Sunday, 3 March 2013

Huddersfield Carnival Beckons and I think back to not playing Leeds

Well Debs,

It was Rick's birthday actually, and all the family was round, which included several Smalls, so it's hard to say whether braving the freezing cold for the Huddersfield train on Sunday afternoon was a sacrifice or not. [I know what you'd choose, despite your obvious predilection for sunny climes].

Leeds 2004
I arrived early, as the Trans-Pennine train timetable didn't seem to be based around the Carnival's committe meetings. So I passed a chirpy cup of tea doing some Spanish homework in the Head of Steam. [Ah, memories of going home with your mobile the night before you flew back to Abu Dabi!]

backstage Leeds 2006
Leeds 2006
But, like Manchester Carnival, Huddersfield has always welcomed Foxwood Steel [aka Foxwood Steel Bandits], to its streets and arena, while our home town of Leeds has been closing the doors for over a decade now.  In Leeds we played on ever-increasingly small floats [2000 till 2004] until there were no floats for us. Then we got the main stage as the parade went round us.

Leeds 2006
Well, when I say, main stage, the first we got was the main patch-of-mud. Luckily the sun took pity on us, hardened the mud and amplified our plucky little bands [Foxwood and top Sparrows]. Next years we got the stage [thanks to Ian, and for whose support, thanks].

I thought the stage would be the graveyard slot, but in the end people came back into the arena to hear us, and hey, they didn't need to! The following year we found that Walt's mates were doing the sound and so it turned out that John Shepard and his wife danced to us in their front garden somewhere in Avenue Hill.

Leeds 2008
Sadly there was always some complication or double booking. We always came back, with the Doves, with Steel Rising, with South Steel, all Leeds school or community bands. Meantime the West Indian Centre's own band, New World was on the float - Harehills Avenue, Harehills Lane, Roundhay Road, Barrack Road, Chapeltown Road. My float favourite was coming up Harehills Lane with the Fforde Greene in sight. Then I always caught sight of my friends, Vicki and Roger. And waved and waved and waved with the sheer excitement of playing my home town carnival.

Leeds 2006
Actually I always thought there was room for more than one steel band at a big northern Carnival. One year there was us, New World and Huddersfield's North Stars. But in the end, the mainstage, miked up and not squashed between two sound systems was great. And it meant we could put all our bands together.

Leeds 2009
me and the reporter from Radio Five the morning after!
Well, until 2011 when they wanted the stage for the New World juniors. Me, John [Webster] and Vicky went to meet them and offered to bring our own float. We had twenty five disappointed players who had built their summer holidays around playing their own town Carnival.  And I had met a couple of drivers with all the right licences and even lorries at Brotherton Byram Carnival who were up for it.

Anyway, we were all set for Leeds on a float again, then London was burning; Manchester was burning and Leeds had a small disturbance in Chapeltown. The Carnival Committee opined that it would be too risky to put live music on their parade. Myself I couldn't see that a live steelband would be more likely to cause a riot than fifteen huge sound systems.

Nostalgia London 2012
The Yorkshire Evening Post didn't buy it; Radio Five Live didn't buy it, Look North didn't buy it, and Morgan wanted to know why we were spending his 21st birthday playing tunes on Woodhouse Moor. See the clip:
Lionel Sophie as Greeks . [steel bands barred from Leeds carnival floats]. This is more publicity from Look North for not playing Carnival than we ever got for playing it. I got interviewed on my back street the day after Mig's party with Georgia playing pan as accompaniment. The reporter drove all the way from Manchester for five minutes with us. I told him he was bonkers to do that for a story that involved something that somebody was not doing.

Huddersfield Town Centre 2007
As far as I remember there weren't any riots in 2012, but we still didn't get asked to play again, so me and Sophie went off to Notting Hill and dressed up as Romans, or was it Greeks, for Nostalgia. And sadly for New World in Leeds- half of their float didn't arrive so, no steelbands at all at a traditional West Indian Carnival.

Lizzie quizzical on a float in Huddersfield

So Debs, no contest. Not only did I go the meeting on a cold Sunday afternoon; but I was early for it, and, if there is anything I can do for a town that still wants to include traditional live music in its Carnival I will.

Here's two of my favourite Hudderfields: town centre 2007, and float 2008 [or 09?], as we leave Hudawi Cente and approach the Town Centre.

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