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Jazz fizzes for Regency bucks; The sedate Cotswold spa town of Cheltenham swings to a relaxing beat for Mary Butler.

Cheltenham is a fine town. The air of elegance exuding from the Regency architecture seeps into the visitor with every moment spent, creating a very warm and friendly atmosphere.

The wide streets and floral displays make wandering around the town a positive pleasure. It seems that on every corner there is a view to a green space giving the impression of a town within a park rather than a town with a park.

So it was that we came on a warm and sunny bank holiday weekend in May for the 7th Cheltenham International Jazz festival.

Britain does not go in for jazz festivals on the same scale as our European cousins.

In France in particular the summer jazz festivals routinely last 10-14 days and attract huge audiences from across the continent, partly due to people taking holidays to attend and partly due to the number and variety of artists that you can attract to a longer festival.

It is not uncommon for a 14-day festival to have only a smattering of ``jazz'' artistes and a whole host of concerts biased towards blues, world, rock, latin and even pop, which helps to guarantee the promoter good audiences. Festival artistic director Tony Dudley-Evans only has four days in which to entice the music listening public and then keep them so that they can also enjoy the beauty and quality that is to be found in Cheltenham.

This year he succeeded brilliantly. Using two main venues with three stages, five minutes walking distance from each other, a varied and interesting programme of artists and a pricing policy that even those on a very tightbudget could afford made sure that everyone could get involved and be part of the festival.

But it's not just about seeing as many artists as possible, its about relaxing, meeting, chatting and learning, and no, an anorak is not required.

The concerts are all very well organised so that if you really wanted to you could flit from one venue to the other without missing the next concert. Each venue also has a selection of related merchandise, CDs, books, photos, oh yes, and of course a bar.

Cheltenham also does exceptionaly well for food. There are far more restaurants than the festival allows time to be visited. nCheltenham has a great choice in accommodation. We booked a room a week before the festival began, just out of the town centre with the Travel Inn chain at pounds 42.95 per night. It was no more than a 15 minute walk into the town or a 5 minute drive. For a rather more luxurious stay try the 4* Queens Hotel (pounds 130-pounds 135 per night) in the town centre. For further information about Cheltenham, the 2003 Cheltenham Jazz Festival or the surrounding Cotswolds area, visit www.visitcheltenham.gov.uk or www.visitcheltenham.gov.uk or write to the Cheltenham TIC, 77 Promenade, Cheltenham, Glos GL50 1PP

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ARTISTES: From left, Abdullah Ibrahim, Stacey Kent, Billy Jenkins, Sara Coleman, and Anna Brookes. Top, the promenade, below, the famous fish clock; case notes
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Aug 10, 2002
Words:513
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