Thursday, 27 March 2014

Foxwood Steel plays Leeds NUT rally

It's the day of the strike. Nat's got a cold; Bart doesn't know whether his school is out or not till he gets there. Eek and double eek.
 In the end we have a massive percussion section including Jim on congas [and he had only called to buy a set of Foxwood Songsheets from me], Bart on djembe and Natalie herself on kit, and with cold. Plus three Smalls on tambourines. Superb.
Also we were me, Bex, Georgia, Fehmina and Charlotte, and guests: Chloe Sparrow and Wanda East-Steel. I like to think that Wanda changed union to play with us at the rallies. Just leave me in that thought.
We were small but perfectly formed.  At the bottom of the side steps of Leeds Museum, formerly the Civic Theatre, we were playing on stone with large stone walls behind collecting the sound and shuttling it off down Cookridge Street, and across Millennium Square. The weather was very dry sunny and even warmish.
Then Bart and Jim and Bex went back to work, Fehmina went on to work, Chloe went back to college, Gig took her Smalls away, Natalie went off to nurse the cold, I retrieved and reparked the van; Charlotte and Wanda and I packed it, then Wanda and I went to the end of the speeches .

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Activist by day, immersed in Foxwood Nostalgia by Night

So Debs

The next Foxwood gig is for the NUT strike on Wednesday. And Saturday lunchtime found me very very uncomfortably standing in Briggate trying to offer passers-by leaflets re said strike.
Eventually I begged to get the teas and coffees, which led me to stand in a queue in a cafe. Can't decide which is less favourite activity: pushing leaflets onto passers-by or queueing in a shop.

Anyway Debs,
Christine, Patrick, Richard, Nerinder, Kathleen and others were coping with lesser or greater degrees of enthusiasm for this task. Colleague, Cathy and son bobbed by and signed the petition.
As I left a group of Morris dancers was attracting a bigger audience in Dortmund Square.
I retired to the sofa for rubbish detectives on tele, and braced myself for that Foxwood School reunion at the Orchard in Dib Lane. Organised by ex-student Sammi H [nee B].

Well, it was ace. Lots of them there were ex-Foxwood Steel players; Julie had kept a Def Leppard memento that I had given her in mid-80s; I guessed loads of names, some with initials help.
Above all I met a set of amusing, lovable, kindly and well-rounded human beings, who, I felt were a credit to those of us who spent a large part of our working lives at this most wonderful of schools. Wonderful, and of course under-rated.
I was transported back to those "good old days".
There was' as well, Nicola, Hazel, Sammi C, Mark, Darren and more. I collected lots of email addresses. I had three pints and something clear and interesting in a small glass which Mark L bought. And I felt fine. Bit floppy the next day.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows play Leeds Town Hall March 2014

Well Debs,

It is a sad reflection of our times that not only did some schools not allow their students out to play this wonderful CLYM [City of Leeds Youth Music concert] concert at Leeds Town Hall, but actually some students made that decision for themselves. Not so much Sparrows, but orchestra and everyone.

So, just as a reminder I am going to mention here the research from Edinburgh University in 1994 which compared two groups of children. One group had four English lessons a week for a year; the second group had three English and one Music; testing them for English at the end of the year they found that the group that had four English lessons scored less well in English than the other group.
I might also mention that all the Sparrows who took GCSEs last year got average A-A*. Not that should matter. Question is: is it the bright and academic who join this band, or does the hard work of playing pans to these standards raise their academic standards? I hope we also include the bright/musical and non-academic.
Plus, if there was an exam for teamwork, and raised self-esteem and confidence, they would be all showered in A*s!
And so I was a bit nervous when some of the most experienced players couldn't attend the Prom. Debs, I need not have worried. Millie C took on tune after tune on her own; Claudia stepped into the big basses [and guitar pans] and pushed the beat along; Millie C also wrote out every single note of the flute line to ensure accuracy for the Pirates of the Caribbean - that is all 211 bars! Georgia E and Naomi were rock solid on chords, Chloe bounced from chords to melody to bass with style, and newcomers: Ashley and Stephen tried their absolute best, miming the bits they didn't know. Only people to go wrong were me losing my way on Under the Sea chords; and Bart trying to sneak some extra fills into the drumming!
We played as the primary school [and Guiseley] children took their places in the Town Hall, then our set and then the joint number. Tunes included Is Heat, Under the Boardwalk, I Could Have Danced, The Flood, Under the Sea, Clocks and the Pirates.
Chloe and Millie C organised all the loading, setting up and down, packed the van entirely themselves. What a great great team! What great great playing! [And not to forget Bart and I spent about fifteen man and woman-power hours writing out the Pirates in Foxwood Songsheet form, and Bex and Gig also packed in the extra time on rehearsals].

