estate in the 1970's.

The earliest part of the Bonded Warehouse dates from the opening of the canal, and as trade prospered by 1849 it had gained another storey and a canal-side extension. The warehouse held taxable goods such as tea, tobacco and spirits in bond until they were released after payment of excise duties. The warehouse still displays thick walls, heavy doors and barred windows, evidence of the value of the goods stored there. The warehouse also held other goods, and slots in the cast iron columns on the two lower floors took horizontal boards which partitioned the area into variable compartments.

Following the arrival of the railways and later road transport the canal and the warehouse fell into disuse, so much so that it was said that one could walk across the weeds blocking the canal without getting wet feet. In the 1960's the canal was saved from the path of the ring road by a group of enthusiasts who later formed the Stourbridge Navigation Trust, and in 1980 the then derelict Bonded Warehouse received its Grade II listing as being of special historic and architectural importance. After many years' hard work the canal was eventually brought back to navigable condition, and in 1989 the Bonded Warehouse, fully restored, opened to the public.

Access to the Bonded Warehouse is by a set of wooden steps under the south lucam, and then by another flight to the upper storey, where the concerts take place. The unobstructed floorspace is spanned by four massive queen-post roof trusses, giving an attractive open and acoustically favourable area which extends into the unusual and unexplained semi-circular eastern end. The warehouse now hosts many social events: unfortunately for visiting artistes (especially drummers) the Bonded Warehouse has no lift.

 

Jazz at the Bonded Warehouse

Jazz at the Bonded Warehouse was originally devised by Simon Deeley, a Worcestershire-born professional jazz pianist and piano teacher who was living at the time in Stourbridge. Simon considered that the south-west Midlands, especially Stourbridge, could support a series of live mainstrem and modern jazz concerts.

Almost single handedly he organised the concerts which featured musicians not only from the Midlands circuit but occasionally from further afield. The first concert took place in 2004, and after various permutations they coalesced into the now familiar regular series of events at the Bonded Warehouse on every second Friday of the month (with a month off in August). With a few helpers on board the concerts over the years have seen some highly respected artistes visiting the warehouse.

In 2016 Simon moved to Wales and stepped aside from running the concerts: Jazz at the Bonded Warehouse continued with the baton of heading the concert organisation passing to Devon Harrison, a Stourbridge professional jazz and classical singer. To have continuing support for the concerts over so many years is a validation of Simon's original idea, to the point where Jazz at the Bonded Warehouse is now recognised and respected as Stourbridge's premier jazz venue.

 

Funding

Jazz at the Bonded Warehouse does not have charity status and receives no external funding, grants or sponsorship, being entirely dependent on ticket sales. Jazz at the Bonded Warehouse appreciates and is grateful for all the support given by patrons over the years which plays a vital part in encouraging live jazz to flourish in the Midlands now and in the future.

 

 

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