CLITHEROE’S Mr Jazz, Geoff Jackson, is stepping down as the Ribble Valley International Jazz Festival celebrates its tenth birthday.

Mr Jackson, a founder member of the Ribble Valley Jazz and Blues Club, has played a major role in developing the festival and attracting international artists to the town.

This year’s festival – which came to a close last night – boasts Blues legend Victor Brox, Norwegian saxophonist Marius Neset, jazz singer Claire Martin and Manchester International Voices, one of Britain’s most popular community choirs.

Mr Jackson said: “It is time to let the younger generation take their turn now.

“I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve achieved, and how we’ve developed the festival.

“It has helped bring people together, cemented the community.

“It attracts people from all over the world, many returning year after year, and they regard Clitheroe as a great destination to come to.”

He added: “Ribble Valley Jazz, Cloudspotting, Beat-Herder and the two main venues, The Grand and Holmes Hill, has attracted a vibrant arts crowd to Clitheroe, without the town losing that friendly market town feel.”

Born in Clitheroe, Mr Jackson says his interest in jazz was sparked by seeing American pianist Duke Ellington at Manchester Free Trade Hall.

“I’ve always had a great passion for jazz music, but it is a changing beast,” he said.

“We had our first public meeting in 2007 and 50 people turned up, and it has grown from there.”

The inaugural festival was staged in 2010 with British jazz singer Jacqui Dankworth providing the headline act.

“We are all volunteers and it is a lot of graft trying to pull it all together, costing £70,000,” he added.

“And without the support of the Arts Council, Clitheroe and Ribble Valley Borough Councils, then it would be impossible to stage the festival.”

“Geoff is a visionary who has led Ribble Valley Jazz Club and the festival with great distinction,” said the Grand’s promoter Matt Evans.

“And his efforts, creating artistic opportunities for young people have made a huge impact on the cultural landscape of the area.”