Sunday, 23 September 2012

Foxwood at Wykebeck

Amy's working at Wykebeck Primary School, at the moment, so we're off to the Open Day, and it is also the opening of the music room dedicated to Fanny Waterman [founder of the Leeds Piano Competition]. Which grand opening I didn't know about, till I spotted the lady herself by the tea place. I also didn't know that the man filming was from Calendar. "You're too late, " I told him, 'we've just finished. He asked us to play again, thankfully we played the four chord, Electricity, which you can make look quite tricky to the untrained eye. I was quite surprised to see us, well, my back and the bass pans on the 6 o'clock news.

We were me, Bex [with attendant Smalls], Daisy, Vicky, Katie, Amy, Danielle, Natalie, Charlotte and Chris [who was actually on his way back to Plymouth, returning the pan I lend him in summer].

So many ex-Foxwood School students today. Girls, who look now like their mums looked then, when I was counting to four for them all those years ago.  "You still playing those things!" one ex-student commented.

Here's some pics of us playing under the basketball net, and one of me in the tea queue loitering near Dame Fanny Waterman. Also the minister/vicar from the church at the Gipton five-ways roundabout, where I did a summer school in 2009.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Alan and Tony at Last

A few years ago I attended a conference in London for CASE [the Campaign for State Education], and I got on the lift from ground floor to Floor 3 with politician Tony Benn.  In awe, dumb-struck, goldfish mouth. We got into the conference, a man came up to Tony Benn. He said, "I've been a long-time admirer of yours. Please can I shake your hand." I emailed my friends, "I was in a lift with Tony Benn," My friends wrote back enthusiastically - You got a lift with Tony Benn, from Sheffield, with Tony Benn? What did you talk about? "

Many years later, I was on the train back from London, been to a confererence, called in to collect a collect of pans from Clapton, reading Alan Bennett's Untold Tales, amongst all the rest. Got onto the platform at Leeds, then the concourse,  dragging one steel pan, carrying another, handbag, rucksack - what a mess,  trying to put all the tickets back in their ticket cases, checking purse for busfare, disentangling the ipod's wires etc. And there's Alan Bennett. I'm holding his book and ten other things in my hands.

When Nelson Mandela came to Leeds in 2001, I was doing a steel pan workshop at Parklands High School. Just read Long Walk to Freedom, would have settled to see him in the flesh, but I thought that the school should have a woman workshop leader. Worse, the African dancers who had also come to International Day at Parklands upped sticks and headed for town after the first [and as it turned out only] set in order to dance in front of the great man. Leaving Parklands somewhat disappointed.

About four years after the CASE conference I attended the first big Anti-Academies Alliance conference at Congress House House, Great Russell Street, London. Tony Benn was one of the speakers. I waited till the end, then went over and asked and told him the lift story. He laughed and shook my hand. He said I should have spoken.

Tonight, Debs, this very evening, Alan Bennett did a An Evening with Alan Bennett at City of Leeds School.  I took my copy of Untold Tales. Alan, as I feel I can call him now, signed it. I told him the Leeds Train Story.  He said I should have spoken.

And Debs, I've learnt my lesson. I travel light, put all my stuff into the one bag, and limit myself to one steel pan on public transport. I am ready to shake anyone's hand, but I don't think that Nelson Mandela takes the train to Leeds much.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

I nearly forgot Patti

Dear Debs,  Miggy Park was long; I couldn’t wait to get home and pass out; little did I realise that Rick, now in charge of Georgia’s two Smalls was thinking along the same lines; only he couldn’t wait for me to come home so that he could pass out.

So, I am now in charge of the Smalls, while Rick has 40 winks, and Debs, I nearly forgot – it’s Patti Smith night. I hand the Smalls back and end up having 80 winks. Am a bit late for Stewart waiting with Austin and Roz [above]outside the O2. Patti was great. As you can't tell from this picture [probably left].

Last time me and Stewart saw Patti was In Nottingham. We went with a friend whose husband offered to drive. Alas, over the course of the evening,  the husband seemed to have taken against Stewart, and turfed him out of the car in the middle of Leeds in the middle of  the night. Our friend turfed said husband out of her life some months later.

Well, Debs, I haven’t been to the O2 for decades; and three days later Walt’s calling past and do I fancy a gig with him? Well, yes, I do, not that I have heard Beirut [see above from distance] at all. Walt knows Heather Merchandise. Here’s some pics of Heather and Walt, me and Walt, the band, the audience, and yes me and Walt playing pool after that at the Fenton.  The Fenton brought back memories of the early eighties. And, as Uni isn't quite back yet, it is empty and we have the pool table all to ourselves. Actually pool tables and Walt brings back memories of the pool table and the window in the top room of our house on Brudenell Mount. I think it was two shots to me and a glazier on that occasion. 

Saturday, 15 September 2012

East Steel at Miggy Park, and Judy says goodbye

It is a year since our new gazebo took off half way through Bob Marley in the same park. Then the weather was cold, windy with a hint of rain. And a hint of an audience. Today it's much grander, with zumba, birds of prey, majorettes, samosas, various other stalls and a raffle. A proper event.

This is our first gig since Judy decided to call it a day. And I would like to pause to say thanks. Most people join a nightclass or a band to do something for themselves, which is as it should be. [I have for example just signed up for Advanced Russian, in the hope I can reprieve my once near-competence in this fine language. The tutor asked why, I said, I meet Russians and other Eastern Europeans in my schools,  but actually I just want to speak it again. I want to roll those wonderful consonant clusters around and make the music that is speaking another language. And really make good all those eight years I spent studying it from O level to uni.]

