Professor Jen Wilson
Culture award 2017 winner
Jen Wilson was born and brought up in Mount Pleasant in Swansea. She is a self-taught jazz pianist and accomplished jazz musician and composer, writer and archivist. For 50 years or more Jen has played a central role in promoting jazz music in Wales and in documenting its history and social impact – and in particular the role of women in jazz.
In the early 1980s Jen joined the Swansea Women’s History Group as she became increasingly aware that ordinary women weren’t visible in mainstream history and jazzwomen didn’t feature in cultural histories. Jen’s local research contributed knowledge of African American cultural interchange from the 1850s, e.g. café society and women’s bands featured in the 2016 ‘How jazz came to Wales exhibition’ in Swansea Museum.
Jen founded the registered charity Women in Jazz in 1986, continuing to add to her collection of oral histories, jazz sheet music, books, artefacts and records. Dame Cleo Laine became patron in 2003.
Notably her work has inspired radio programmes such as Alan Plater’s 3-part drama for BBC Radio 4 (1991) ‘Devil’s Music’ and Radio 4’s ‘The Lost Women of British Jazz’, which was nominated for the Prix Europa in 2015 and came fifth. She was awarded the WCVA Wales Volunteer of the Year 2014, and the Point of Light Award from Prime Minister David Cameron in 2015. She has also been appointed Honorary Professor of Practice by University of Wales Trinity St David in 2016.