Saturday, 23 March 2013

Foxwood Steel at Oakwood Farmers Market

For two or three years in my younger teens, I used to stand at Oakwood Clock every week day in term time to catch the 21 into town, and then change for the 56 to Headingley. Then I lived on Ladywood Road and went to Leeds Girls High School on Headingley Lane/Victoria Road.

So, whenever Foxwood is asked by Ian to play around this little landmark, I have a moment or two of nostalgia. I had passed the 11+ so I could I could have gone to Roundhay, half a mile up the road, and then with a tremendous university entrance record, but my parents were new to Leeds, and it was the moss green uniform on the other side of town for me. Well, until that massive row with Miss Sykes, and, for sixth form, it was the 21 the other way back up Street Lane to Allerton Grange. Not quite as often as was signed in! [Actually, after the day of the roll call for initials in the register compared to sixth-formers present was 18:12, I think they went back to the form teacher taking the register. We didn't really care, and found this quite amusing. This can't be said for the day of our A level results.]

Oakwood Clock with the new Fish Bar, now listed, I believe, and with post office/paper shop where I did a paper round from for six rather inglorious months and where I perfected the art of being late. Who else had their mother drive them to the post office in their dressing gown, and then up Oakwood Lane to the first drop! Still, I never missed a day, and when I finished, they gave me a bar of chocolate for [my mother] never missing a day.

And here we are. On a cold March morning playing all our favourite tunes and having a right good time, getting photographed with an MP a new local councillor and the Lord Mayor. I have to leave early to go to an Anti-Academies Alliance meeting in London. Bex takes over, seamlessly I assume. It's Foxwood's first gig of the season, and we are me, Bex, Daisy, Gig, Lizzie, Tim, Sarah, Amy, Danielle, Katie and Vicky. Nat is teaching, Stewart at Uni, and Charlotte is asleep.

Bex Vicky on Waterfront
Catching the 6.05 back from London, I meet Bex and Vicky and we go to Cheryl's party on the Waterfront. Took several highly unflattering pictures of each other, so the best I can offer as pictorial remembrance is this on the left.

They went on into town. There being no 56 for a bit I took the No 1 up Headingley Lane, rucksack still full of anti-academies stuff and Russian homework. That was a long day.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Winifred Mercier Lecture, Maya takes a kitchen bath

Well Debs,

Life is such that being at a university lecture comes under the recreation blog. And thus it was. Melissa Benn came to give the Winifred Mercier lecture at Leeds Met - this put on by pal and former fellow-governor, Prof Lori Beckett. Accompanied by Ann and Tim. 

Went to the drinks reception afterwards. Fortunately I was driving, because speaking from the floor had made me hyper. So it was one glass of wine and some stuff with choux pastry and mushrooms for me.

A bit earlier, in February, Georgia decided to give Maya a bath in the sink. Clearly Maya was in heaven. 

Even earlier I went to see ex-pupils, Kelly ad Chris in their band, Hobsons at Escobar, Leeds. 

I think that sums up my late winter/ early spring entertainment. 

Monday, 11 March 2013

Lees Silver Steel Sparrows at Lord Mayor's Charity Banquet

Tumbling off the train, up Park Row, into the waiting arms of Leeds Civic Hall, Banqueting Suite, unload the van, set up, sandwiches waiting for us.

We are staff: me, Nat and Vicky [who didn't know she was coming to Harrogate till yestaerday, and didn't know she was coming to the Civic Hall till she got to Harrogate.

Players: Peter, Millie S, Millie S, Chloe, Claudia, Ciara, Naomi, Sarah, Little Georgia, Danielle, Imogen, Amy.

Just in time, let's go through our set again, then reprise Clocks, Buffalo Soldier, Blue, Is Heat, and OMG the new players are sight-reading, listening to chords being shouted at them. Proud? Bursting! Play the set again [for late arrivals].

Lord Mayor is Anne Castle. She made us take a bow. We shuffled about awkwardly in the doorway. Finishing packing and disappeared into the rainy Leeds night.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Sparrows play Music For Youth Harrogate

rehearsal bun break at City of Leeds School
You know Debs, what makes a thing work isn't only what happens on the day. It's what leads up to it. As well. So when the Sparrows played so beautifully today at St Aidan's it was because everything that had happened before came together.

rehearsal February
rehearsal January
First we chose an eclectic mix of tunes from different eras, then I sat at my desk, half an ear on the Lewis repeat of a repeat, mechanically copying out conventional music bars into Foxwood Songsheets.  Then we tried them out on the class. They sounded terrible. We persevered. By Week 4 they still sounded terrible and we hadn't even finished I Dreamed a Dream. By autumn half term I heard that they were making Les Miz into a film. Just what I needed. My idea of an unusual choice was being whistled down streets the length and breadth of mainland Music For Youth Britain.