Leeds schools [and parents] who let their students take the opportunity were Allerton Grange, Allerton High, City of Leeds, Lawnswood, Notre Dame and St Mary's Menston.
Too busy playing to take pics during concert. Here's some rehearsal and loading pics.

Foxwood Steel play Oakwood Farmers' Market at Oakwood Clock

Now then Debs

Here's a favourite gig:

As a NotSoSmall, I stood at Oakwood Clock most week days for five years and then took the 3 [which is now bizarrely called the 21]  and then either the 1 or the 56 [now still called the 1 and the 56] into town and out to Leeds Girls; after which, for two years I took whatever in the opposite direction to Allerton Grange.

So when Ian first asked would Foxwood like to pay Oakwood Farmers' Market history started tumbling about, and I thought we might.
We were treated like royalty, and now we play it every anniversary, and then I still remember myself in my stupid green uniform standing lonely there, but excited for my trek across town. Not feeling sad about this, but warm. Green had used to be my favourite colour. Sometimes met people "by the Clock", and hang out.

On Saturday 15 March 2014, out of 21 possible Foxwood players we were nine! You and Danielle are now in D and D. All four drummers are either at work or in Liverpool;  but hey, thank you Sparrows' drummers, Ash and George for stepping in. We were great. The whole idea that is Foxwood, Sparrows and East Steel yet again works as players step in to support the other bands.

We were me, Bex, Gig, Amy, Sarah, Charlotte, Daisy, Vicky, Sophie, plus drummers Ash and George [who also played pans and cahon]. Guesting with us were Sophie and Josie from the Allerton Grangettes, and a rather surprised lady from a steelband in Cumbria. Also Ianto on djembe, and Theo who had only bobbed in to buy some pan sticks so he could go off to Briggate busking.

It was a fight but we managed to establish Jar of Hearts and Under the Sea  as regular Foxsongs, with Bridge Over troubled Water as almost a perennial. Talking of which, bought some nice plants from the flower stall as well.
Here, sitting in his pram is yet another steelband orphan, Daniel, Sarah's Small. There's a red shirt and some minipans waiting for when he can provide us with proper cute factor. Is that child-exploitation?

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Leeds Silver Sparrows Play Music For Youth Regional Festival at Garforth


Well, the music is rewritten and photocopied. Rick and Jason carry the in-tune guitar pans from the pan-room; Jeanette has agreed to stand in on them for the tune when Ashley takes the kit.

And Debs, no-one was late for the train to Garforth! Ah the good old days when Jamillah [teenage player] and Joe [member of staff] missed the train to London for the Albert Hall gig. Or when Yasmin missed the train to to London for the Festival of Britain [and missed that altogether!] [And I had been to Yasmin's parents the night before to explain and emphasise that they must get her up on time!].

Sparrows were Chloe, Millies S and C, Ash, Peter, Claudia, Ciara, G2, George, with Jeanette guesting on the Flood. Tunes were I Could Have Danced All Night, our very own Millie S's Spirit of Trinidad, The Flood, Under the Sea [arr by our very own Peter].

Staff and parents were me [mostly sitting down], Bex, Gig, Bart, Vicky, Trish, Wendy, Bernard, Sarah, Jill. [And obviously this would not have been possible without Bex, Bart and Gig [and sometimes Mikey and Maya!] stepping up while I languished at home with the old cabin fever.]

They played their socks off, reduced a few of us to tears with the Flood and Under the Sea [with apologies to Somerset!], and then we watched a great selection of rock and classical stuff, with colleague, Alex Cairns's wonderful Garforth rock band, and then this incredible snare drum ensemble.

Swan Lake Again, now it's in Bradford

I persuaded Bex, Gig and Diane that they would like to see Matthew Bourne's Swan Lake at the Alhambra in Bradford.
In the absence of pics of the lovely swans, here's some pics of the lovely Bradford Centenary square, the lovely Alhambra Theatre and theatre bar, Bex, Gig and Diane posing by the "porn wall", and me and gig asleep on the train.
I liked it even better when I saw in London, only because I was expecting it. Getting the train over was nearly an adventure for me, B and G; and getting out of the carpark was definitely an adventure for Bex and Diane.
We were super on time, in time in fact for a pre-show drink - massive, made all the difference.

We were in the Upper Circle; Diane got vertigo and we had to hold on to her for a bit. Swan Lake was great. I loved the cygnets, again, and the pas de deux again between the boys.

Then home to Mig and Gig having a cushion fight. Ah!