To perhaps the main event of the year, maybe of the last three years:
But first a little history:
Three years ago London was burning, Manchester 's town centre was looted, and a few youths ventured onto the Leeds streets only to be told to go home.
This was the successful and peaceful outcome of the older community members taking to the Leeds streets themselves.
At one point it was thought that Manchester Carnival would have to cancel their parade (oh no, don't stop the Carnival). The parade organisers and indeed the Police as well that it wasn't fair that a group of low life scum should spoil a wonderful community family multi-cultural event.
Having unbooked Foxwood Steel, Manchester quickly rebooked us. Leeds, our own home town, however, decided this was the time to unbook us forever, offering as a reason that live music on the parade might cause a riot. Having been a great supporter of Leeds West Indian Carnival for decades, player for 14 years, and band leader for 11 of those years, I was dismayed, not just disappointed for myself, but for all mine, Charlotte's, Nat's and Bex's players who had booked their holidays around Leeds Bank Holiday weekend.
The letter they send me ended thus: We hope that the event helps to continue the process of UNITY, LOVE and equality, which sends out a local, national and international message of hope.
I know that's how they traditionally sign off letters, but in this case, I thought it was a bit cheeky.
Confidence conducts the Sparrows at M4Y in Chamberlain Square Birmingham 2006
The press was dismayed on our behalf, and we got more media coverage for not playing Carnival than we ever got for playing it. Here are the links to BBC News
|Sparrows Albert Hall 2009|
and even Radio 5 Live drove across the Pennines to interview us, while Georgia played pan on Moorland Avenue as background.
|Sparrows Albert Hall 2009|
Debs, if this had been a private party, I would have said fair enough, but this is a publicly funded event. Half the players [Sparrows and their teachers] have represented Leeds at The National Festival for Music For Youth 6 or 7 times, included that little stint at the Albert Hall (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fR6_pbGve3Q ), and playing for the Festival of Britain at the Royal Festival Hall. [Pics right for Sparrows at Music For Youth , including Royal Albert Hall]
|me and Annette|
"You playing Carnival, miss?" asked one Year 7 boy (and grandson of a local musician) at a local school. This was last year. I told him I wasn't, and wondered what explanation to give to an eleven year old. "What's the matter," he laughed, "you too good for them?"
|John and Varshika|
Well, Debs, it's three years later, and high time, I tried to put matters right. Then out of the blue, a Sparrows' parent invited me to play for her, her family and friends (many from St Kitts originally) in Savile Park while she waited to join the troupe, put together on her behalf, a troupe dedicated to cancer-awareness as she herself battles this disease.
This was an offer, Debs, that we couldn't really refuse. Annette provided me with the invite, the excuse and the opportunity to put our bands back in the hometown carnival where they rightfully belong.
the sleeping squirrels
(and there was a personal connection. Annette was the nurse-on-duty the night that 8 week old grand daughter, Maya was in hospital, and her presence there caring for Georgia and Moo was something I will always be grateful for. Always.)
And so, Debs, this is how me, Bex, Vicky, Charlotte, Lizzie, Sarah, Sophie, and gawd-bless-him, John the drummer came to be a flash mob pop up band in Savile Park this Monday Bank Holiday, with a little line of children (some my pupils from last year) curled up like little sleeping squirrels in front of and then on our banner. Making Charlotte's and my eyes prickle!
We were only half of Foxwood, as this was only arranged 5 days in advance; weren't able to bring any South Steel, Sparrows or Steel Rising in case we got moved on, but we sounded great. The sun shone on us, and I shall be grateful forever to Annette for giving us this challenge and for band members in Leeds on the day for rising to it.