‘Such a dear friend’

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“I ONLY met her a handful of times but I really loved her.”

So said Claire Martin of Gemma Sykes, late daughter of Wakefield Jazz founders Alec and Faith, whose life will be celebrated at the club on Sunday, May 22.

Renowned singer and radio presenter Claire, along with pianist Nikki Iles, is prime mover behind the event which will bring some 20 top-line musicians together for an informal afternoon of great music and memories.

Claire continued: “Gemma was such a dear friend to Nikki and me that we wanted a way to celebrate her life and to raise money for those fantastic people who looked after her when she was ill.”

In her younger years, Gemma, who died from non-hodgkin lymphoma last September, aged 41, made a big impression on Claire when the singer stayed overnight at the Sykes’ house after gigs.

She said: “When you were there you were treated as part of the family. Gemma was tremendous fun to be with, so bright beyond her years. It’s awful what happened.”

Next Sunday’s gig starts at 3pm and tickets are £20 via www.wakefieldjazz.org, with all proceeds going to two cancer charities with which Gemma was involved.

Among those who have given their time free of charge are Tina May, Guy Barker, Iain Ballamy and Arnie Somogyi, plus many other musicians familiar to WJ audiences.

Claire said: “We didn’t want to make it formal, we’re just going to see who rocks up then have a massive jam session, let it happen organically.

“Lots of friends who have played at Wakefield Jazz have come on board, some terrific people are involved and we’re hoping it will be a wonderful afternoon.”