In 2019, at a crucial point in his career, Manchester-based Sam Healey’s punk-jazz group Skeltr received the Peter Whittingham Jazz Award. Here, Healey tells us about why he knew he was ready to apply, his audition and the positive ripple effect the Award has had on his career trajectory.
I first remember hearing of the Peter Whittingham Jazz Award at school when I was 14-years-old. I remember looking through the list of previous winners and being inspired to be a winner one day as I already listened to and respected a lot of the musicians on that list. I was motivated to apply one day and carried on practicing my saxophone.
17 years later it was time!
I had been patient about applying, careful to not apply too soon in my development and waiting until I felt I could (if we won) maximise the award.
We had put a lot of groundwork in with Skeltr; self-releasing album 1, playing over 50 self-booked gigs in our first year as well as touring the UK and playing a handful of European jazz festivals. We were half way through our second album and we needed support to bring it to fruition, it was the right time to go all in and commit to our future progress. With this motivation, we read all the guidelines, asked for some tips from our local Jazz service (JazzNorth) on writing applications and we went for it.
We were invited to London for a live audition, packed the car and set off early morning from Manchester. Not going to lie, it was a challenging audition to set up a band in a few minutes, be in the right mind space to play well and then sit down for a few questions straight after playing hard! We took merchandise and album 1 with us to show the panel our work so far (and also earplugs for the panel because we’re a loud band - #cherishothers). We had a positive conversation about our activities to date and future plans and left the audition feeling we’d given it maximum effort.
We used the funding in a wide variety of ways, we spent time thinking about the best spending strategy and prioritised our to-do list according to what would help us be in a position to release the second album as quickly as possible. With this in mind, we invested in the final parts of recording time for the album (which was mostly recorded before we applied) as well as mixing and mastering time. We then split the remaining amount from the award between creating videos for online engagement, advertising and artwork for second album, and printing of physical albums.
After bringing most of the project to a close, we were approached by Ubuntu Music, a record label in London who had heard of us through winning the Peter Whittingham Jazz Award. We ended up in discussion and signed to the record label to release the second album. This would not have happened without the light that the Peter Whittingham Award shone on us, another important factor in applying when you feel you can maximise the award. Of course, we had a discussion with Help Musicians to make sure the label deal fell within the remit of the use of the award, it was an easy and open conversation that really proved to us that Help Musicians and everyone working there genuinely cares about supporting art and musicians. A precious gem in modern times.
We are really proud of what we have achieved and we know that without the Peter Whittingham Jazz Award, we wouldn’t have achieved the high standards that we have and we wouldn’t have met our record label.
We hope to keep a close relationship with Help Musicians and continue our career with this new momentum the Award has brought us.
Skeltr’s Peter Whittingham Award-funded album ‘Dorje’ is released October 9.Back