State of the Nation: Kenneth Killeen (12 Points)


One thing that’s always impressed me over my seven years or so living in Ireland to date is the diversity of festivals. The big ones are great, but the small ones – Other Voices, Knockanstockan, Vantastival to name just a few – have always come across to me as the place to meet fellow music obsessives, and the place to track down the best atmosphere on offer. Multicultural and multifaceted jazz festival 12 Points, which announced its line up this week and takes place in April, is one I’m fairly new to, and has all the makings of something wonderful in that it’s curated, diverse and simply trying to be good at what it does.

Festival director Kenneth Killeen kindly took the time out of his frantic festival build up schedule this week to tell me about what they’re doing, why they’re doing it and why it’s important. And to throw in a few tips on the Irish jazz scene along the way. I’m off to spend a couple of hours on Soundcloud… 

12 Points was specifically set up to interlink Dublin with other places in Europe, musically. What’s come of that, so far? Has it matched expectations?

I think it’s safe to say that it has matched expectations. As we go into our 9th edition of the festival, looking back gets a little easier. There are more reference points in the past to measure our impact, and crucially, time has passed, which allows you to see results. 12 Points has always been an ambitious project and one with a strong concept around linking urban centres in Europe through music. I suppose we had many questions when we started, such as, “What does it mean to be a jazz musician in the 21st Century?” or “Do other countries & cities face similar challenges to the creative practices in Ireland?”.

Through the festival itself and our 12 Points PLUS programme from 2011 to 2013 we have succeeded in linking Dublin and Ireland with multiple festivals in Europe. Thankfully the 12 Points brand is one that European promoters and festival bookers have come to trust; they trust our curation, distillation and presentation of 12 acts each year and use the festival as a benchmark for emerging European talent. And it’s great that it is seen as an Irish brand from an Irish organisation. I think that’s important.

Being a small country, on the periphery of Europe geographically, we’ve managed to insert ourselves right in the middle of the European music scene, through 12 Points. But we still have work to do in this area. I would like to see more Irish artists represented at the large European festivals and industry showcases like Jazzahead. The Irish scene is very progressive, with a lot of talented musicians and an urban voice that is unique to this country. Its only when you hear bands from all across Europe that you can get a sense of that. 12 Points has highlighted some of these bands over the years and, as 12 Points grows, I hope that performance opportunities for Irish artists abroad will grow also.