Anyway, Judy didn't just join East Steel. She brought Bella, Rameice and bro; she bought the guitar pan that would provide the much needed lower chords; she invited us to play in her garden, and fed us all cakes. She gave Adele lifts. She wrote down all the rhythms and she said nice things; she led the dancing at gigs. So we will miss her. However, even more respect that, when it wasn't doing it anymore for her, Judy called it a day. Enough of the eulogy.

Back to the gig: We were Wendy, Jeanette, Adele, Tricia, Alli, Karen, Ruth, Vicky, Peter, Cheryl, plus me and Bex of course. In attendance also James and Michael. A passing man of the cloth joined, singing in with our first tune, Where Have All the Flowers Gone? With rather a fine voice. The lake, a perfect back-drop for the pictures, not so perfect with two Smalls on the loose.

And lastly, at the end, with everything packed away, here's the last of us to leave the lakeside.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

One Engagement, One Death and One Big Memorial

We woke up to discover that our garden had been taped off by the police. Sad to say the young woman who fell from the tree last night did not survive. And though this is hardly Carriacou blog material, it is sadly too important not to mention.

On to Varshika's brother's engagement party at the Hindu Temple just down the road. Here Vinny and Nipa were looking forward a life together. Half an hour of top tunes from the Doves; Vinny particularly wanted Chasing Cars. He got it, and we also resusciated Sheherazade, on the grounds that this was an Indian wedding, and this was a tune from as far east and as near to India as we could get. The rest of the band humoured me. Varshika was too busy being a sister to play with us so we were: me, Bex, Amy, Tim, Gig. Actually as I am the band leader, the players should humour me but they did try to stop  Mad World going into the repertoire when we played at the Secure Psychiatric Unit a few years back. Unsuccessfully, I might add.

Next I am off to a memorial to the miners of Allerton Bywater and surrounding pits who lost their lives at their workplace. I join the march led by the Kippax Brass Band, and immediately spot my old Foxwood ex-colleague, history teacher, Colin Burgon. Colin went on to be the MP for this area, but why I remember him in particular, and why I have joined this march is because:

Way back in the eighties when I first taught at the late and very very great Foxwood School, Colin organised the most memorable and amazing thing: not only did he persuade well over half the staff to contribute £1 a week for the duration of the Miners' Strike; but also he got quite a number of us to meet him at whichever designated meeting point [I recall the Dog and Gun on the York Road as one], at 5 a.m. on successive Mondays, where we would be told which the chosen pit was for us to picket, and then we would go, and have a spirited tug of war with the police, have a shout at the returning, strike-breaking miners, and then we would all go to school and teach a day's work at what was generally agreed a challenging school.

When the miners' strike reached its hideous conclusion, Colin invited some of them to our staff end of term do, where I was by now Common Room President, and surprised everybody especially myself by writing and singing a song for them. I played a simple descending bass line on a school cello, and sang, apropos of our donations,
      "Well, we've been digging deep for the mines
      "If it's not them, it'll be us next time .. . "

 . . . . and indeed, it was the eighties. When Margaret had finished with the miners she set about the teachers; and so, it was with this memory that I joined this march today. To unveil the memorial to the fallen miners in Allerton Bywater. Leeds Council leader Keith Wakefield spoke; YEP journalist, Pete Lazenby who had done so much to publicise this memorial was there, long whiskers and jungle hat. Many well-known people from the mining world were there. This event was attended in thousands, and also featured in the local media.
It was the end of a long and very hot day. We have a barbecue, and Lola cut the grass with a pair of scissors.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Manchester Grammar School meets steel pans

Now then Debs,
It is my turn to go to Manchester. Robert and the crew have been over here and checked out  all the Leeds pan schools they need, have ordered a set of pans from Grafton, and will hire a few from us in Leeds while they wait. Which won’t be too long. 
We are also selling them a set of our surplus basses and cellos, relics from the days before the new builds' builders misunderstood the information: “and we have to house a set of steel pans in the new school building.” 

Two sets of basses came from when the college of Music bought a 20 piece set in about 1990, expecting, but not getting great things. Ten years later they were sold to the Music Service. I found a primary school to use one set, but when Melvin and I went to pick up said pans, we found they had been abandoned, and had spent summer outside a portastore cabin in the carpark, and were now full of water and gently rusting on top. They must have been mistaken for old oildrums! How could that have happened?

So over the Pennines again on Tuesday with the gently rusting basses and the rest. And I put Robert, Ruth, Gary, Otto, Jonathon and David through their paces. Forgot to photograph them in action so here's Ruth and Robert posing after they'd all left. 

Foxwood Night Out at the Malt Shovel, or Not

Well, after a long debate at Manchester Carnival, during which time, absoutely no night suited anybody at all, we agreed that we would meet at the Malt Shovel, Armley on September 1st. So this is how Charlotte came to be there from 8 till 9.30 [fortunately with Bridget and Holly] and Bex and me from 9 to whenever. Lizzie was there working and Georgia taking part in the Stars in Their Eyes Competition. Bex and Gig played Trini to the Bone on air pan.

So, not exactly a Foxwood Night Out.

For me, this was rather a bizarre day. Early afternoon found me meeting Bex, Katie, Vicky and co at Chapel Allerton festival, fifteen minutes later I am at Brudenell Social Club watching my favourite ever new band, Glassbody. Now I first saw and  heard Glassbody at an Allerton Grange Showcase , and was bowled over. They are definitely their own people but they had tints of Bloc Party, and now today I feel also tinged with The Cure, and maybe even Simple Minds. But not in a derivative way but a homage type of way.

After that I nipped up to Meanwood to give my mum a birthday cake which I baked the day before, and upon which I placed one representative candle. Then, after a few more domestic duties and it was over to the Malt Shovel for a few limes down the lagers.