THE dynamic professional singer who set up a popular Oxford jazz festival has died.

Jean Darke was the driving force between the Jazz at St Giles concert series, which raised over £40,000 for charity and brought some of the world’s finest jazz artists to the city.

As an accomplished singer and pianist, Mrs Darke had performed around Europe and on cruise ships. She was also a respected music writer and critic and a regular contributor to the Oxford Mail and its sister paper The Oxford Times.

Mrs Darke, who lived on Banbury Road, was the widow of the award-winning architect Geoffrey Darke.

Mrs Darke contracted Covid-19 in October. Although she recovered, the virus led to further complications. She died on Thursday, aged 88.

Mrs Darke launched the Jazz at St Giles series 10 years ago as both a fundraiser and a platform for visiting international and local jazz artists. Beneficiaries included the charities War Child, Save the Children, and the ex-servicemen and women’s charity Combat Stress.

It also raised funds for St Giles Church and its musical work with young people.

Oxford Mail features editor Tim Hughes paid tribute to Mrs Darke, saying: “Jean was an intellectual powerhouse. She was passionate about music and performance, but more than anything, she cared about people.

“While most of us talk about doing things but never get round to them, Jean grasped life with both hands and made things happen. She was a dynamic woman but also deeply compassionate, and everybody loved and respected her.

“She had an incredible armoury of anecdotes from her years of singing and her travels with her husband Geoff. Her life story is worthy of a Netflix special.

“She leaves an incredible legacy and will never be replaced.”

Jazz artist and founder of Oxford’s Spin jazz club, Pete Oxley was a regular artist at the annual concert series. He said: “Jean was a true one-off and she will be greatly missed.”