Friday, 29 November 2013

We nearly didn't make it to Liverpool

Dear Debs

the tyre came to an end at the side of the M62
I enjoy the challenge of teaching offenders, young or old, in a PRU or a secure mental health unit, or wherever. You may remember when we did a gig in the Wakefield Secure Unit, and you all said we shouldn't play "Mad World". Well, I also taught there for a while. Their education officer was a neighbour of mine, whose tragic life ended two years ago in a house fire on our back street.

My experience of working with this wonderful and imaginative woman was the difficulties she faced not just with the inmates, but with her colleagues, who did not altogether support her various initiatives. Such is the unprofessionalism sometimes, of the professions. 

But not at all these wonderful people whom I met in Manchester and Liverpool.

Anyway, Debs, having done a stint in Manchester last month with TIPP [Theatre in prisons] I was invited to do it again in Liverpool. Well that's my home town, and my university town. What could stop me?

Debs, the tyre on the M62 nearly did.

Anyway, after Rick safely got us onto the hard shoulder [and thank goodness there still was one at this point of the M62], I stopped being worried about life itself, and started to irritated about being wet, getting my suede shoes wet, and being late.

The tyre repair man was cheerful, helpful and efficient.

We got to Knotty Ash 40 minutes late, having started off 90 minutes early! The Liverpool staff were as supportive and on the ball as the Manchester ones, so, despite this shaky start, we played our tunes, and ended, by request, with Rivers of Babylon, for which I played the tune quite badly.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Diane and I get up early and go to a conference in Manchester

Well, it's Saturday morning, and Diane is having a go cos our cheap train tickets are taking us via Hebden Bridge and the scenic route from Leeds to Manchester. Anyway a few scenic old factories, viaducts and hillsides later, she is converted [not that I realised that I had booked the stopping train].

Our conference is in the G Mex Centre, where, a few years back, Morgan and I went to see Bloc Party.

We are met by Manchester Music Service Steelband, and it was lovely, natural, unpretentious style of playing, without any forced smiles or unnecessary dynamics. I loved them, but Diane told me we had gone for the conference, and so we had.

After we discussed this and that, we caught the scenic route back in the dark, stopping at even more stations.

I retrieved my bike from the racks at Leeds Station, and headed back to Hyde Park. En route I encountered a retrieve the streets march, and walked with it till it melted into Leeds Met.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Foxwood Steel help turn on the Christmas Lights at Crossgates

Now then Debs

We were doing ordering food in Spanish this week, and that seemed to involve a lot of dead animals. So it seemed like a good time to pack fifteen steel pans and a drum kit into my van.

No storms, no football traffic, no M62, closed or otherwise. A little rush hour traffic was but a pale imitation of last week's adventures.

We were me, Bex, Natalie, Bart, Katie, Sophie, Sarah, Georgia, Charlotte, Danielle, Amy, Gary [very local], Vicky, and very nearly Stewart [now also local].

And because it was going to be a small stage, we only used singles [plus a double bass]. And the rock band let us use their drum-kit, so that was even easier.

First off a quick speech from the Lord Mayor and local councillors. Then it's us; then we're off stage, pack the van, then a few other acts [including a fine Breeze-winning rock band], then fireworks and lights get switched on.

Leeds councillors and Lord Mayor were on first, desperately  trying to find the front of the stage past all these flippin' steel pans.

Didn't have the heart to tell Danielle that Ronny wasn't a real rhino!

Friday, 8 November 2013

Foxwood braved the storms, Elland Road traffic, a closed M62 and rocked Preston

I was on the allotment, kidding myself about keeping it [the hedge, the fallen apples, the runner beans more like rubber beans! the lot] under control, when Nick from Preston phoned. Let down by a steel band at the last minute for her big birthday. Could we?

Well, we don't like people being let down, so, in the end, it was me, Wanda [from East Steel], Lizzie, Gary, Sophie and Stewart on a rescue mission to Preston on a wild Saturday night.

It was Another fine mess, as fine as they get.  We went down well, despite the chromed pans being so cold that, for the first half hour, they tinkled rather than chimed.

We got caught in Leeds football traffic on the way over; the M62 closed briefly for an accident [which Wanda's car just missed]; there were storms, rain and high winds; we spent 2 and a bit hours on a one and 1/2 hour journey.

