THE UK’s home of jazz music must stay at its home in a Southend art gallery, furious councillors have insisted.

The Jazz Centre, based at Beecroft Art Gallery, in Southend, is being forced to leave the building as Southend Council proposes to use the space to store and display artefacts.

The Jazz Centre UK (TJCUK) has operated from the lower ground of the Beecroft Gallery free of charge since 2016.

Matt Dent, Labour councillor for Kursaal, met with the team last week.

He said: “It’s my view that the presence of the centre in Southend benefits and enriches the cultural life of Southend as a city, and that requiring them to move out is a false economy by the council.

“I will be speaking to officers and cabinet members going forward, to try and find a solution which preserves the Jazz Centre UK as a vital part of the music heritage of Southend.”

Over the years, the charity - which boasts Jools Holland and Sir Van Morrison as patrons - has used the space to host a walk-through history of jazz, a museum, performance spaces, a cinema, and retail outlets for jazz books and records.

Kevin Buck, Tory councillor for Prittlewell, said: “I would much rather they stay where they are, I just want what they want.

“It’s the UK national jazz centre and any move would be disruptive and cost money too. It’s not just about the physical move.”

Southend has long been the home of a thriving jazz community, and the Beecroft home is well-appreciated - in large parts thanks to the efforts of Digby Fairweather.

It is the home of an important collection in memory of the much-loved Humphrey Lyttleton, whose desk, trumpet, and other memorabilia have been lodged there by his family.

Carole Mulroney, councillor responsible for culture, said: “We are working with the Jazz Centre to try and find alternative accommodation.

“We are running a professional museum and arts gallery and we have to take that seriously. We have items to store and display.

“I am supportive of the Jazz Centre and nothing is off the table when it comes to talks and considerations.”