NIGEL Jarrett is retiring as the South Wales Argus classical music critic after almost 30 years.
He first joined the newspaper in 1971 and was quickly recruited by its then music critic, the distinguished journalist and broadcaster Kenneth Loveland, to help out with reviewing a busy South Wales music scene.
Mr Jarrett took over when Mr Loveland, a former Argus editor, retired in the late 1980s.
Reviewing was always extra to Mr Jarrett’s other duties as reporter, and latterly as deputy chief sub-editor and business editor. He has also reviewed theatre and a range of other events. He took early retirement in 2002, continuing to write on music for the paper.
“It was frantic in the early days,” he said. “Although there were two of us doing the job, the monthly reviewing list sometimes ran to thirty engagements. I recall covering the Swansea Festival on four consecutive nights, driving there and back from Chepstow each time after a full day’s work and writing my review when I got home at about a quarter to midnight.”
Mr Jarrett, an award-winning writer, lives in Chepstow, and contributes a light-hearted column to the Argus’s sister magazine Monmouthshire County Life. For many years he has written a weekly music column for the Argus. As a freelance he has also been reviewing jazz and poetry, as well as contributing to a range of literary journals.
His first story collection, Funderland, was published by Parthian in 2011 and won wide acclaim, including in The Guardian, The Times and the The Independent. It was longlisted for the prestigious Edge Hill Prize. His first poetry collection, Miners At The Quarry Pool, was published last year.
“I want to do more of this kind of writing,” he said. “So I’m cutting back on all the other stuff. In these days of digital media, it seems that everyone’s a critic. Perhaps it’s no bad thing.”
Mr Jarrett, 72, who lives with his wife, Ann, a former teacher, is working on a second story collection and is writing a second novel; his first novel, about a former Fleet Street crime bureau chief, is doing the rounds of book publishers.
“A few years ago I worked out that I’d written more than 5,000 reviews for the Argus,” he said. “There’ve been no real highlights. Every concert or opera performance is a highlight. Music and musicians have changed my life and will continue to do so. But 5,000 reviews are more than enough.”
Argus editor Kevin Ward said: “I’m sure Nigel’s decision to stand down as our music critic will disappoint many of our readers and the many performers and companies he reviews.
“I have worked with Nigel for 25 years – both before and after his so-called retirement – and he is a superb local journalist and writer.
“I understand fully his desire to concentrate on his stories, poems and novels and I am sure we will see many more of them published in the years to come.”