Me and Gazza missed the booked train back, spent two journeys waiting to be caught out with via-Burnley tickets, spent forty minutes at Manchester Piccadilly, resigned to not seeing Otway. [I had planned to nip up to the City Varieties as soon as we got into Leeds, but it was not to be]. The rubbish on the seats at Piccadilly Station was disgusting. I took photos.

The following day Liz and I went back to the social club in order to collect the pans we had to leave in their utility room only to find it closed!

Thankfully manager, Karen from St Anthony's Social Club was happy to let us leave our pans there till we could rescue them.

Still, maybe next time I should leave my mobile in the house when I go over to the allotment to get away from it all.  Debs, as if! I absolutely won't let people be let down, and I would do all over again. David Blunket once said, re education, that a child only gets one chance, and, in the world of how we traverse through life and celebrate the milestones, we only get to be 30 or 40 or 50 or whatever once.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Diane and I went to Peterborough

Diane and I went to conference at Peterborough. [This is the station the Sunday before the gales]

As it happens the last SMA before it merges with ISM. It was ace; they always are; Carole [Lindsay] puts on a good show. Met loads of people we know, talked rubbish about music education till the small hours. Had two mesmerizingly wonderful talks/workshops: Lin Marsh on how our voices work, and Charles from Voces 8.

Saturday evening found me with Christa for our biennial late night drink. It was so complete that I felt we had taken part in an immersive performance.

Next day was Diane's birthday. Right are a small group singing the birthday tune [the day after Lin had described how and why that interval is so tricky]. We also had a demonstration of Chinese instruments and a steel-tongued drum. Here's me, Sue, Diane, Reg, David, Christa.

Then Diane went on to spend the night on a barge on the Thames on the very night that the UK experienced those gales, and she spent the next day wistfully at Kings Cross looking at all the cancelled trains. As it happened, so did Walter.

Georgia got older, Walt came to work and I went to Luton


No gigs in this blog. Just family and conference].

Our cooker conked out so we bought a new one, from Huddersfield [your adopted UK home town]; the only stipulation was that it was red. And it is. It also works, and I had no excuse, so Sunday the 13th found me baking!  Found a 21st birthday candle, so used that, then added some more single candles to get to actual age.

Maya decided to put some pictures up. V cute.

On the 17th Walter brought his work to Leeds O2 Academy; in short, PIL [Public Image Limited, come, Debs, catch up!] was playing. Tara, Mig and I joined Walt around a very fancy mixing desk. PIL were ace; I had to get up early for Carnival Arts Conference in Luton the following morning, Mig also needed early start so he and I split, leaving Tara and pal to party. [Here's a pic of me and my boys].

I had to get up at 6am, so I woke up at 3, 4.15 and just after 5.30, at which point gave up and got up. Didn't stop me nearly missing the train. At 6.30 I remembered that I had a bike, and that the station was just downhill from my house.

The Carnival Arts Conference was in Luton, a town that I spent an unhappy year and a half in, aged four-five. Well, it wasn't all unhappy, but having to stand in a waste-paper basket at school for stealing a marble which I had found on a table and put on my desk, traumatised me for ever. *

Anyway, this excellent conference was in the Carnival Arts Centre, Luton, organised by Pax Nindi, and here I met several old pals, including Marina from Mirfield and Alexander D. Great from Port of Spain, via London.

I was hugely impressed by [the Republic of] Liverpool and Cardiff's contributions and their experience of organising their own carnivals, wherein they both re-evaluated what Carnival was about. Also thoroughly enjoyed the lady from Bermuda's talk on Junkanoo [see cardboard fish, left]. Alexander [two times UK Carnival Monarch] gave us a great calypso, as a rousing end to conference.

I came away, inspired, and still awake. Marina and I went to St Pancras together. Here was a blue piano, and now someone playing it. Ah live music, real instruments.

Back in Leeds, I remembered my bike and cycled home 20 hours after I had left it, and rather more slowly than before.

 I left a note on the board that evening [see right] to suggest that I might rest on Saturday, but in the morning, Alex phoned up, and next thing I knew I was teaching in his music centre.

* I didn't steal the marble, I found it, picked it up, and put it on my own table. So not hiding it, and didn't, aged 4, deserve the public humiliation that followed.