Then it was the eighth or ninth week of learning our quartet of tunes when Sarah [I think it was Sarah] said: do we have to do these again? Well, yes, we did, over and over again. One by one, each of these new tunes had a breakthrough; then the Town Hall concert, then Pat and Lynn came to the last rehearsal for a bit of constructive criticism.

Then we had to carry the pans down the school corridors, and back into the van; on Friday Tim and took the instruments to Harrogate, and set the stands up in St Aidan's Hall; Saturday it's the train: getting on at Leeds, Burley Park, Horsforth, get off Hornbeam Park.

performing at St Aidan's
Walk a lot, buy tea and buns, play our tunes, listen to the other bands. Loved the Flutes; loved Tewitt, loved Mark Pallant's last orchestra, well loved all the ones we saw.

leading off
Long but nice adjudications. Suddenly it's 5.20 and we have to run for the train. Just made for the 5.40pm. Natalie and Vicky packed with remaining car-driven Sparrows. Rick drives to Leeds Civic Hall ready for the Lord Mayor's Banquet.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows at Leeds Town Hall for Barnardo's Benefit

Well Debs,
band with Sid
It's months since a good gig, and now we have done it. On St David's Day the Sparrows were at Leeds Town Hall. They were Peter, Chloe, Little Georgia, Danielle, Amy, Ciara, [a very surprised] Hannah, Claudia, Naomi, and we were Natalie, me and Tim.
me, Vanessa and Danielle

The presenter was Sid from CBBs, who agreed to pose with us as we were packing away.  We played our Music For Youth set: Dreamed a Dream, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Jar of Hearts and I Will Alays Love You. Plus joint numbers with all the choirs: Barnado's and One Voice. We did try playing kit for these joint numbers but the time delay was just too much. Or was it my kit playing, before Natalie arrived?

Barnardo's: the tune was written by Douglas Coombes, who just happens to be the husband of Carole Lindsay who is the national distributor for the Foxwood Songsheets, and who also wrote one of our signature tunes: Lazy Coconut. Vanessa [also from ArtForms] conducted the joint bands, and we all went home shattered. But happy.

Monday, 4 March 2013

Don't Make me go to the Pub again

building Peterboro Station 
On Thursday Lola was six. They all went to sing Happy Birthday. I took the train to Norwich. Changed at Peterborough. Which they are still rebuilding. Accidentally booked first class. There I was with my sandwich box and flask, and there they were with their pots of tea and vegetarian sandwiches. Met Joy at Norwich. We put my sandwiches in her fridge.
the old and the new at the cathedral

There's twelve pubs within walking distance of my house, said Joy. I took this to mean four an evening, and I was starting to psyche myself up for them. We started slowly doing the York and the Rose on Thursday, but on Friday evening, it was please don't make me go to the pub, New Tricks and the Arts Review Show.

On Friday we checked out the Town centre, took the bus to Nina's, Guy took us to the business park wherein Adrian James Acoustics. This involved my leading them up a country track which led nowhere but did involve a certain amount of giggling and hysteria. Anyway we went back and found the place.

Victoria, Victorian postbox, Norwich market
Here I learnt some very interesting stuff, to be put on my Education Camapigner blog. I was in educational heaven. Thankfully Adrian was able to take us back into Norwich in his car.

Rob, Joy, basses
me Rob and sinking mallets
On Saturday we checked out Norwich Town Centre, saw the Everton supporters shortly to be disappointed [Joy and me both born Merseyside], met Rob Slocombe [who, a decade ago bought my very first set of Foxwood Songsheets]. Rob was newly retired and newly back from Trinidad where he had been studying pan-making and tuning. Now he is about to re-start his steelband with Joy signed up to be in it. I was in steelpan heaven. Thankfully Rob took us back into Norwich.
the York

That evening the wall of sound that met us as Joy and I tried Pub 3 was so overpowering and so physical that we left. [Ironic that we had just been talking acoustics with Adrian]. We didn't even go inside Pub 4, but just looked in at the band, and then headed back to the lovely York.
as it says on the tin

On Sunday checked out Joy's grandmotherly status at Noo's. Thankfully Guy was able to take us to Norwich station.

wild baby irises in the wildflower area

The trains back to Leeds were really full, and the one from Ely to Peterborough was a replacement coach. Thankfully Rick was able to meet me from the train, and I sank into the waiting arms of the red sofa and Dancing on Ice [come on Beth [Tweddle]!].

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.