Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Foxwood Steel at Huddersfield Carnival

Dear Debs,

You know because you were there. We were first float in the parade, and we got applauded in the town centre after playing Dead or Alive - a right proper round of applause, never had that before,  Excellent. Lizzie in Dead or Alive heaven. Lizzie in Huddersfield Carnival heaven. We all were.

It's the second Saturday in July. It's Little London Community Day, Kirkstall Festival and Huddersfield Carnival. In previous years Natalie and/or Carrie-ann have done stuff at Little London [and I deliver the pans for them Friday and pick them Monday], while Foxwood is at Huddersfield. This year I thought I might just do the one gig!

I am going to go back briefly to Imagine on BBC2 a couple of weeks back. Paul Simon revisited South Africa 15 years after his very contraversial Graceland episode with Ladysmith Black Mambazo. During a studio session he asked some musicians to learn a piece of music overnight, but when they returned next day they hadn't done it. And the [white] studio engineer shrugged and said to Paul Simon, "You see what we have to put up with." [Debs, you'll see where this is going in a minute].

But first. How cool that you should come back from Abu Dabi just in time to play this carnival for your adopted home  town of Huddersfield. All in all we were you, Charlotte, Neil and Caroline from South Steel, Karen and Ruth from Steel Rising, and then you, Charlotte, me, Bex, Lizzie, Gig, Vicky, Daisy, Amy, Varshika, Tim and Sophie from Foxwood and Foxwood Doves, plus guest, Sparrow: Ashley.

Well I knew that the theme was the Jubilee and Olympics so we were doing Diamonds Are Forever [calypso] and Chariots Of Fire [ditto], but Ladysmith and Paul reminded me of Diamonds On the Soles of her Shoes. I wouldn't say it was finished but we had a go. Actually all I had really managed was the key, a chord sequence and a random snatch of the melody.

Three quotes from Huddersfield: These from someone talking later in Huddersfield town centre to Ashley:
     Yous guys were awesome, I have never heard a steel pan band play in such rocky conditions before and sound as good as yous did. 

and another:  the ways yous move while yous are concentrating is amazing, best band I have heard in a long time.

and this oddity, overheard by another player:

I can't see the point. It's not for white people. It's meant to be about us, about black people. . . . This is boring. They were meant to draw a crowd in. . . . 

How sad that, after all the Carnival Committee's efforts to say that this is a event for everyone in Huddersfield, that anyone should think this, and even say it in our hearing. I know that Mary and all the organisers wanted Carnival to be something to include everyone. Still, we have always felt most welcome in Huddersfield, a nearly all-white band at a West Indian Carnival, especially after our experience in our own home town of Leeds. See the link below:

Is this comment some sort of weird cultural apartheid, I wonder? It is true that we paced ourselves on the float, playing a soft set of less powerful tunes before we got near the packed centre of town so that we didn't burn out before we played to the biggest crowds. But they were still good tunes.

Debs, I hope that this one person's comment. But, if not, maybe this is a debate to be had publicly.

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