Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Foxwood play Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Well Debs

This was a nice gig indeed. In three cars and a van we decend into the winter Friday evening rush hour on the M621/M1. Deciding to avoid the motorway in case an accident stops traffic altogether  I am in the van with Stewart and Tim doing 5 miles an hour as we roll up to the accident on the roundabout on the Dewsbury Road.  Consequently Bex with Nat, Sarah with Amy and Vicky with Katie all arrive before us.  Nothing new here, of course!

Play two sets as guests tuck into Caribbean dinner at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park Restaurant/Cafe, get watered and fed ourselves at half time. Then as we play the final hour and a quarter second set; the diners stop talking and seem to be treating it like a concert. In the absence of any dedicated melody players Bex and I am stagger out way through all the tunes, with Stewart and Natalie doing the odd number.

I ruin Help by playing the chorus chord sequence backwards on bass.  Bex sends everyone home with an Is Heat highlight moment. Sadly I have only got eight Sparrows CDs with me, as we could have sold twice that [and we are still paying off the studio recording!].

Then a peculiar incident to end. A teacher [in a primary school with a steelband] approaches asking for a copy of one of the tunes that is actually one of our signature tunes. I am taken aback by the boldness of the request, and I end up offending her by saying that I don't usually give our arrangements away. I don't mean to offend her but if everyone did the song, then we would have to stop doing it. [I think she thought we just read them out of a book]. Oh this is a conversation we have had before: what's fair game, and what is a question of we saw it first!
Thanks to Damon for booking us, for this cold November evening and of course for hosting us plus Sparrows in warmer times. Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Made for steelbands. See here:


Sunday, 18 November 2012

You can't have too many Pictures at an Exhibition

 Well, it's getting like one of those pictures where's characters are hidden and you have to see how many you can find. At first the pans, glocks and stands are packed in the hall, then a week later squirrelled away, here and there, under the basin, behind the shower, around the thingy at the bottom of the bannisters. Actually they all spotted the ring stands and Clippy's lodging a complaint.  Where can a geriatric cat kip these days?

Anyway, despite all this loading I managed to squeeze in a good stint on the allotment, and a second version of Mussorgsky's Pictures.

On the allotment I was as much amused as dismayed by the trimming of the hedges. See these pictures.

When there's a tree in the way, the tractor with choppers just goes round it, and the hedge that can't be reached is is left uncut; any branch thicker than a leaf is torn off.  A few years back they cut the top off one of the concrete posts. I should be grateful . . .

Anyway, it's November here, and daylight is soon over. It's off with the wellies and on with the suede boots. This time it's at the Uni's Grand Hall, and as the programme also included Bolero and Night on a Bare Bald Mountain I felt obliged to set the tele to record "The Killing"  and jump on my bike.

Sadly Bolero did not deliver for me, and I spent most of the 17-19 minutes worrying the the drummer wasn't going to make it.

The other stuff was great, and I cycled home in great contentment. Now I am writing my next two Foxwood Songbooks and here is a picture of how they look propped up in a tray.

Also I am making sticks a lot, so here's two fine examples of my other handiwork.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

The Russians are Coming : Half Term and the Last Concert

So many conferences and marches - well three conferences, one steering committee and one march, I've  been to London, Stone, London, Bristol, London.

Caretaker Dave F retires at West Park.

 So it's half-term, and I'm done in. I declutter my house a bit, hang out a bit on the allotment, do my Russian and Spanish homework a bit.

Then on Friday night, Diane phones me that we have been evicted from the West Park Centre, my place of work of the last sixteen years.  Heavens, Debs, I worked at Foxwood School from 1980 till 1996, which if my maths is correct is also sixteen years.  What is Fate saying to me, I wonder?

Actually the first thing Fate is saying is you have two days to rehouse a million steel pans.  [You can see the serious version of these events on my new Victoria Jaquiss: Hyde Park, Leeds and the Wider World blog.]

On Saturday I head off for what turns out to be said ex-place of work, and Diane tells me the Russians are coming. In the afternoon I sit in their midst saying спасибо and stuff, feeling like an intruder at a private party, but now I know, at the Last Concert.

Here above, I am standing for the last time in the new Seminar Steel Pan Room; here below we had only just moved into this beautiful spacious former Art teaching Room..
And here below the old gym ballet studios and long corridor with outside cover look over a deserted playground carpark.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Stratford Finally

I reach the Pan Conference for the last half day.  Whatever I missed it was worth the effort for Nestor Sullivan's closing speech. In which, at last, someone has the courage and the clout to criticise the status quo. I have often gathered the courage, but having no status in the right place, have left the pan-world an unchanged place. And that's enough talking in tongues, Debs. I bother because I care, and because I think I can make a difference.

This is the first International Steelpan Conference in the UK that I am not speaking at, which is just as well, given Purfleet. Obvioulsy it takes the pressure off, but also it takes the voice away. Anyway, you can't speak at them all. For me, however the agenda was not enough day to day steel pan teaching in the UK, which, above all, Debs, I think you'll agree, is what I do. And is where the future lies.

