Tributes paid to Wakefield Jazz Club founder Alec Sykes

A founder of Wakefield Jazz Club has died of Covid-related pneumonia.

Monday, 16th November 2020, 12:30 pm
Updated Monday, 16th November 2020, 5:14 pm
Alec Sykes

Alec Sykes alongside his wife, Faith, founded and nurtured the jazz club from 1987 up until 2004.

Mrs Sykes was with Alec for 55 years. She said: “Alec discovered jazz as a teenager. He was taken to a concert in Leeds by his sister, it was Humphrey Littleton. Alec was entranced and excited by the music. His interest continued through his student days.

“Having moved to London to work, got married, had a family he retained his interest in jazz.

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“When our family returned to Wakefield and he was delighted to discover that the Wakefield Arms pub hosted a very popular and successful jazz night on Fridays.”

After the Wakefield Arms closed its doors to jazz, Mr Sykes decided that he would try carry it on in another venue.

Mrs Sykes said: “He enlisted the help of musicians Nikki Isles and Jim Birkett and then set about finding a venue. This turned out to be the Wakefield Sports Club – literally at the bottom our street, perfect

“Every Friday it was hurry back from work, set out the sports club to look a bit like a jazz club.

“Go home, cook tea for however many musicians were hungry, make up the beds for anyone who needed to stay the night, go down to the club house to do the door, then listen to wonderful music.

“All achieved with the boundless energy, love of jazz music, and great enthusiasm of my husband Alec Sykes.” Pete Rosser, promoter, Wakefield Jazz, also paid tribute to Mr Sykes.

He said: “Alec Sykes’ achievement wasn’t only the creation of one of the UK’s most high-profile and enduring jazz clubs.

“He and his wife, Faith, created and maintained a vast network of creative spirits through their dedication not only to the music itself but also to the careers of countless musicians.

“They opened their home and extended their generous hospitality to an endless parade of artists, including many of who were then only at the start of their illustrious careers.

"Over many years, tales of those late nights before and after gigs achieved a legendary status.

“His contributions to jazz, to music more generally and to the cultural life of Yorkshire and the wider UK are inestimable.

“He will be sorely missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.”

A private cremation will take place for Mr Sykes. Mrs Sykes and Wakefield Jazz Club are planning to hold a celebration of his life, with live musicians, when the pandemic allows.