Hailing from Ulverston in Cumbria, saxophonist and presenter Jess Gillam’s roots are of great importance to her, and in her new series of conversations, “Jess Gillam’s Cumbrian Chats”, she chats to figures from across the arts world who have a connection to her homeland. The series will feature on BBC Radio Cumbria as part of Helen Millican’s show on Monday evenings, 6 -10pm and will also be available on BBC Sounds.

The four-part series kicks off on 25 October at 7pm with Jess herself chatting to Helen Millican about Cumbria and how it has influenced her life and work.

Jess’ first guest on 1 November is the musician Dave Camlin who is based in the region. Dave’s practice spans performance, composition, teaching, socially engaged music practice and research. He performs in various guises as a singer-songwriter, with vocal quartet Mouthful and jazz folk collective The Coast Road. He’s also a lecturer in music education at the Royal College of Music and Trinity-Laban Conservatoire. His research focuses on group singing music, health and well-being.

On 8 November Jess chats to poet Kim Moore who was born in Leicester and now lives in Cumbria. Her first pamphlet If We Could Speak Like Wolves was a winner in the 2011 Poetry Business Pamphlet Competition, and went on to be shortlisted for the Michael Marks Award and the Lakeland Book of the Year. Her first full length collection The Art of Falling (Seren 2015) won the Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize. Her second collection All The Men I Never Married was published by Seren in 2021 and her first non-fiction book What The Trumpet Taught Me will be published by Smith/Doorstop in March 2022.

Writer Sarah Hall was born in Cumbria and is Jess’ final guest on 15 November. Twice nominated for the Man Booker Prize, she is the award-winning author of six novels and three short-story collections: The Beautiful Indifference, which won the Edge Hill and Portico prizes, Madame Zero, winner of the East Anglian Book Award, and Sudden Traveller, shortlisted for the James Tait Black Prize for Fiction. She is currently the only author to be four times shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award, which she won in 2013 with ‘Mrs Fox’ and in 2020 with ‘The Grotesques’. Her latest novel is Burntcoat, published by Faber in 2021. 

Jess Gillam commented, “Cumbria is such a special place with a unique spirit and there is endless inspiration to be found in the landscapes of the county. I have loved talking to Dave, Sarah and Kim about their connections to Cumbria and I’m very grateful to Mark Elliott, Helen Millican and BBC Radio Cumbria for creating the opportunity to have some fascinating conversations.”

BBC Radio Cumbria Presenter Helen Millican commented, “I was thrilled to get to work with Jess on this series. She’s such a big name in classical music across the world, but she always remembers where she’s from so for her to make a series looking at other great contributors to the arts in Cumbria is perfect.”

Jess presents regularly on radio and TV. She became the youngest ever presenter for BBC Radio 3 and continues to host her own award-winning weekly show and podcast called ‘This Classical Life’. In July she took the show to the Southbank Centre’s Royal Festival Hall in London for a special live edition with the BBC Concert Orchestra and guest performers including former frontman of The Maccabees singer Orlando Weeks and songwriter, vocalist and cellist Ayanna Witter-Johnson. She has also been a guest presenter for BBC Radio 2 and co-hosted a miniseries for BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme. She has presented on television at the BBC Proms and for BBC Young Musician. Since 2019 Jess has presented seven BBC Proms on television. She has been the recipient of a Classic BRIT Award, was the first ever saxophonist to reach the final of BBC Young Musician, and in 2019, performed live at the BAFTAs to millions of viewers at home. In 2020 Jess was nominated for The Times Breakthrough Award and this year was awarded MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list 2021 for Services to Music. 

On stage Jess’ autumn season continues as she makes her debut with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra performing Villa-Lobos’ flamboyant concerto for saxophone and Milhaud’s miniature Scaramouche under the baton of Jaume Santonja Espinós at Birmingham’s Symphony Hall, before commencing a three-concert residency at London’s Wigmore Hall with a recital alongside pianist Zeynep Özsuca on 4 November. Outside the UK, Jess travels to Reykjavík to perform Debussy’s Rhapsody for orchestra and saxophone andGlazunov’s Saxophone Concerto with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Ryan Bancroft (28 October) and will give recitals in Madrid and Zurich with pianists James Baillieu (21 & 22 November) and Zeynep Özsuca (6 December) before rounding off 2021 with a special New Year’s Eve and Day Concert with theDeutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin conducted by James Gaffigan (31 December & 1 January).

Listings: Jess Gillam’s Cumbrian Chats, BBC Radio Cumbria

Monday 25 October, 7pm: Jess Gillam chats to presenter Helen Millican

Monday 1 November, 7pm: Jess Gillam chats to Dave Camlin

Monday 8 November, 7pm: Jess Gillam chats to Kim Moore

Monday 15 November, 7pm: Jess Gillam chats to Sarah Hall