Thankfully Grafton is here so I get a lift back to Waltham Cross, meet little Skye Melody again. Next morning she learns how to be held on one hip while her parent or one other plays chords with two sticks in one hand.

Now I have tied a tuned steelpan to my blue trolley, and set off for Theobalds Grove. Liverpool Street [should've changed at Seven Sisters, damnit!] . Kings Cross. And the big signs tell me there's signal failure at Newark and environs. Eventually . . I jump on a train for York. The announcer says we'll know the eta after we have crossed the "affected area". It feels like foot and mouth.  But I am late home and then I am late for my Russian lesson.

Friday, 2 November 2012

From Bristol to Purfleet for no particular reason

Debs, As you may or may not know, and we don't discuss literature much, I love Charles Dickens and when I read a book [oh sadly less and less these past years] it's Dickens for me, Bleak House and Nicholas Nickleby. Barnaby Rudge for the first time earlier this year. And it's that feeling of London being a series of dark villages, speckled by bright jolly inns, which only serve to make the night-times darker that is so gripping. So though I never meant to go to Purfleet . . . .

But first, Debs, on Friday, instead of chillin' out in dreams of the Rest of the Best I am on the train to Bristol and the SMA [Schools Music Conference] run by Carole of Lindsay Music fame.  The cheaper trains were early, so I have a couple of hours to check out the centre of Bristol, buy the Rough Guide and a Russian dictionary. [Can't afford to get behind on the Languages, and there are three long train revision sessions]. And inevitably, Debs, I have a trolley and an empty pan case with me - which will be worth it in the end. ...

Meanwhile it's the number 1 to the Arnos Manor Hotel. En route from my bus seat, I spot Sue from the conference leaning over her suitcase. Hmmm. I wonder about panicking that I should have got off, but turns out that Sue has decided to walk for the pleasure of it.

Carole's working us hard this evening. From 6 till 9.30 it's keynote speech, dinner, singing workshop. From 10 till 12.30 I'm on the old Mac, eventually booking the hotel in Purfleet and the train back to Leeds on Monday. Briefly I pause to go down to the bar, take in a pint and try to make a joke of the lost password and the disappearing hotels situation.

Next day's workshops were full-on. I have Lola's ukele and now I know how to use it; I've seen the apps, I'll be buying the ipad; Henry shows me how to edit an audio clip; I rescue Nigel's presentation by getting on the internet wifi and finding his needed youtube clips before his talk ended [teenagers the world over will marvel]; I remeet the Adamses; and Steve gives me a lift to the station.

Sadly as I got dropped off at Bristol Temple Meads I remembered that my train to London was from Bristol Parkway.  Is it only me, Debs?

At Paddington the best laid schemes come to an abrupt end, as it seems little bits of all the Underground lines that I need are closed for maintenance; and at one point I have to pay £2 off my Oyster just to get off the Circle line platform to get to the Hammersmith and City one. One tube stop later I get off at Baker Street to find that the Jubilee isn't stopping there, so it's back to Finchley Road to get it there; and every time I'm up and down steps also with the metal trolley and now laden with all the extra books I bought at Conference.

It's 5 past 11. It's Purfleet and it's nearly a quarter of a day since I left the SMA conference in Britol. I am only coping with this because paying for travel on a card doesn't seem like paying. It's Purfleet and there's no taxi rank. In fact, Debs, it's the middle of nowhere; there's no houses either. I accost a man on the level crossing. "Which way is the town my good man?" Well, not exactly. He unplugs his ears and advises me in a Scottish accent that he doesn't really know but it is posher to go that way, and waves his hand one way.

Now it's Dickens' England; it's dark, with the very occasional street light; the station lights disappear behind me and there's a sound from the hedge beside me. Unsure, I cross the road; looking back a fox pads alongside the hedge; in the distance I see the M25 bridge; the street lights get more frequent; and then, as Hope is springing, the Fleet does indeed hove into view. This weary traveller accosts the smoker by the door. "Are you open?"

Modern Britain reappears; the private birthday party, lava lamps and disco, lets me in; the barmaid offers me cola or juice; I buy a bottle of wine, and sit at a table with the first glass; waiting for the taxi; which takes me to the Premier Inn. There's a moment of doubt when the receptionists tell me that are three Premiers in the immediate; and someone else called called Victoria J-Something in my room. Was I Lithuanian? I opined that I wasn't and waved my mobile phone confirmation email at them.

It's Sunday morning and I should be at a Steelpan Conference in Stratford. Debs, I can't move.  Mysterious luggage -inflicted bruises cover legs and shoulders. It's cost me a packet to arrive nowhere near where I should be, so I am having a moment of going with the flow. Or, as it happens, not going anywhere.  But I wouldn't have missed the Dickens moment in Purfleet for anything.  And Purfleet, what a wonderful name.

[Here's two random pics from St Pancras from the week before - my phone pics seem to have burst the levees of the download world.]