Alan Crumpton – founder of Bures Music Festival
Alan Crumpton, local journalist, jazz and sport lover, founded Jazz by the Stour in 1997. Alan’s two passions were sport and jazz both of which he wrote about in The East Anglian Daily Times and Suffolk Free Press. Here, two people who knew him well, Donald Muir and Stephen Foster, fondly remember ‘Crumpy’ – the man with ‘a wicked sense of humour’.
Donald Muir, former chairman of Bures Music Festival, contributes his memories of the festival’s founder – and leading light – Alan Crumpton.
It was a sad Sunday over Christmas 2009 when Roger Odell, drummer with Shakatak and instigator of the fortnightly Jazznights gigs at the Bell Hotel in Clare, Suffolk, rang to tell me of Alan’s death – and I still find it hard to credit that my old friend is gone. Type the word ‘Crumpton’ into your spellcheck and it invites you to ‘ignore’ – impossible!
I first met Alan Crumpton at one of the Friday-night sessions at the Fleece Jazz Club in Boxford, and recall some amusing after-hours conversations with a man who had a comprehensive knowledge of jazz and its players and singers. I was not to know that the band chat masked the deep hurt of a husband who had recently lost his beloved wife Rosemary.
Shortly afterwards, I left for a holiday in Scotland, telling my colleagues at the Fleece that we 40- and 50-somethings needed the appointment of a younger committee member to foster an interest in jazz among the teens and 20 year olds. Upon my return, I found one Alan Crumpton, on the cusp of 60, installed as our new publicity officer and partner in crime. I quickly concluded that my colleagues knew their man better than I did, as Alan made his mark with his boyish passion for jazz and its practitioners and a youthful enthusiasm for his new role. Here was that younger committee member I was after – but now with an older profile!
This was his forte – to encourage with a gentle word and to give some direction. That encouragement was always extended to the musicians and singers he liked both as players and personalities – saxophonists Karen Sharp and Alan Barnes, pianist Geoff Eales, guitarist John Etheridge and vocalists Jacqui Dankworth and Jamie Cullum are some that spring to mind – while Alan had a warm rapport with the entertainers of a previous era of show business: household names such as Max Bygraves and Kathy Kirby.
A sign of Alan’s approval would be his comment that an individual had ‘no side’ – an old-fashioned phrase these days but an expression to say that the person was without affectation and self-importance. There was never any side to Alan.
Guile, artfulness and malice were also entirely absent from a personality who attracted no enemies – if ever you laughed at Alan you quickly learned to laugh with him. Here was a man with a wicked sense of humour, who, when telling a joke would often deviate wildly from the narrative and entirely miss the punchline – and yet leave an audience in fits. At the Bell one night we floated the idea of the publication of an Alan Crumpton Jokebook, perfect as a raffle prize. The raffle winner might select another prize entirely, the runner-up take one copy of the joke book, while the third past the post would be saddled with two, ran our logic.
Failings and flaws? Not many, although he would never have won a ‘Britain’s Best Dressed Man’ competition and an appointment with his barber was often overdue. His largely tuneless whistling perhaps – but now that his flat whistle is stilled, I find that I shall miss it, and Alan more than words can say.
Words: Donald Muir
A tribute to Suffolk sport and jazz fan Alan Crumpton, by Stephen Foster, published by BBC Suffolk on 30 December 2009
Suffolk lost a great character over Christmas. Alan Crumpton’s sudden death at the age of 74 has robbed the county of a much-respected journalist and a man who did so much for the region’s jazz scene.
Crumpy, as he was affectionately known, hailed from Morley, West Yorkshire, and moved to Suffolk in the 1960s to work for the East Anglian Daily Times newspaper in Ipswich.
He stayed in Suffolk for the rest of his life and became a popular figure on the local football scene covering his beloved Sudbury Town and then, as the club became known, AFC Sudbury for BBC Radio Suffolk and various local newspapers.
I got to know Alan in the early 1990s and will never forget his excitement at Sudbury Town’s FA Cup exploits which saw them knock out Brighton & Hove Albion in a memorable replay at the Goldstone Ground in 1997.
He must have covered hundreds of Sudbury games, home and away, over the years, including the FA Vase finals. In more recent years, Alan’s continuing ill heath forced him to stop covering local soccer games and concentrate on his other love – jazz music.
Alan was a founder of the hugely successful Jazz by the Stour charity event (now Bures Music Festival) and was a regular compere at the fortnightly Jazznights concerts in Clare and the monthly Ipswich Jazz Club sessions. He also acted as MC at various other concerts and for many years wrote about jazz in the East Anglian Daily Times, Suffolk Free Press and The Grapevine listings magazine.
In spite of his worsening health, Alan remained upbeat about life and was never happier than when he was waxing lyrical about the latest young jazz musician he’d seen locally. I will always look back fondly on the many times we shared both a stage and a radio studio together.
Crumpy always used to say at the end of a gig, ‘whatever your taste in music, keep it live,’ and there’s no doubt Alan played an enormous part in keeping the East Anglian jazz scene alive. He’ll be much missed and I’d like to pass on my sincere condolences to his family and friends.
Words: BBC Suffolk DJ Stephen ‘Foz’ Foster, compere at Bures Music Festival
Alan Crumpton, journalist and jazz aficionado, 1935 to 2009