The jazz world lost one of its most committed advocates with the untimely passing of Debbie Dickinson at the weekend. And not just the jazz world, because alongside her multiple talents as programmer and producer, artist manager, production and tour manager, and sound engineer, Debbie has played an influential role in training for the creative industries over the past 20 years, within the Culture and Creative Studies Centre at City University.
Serious enjoyed a hugely productive working relationship with Debbie, stretching back way into the 80s. Looking back to the scene then, her work with the all-female band, the Guest Stars, can be seen to set the agenda for today's positive and necessary actions around gender and diversity. Alongside a generation of massively talented individuals, the Guest Stars stood alongside the Jazz Warriors and Loose Tubes as collective ensembles who helped transform the way that jazz evolved in Britain over the decade, and in the following years. A collaboration originally suggested by Debbie stands out, a multi-generational womens' big band, Gale Force 17, built around the Guest Stars, and including artists from a previous era - the wonderful Kathy Stobart amongst them, which took the 1986 Camden Jazz Festival by storm.
As time went on, Debbie's activity multiplied. Her own production company, Jazz Moves, mounted a series of Festivals showcasing original work by women artists (Women Take Centre Stage - 1993-2003). She worked internationally as tour manager and sound engineer, and especially with Jack DeJohnette - including an epic European tour with Jack, Dave Holland, Geri Allen and Betty Carter, which played for Serious at the Festival Hall in 1993.
Amongst much, much more, Debbie was a key partner over the first five years of the London Jazz Festival - helping to refine the vision and programme style, and establishing the Festival's commitment to an extensive learning and education strategy.
Debbie was a valued colleague and, most of all, a friend whose high professional standards were more than matched by a natural integrity, sense of justice, and a determination to create change. These personal qualities will remain with us for a very long time.
Our sympathies are with Debbie's partner Lorraine, and with her family.
A more extensive version of this piece appears on the LondonJazz website.