Monday, 31 August 2015

Steel Pan Workshop at Cellofest Ipswich

Well, Debs, does this happen in Science, I wonder. I have just done four gigs in four days with the least number of players ever. Would you ever do the most number of experiments with the least number of test tubes? Exactly! I thought not.
hands up in the hall
Russian songs.Mmmm
Well, no time for reflection or despair. I am off to the Royal Hospital School at Holbrook near Ipswich. Here I am to spend five days teaching steel pans to the loveliest teenage cellists in the world, plus some of their parents and a lot of their teachers.
Now that panic attacks don't include ordinary roads, Rick is horrified to find that, having driven me down all the way to Ipswich, I have purchased a rail ticket for him, and at Ipswich Station he has to bale out, and then I drive on to the Royal Hospital School in Holbrook on the banks of the Orwell. Slumming it, man!
Slumming it at the Royal



Here I am meeting up with Tess, Liz, Reuben, Katya, Penny, Jenny, Carey, Ana, Richard, Helen, Jane, Clare, Margaret, Alex [though actually I work with Alex in Leeds!], Fiona and Fiona again, and others new: Margaret, Sam, Ollie, well too many. Rachel, Dave and new-born later.
I have been given the Howe Common Room to set up the pans in. As Louie, Libby, Ellie, Finlay, Rachel, Alec and all the other wonderful stewards help me unload and set up, I find that I have brought 22 separate steelpans [ie 29 separate ex-oildrums]. I just lost count loading. [My  friend, Max was helping me. It was just too easy to keep loading!] There was a huge pot plant at the side of the room. I thought it would look nice in the middle.
Bex only left me for 2 weeks & I buy more buckets
This is the routine. Get up at ridiculous o'clock [7am], breakfast at 7.30, start teaching at 8.30 then teach, watch the concerts, teach, lunch, break, teach, teach/playtogether, dinner, concerts, maybe teach a bit more, or first time go to Ollie's wonderful samba workshop. By which time, as my parents used to say, the sun would be over the yardarm and time for a glass of sherry. [Well, maybe not sherry.]
wet back
Reuben overdoes the makeup!
The big joint number this year is the Lion King, and Reuben has the music ready for me. I should probably have listened  to it at least once in situ, but it was parents' pans during the Playtogether [that's my excuse]. Luckily Louie and Libby have a handle on the pans bit, so Rhiannon, Barney and I mime our way through the piece, maybe playing the odd right note. We all get our faces painted. Reuben goes over the top and enters the final performance made-up and dressed as you can see, wielding a dangerous broom and teeshirt.
wet front
This year they are selling t shirts. I buy one, hunt down needle and thread and set about losing the sleeves and changing the neckline. This takes nearly two evenings, and I proudly wear it to the Thursday evening concert. As the concert finishes the heavens open, and the shirt is consigned to the drier, i.e. hanging it up overnight in my room in the south-east of England [i.e. a whole load warmer than Leeds] 
 For the Talent Show the stewards play Somewhere Only we Know, and the parents play Go Tell Aunt Rhodie and  Gimme that Old Time Religion. Ace. The we all play This Train is Bound for Glory, at which point the entire audience congas out of the room. So if the pictures look like there's no audience, they are actually somewhere else dancing! Love it!
The stewards do impressions of the staff at Talent Competition, and I was very honoured to find Louie with blue dyed hair,  rolling up his sleeves over the shoulders, and holding up different coloured chairs going "orange orange orange, blue blue blue".
huge mayonnaise. Mmmm
The five days were over all too quickly. The food this year was exceptionally good. The stewards lay the pans out in front of the main building in a sea of cases. Then down to the bottom of the steps where I so busy photographing them as I reversed that . . .well I didn't hit anyone.
Rick arrives and we head back to Leeds. He isn't sure that lions will get served at the motorway services.
Lion surveying a sea of pans
in van mirror
in 4 days trashed the desk

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Foxwood Steel and Steel Rising at Manchester Carnival: The Manchester Five

Rick was really pleased to find he could drive back to Manchester again. Not.
I dropped him again near a train station and headed back to Alexandra Park for Round Two, expecting locked gates and jobsworths and not being disappointed.
At Gate 1 I told them I was a steelband booked to play in the park. The kind security lady told me I couldn't come into the carpark and that I should have got there before 11 a.m. That I had just driven over from Leeds washed over her. I drove round a bit and found a parking space close by. That was a parallel park and a half! Quite cheered me up.
I phoned Damien, and the other four players and I found each other. Yes, four: Wanda, Vicky, Kirsty and Yi Bai. Eventually Damien got us into the carpark [quite enjoyable] but driving to the performance spot was not happening. Here's Wanda wheeling the music down, and below Vicky lining up cases on the set back down.
But then it was a kinda magic. People came up and played our tambourines. One lady brought her own cowbell. People danced and a visitor from Blackpool phoned up later to book us there, and said we were the "jewel in the crown". The film-maker rushed off to get a new battery, and then we hugged a bit. He said [oh why did I think I would just remember their names], "I was looking around the arena, thinking where are the steelbands and here you are."
Anyway Yi Bai braved the van journey back with me [it was Gary yesterday], and I only had a ten-minute panic attack coming out of Rochdale, and Yi Bai didn't even notice.
One day.
From here down it's just pictures.


Foxwood Steel and Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows at Manchester Carnival. And then there were Seven!

Ah, Tony, the driver is actually on the back of the float. How's that gonna work, then?
And then there were SEVEN
Here's Hylton, long time no see
For very good reasons this blog is subtitled, "And then there were Seven".
Gary - solo
 Did I mention before that, unaccountably, holiday season and steelband request season coincides. Well indeed, and crisis point would be early August [followed by second crisis point in late August].
And, after her first experience of Otley Carnival, Claudia is hesitating about being on a float. We clear up that mini-crisis by putting her dad, Louie, on the float as well. And then surround her with the vinyl sides and give her two full heavy Trinidadian pan cases to sit on. Safe as floats!
Behind us
Rick drives the van across to Manchester, where he jumps out and takes the train back to Leeds. I drive to Alexandra Park, get in at the second attempt, park up by our not-so-fully-scaffolded lorry and go looking for organisers and rope.
I get a message from Vicky - no Ashley at the station! I text him [I should have rung!]
By the time Yi Bai, Vicky, Claudia, Chloe, Tim, Gary and Louie arrive I have nearly finished "scaffolding".
the nervous noticeboard
I find some nice pallets in a bin to use as seats. Vicky hopelessly tries to stop me. Chloe realises that the miniskirt is probably least best clothing for a gig where audience eye-level is below your ankles. She ties a hoody around her waist.
And now Hylton, from Pan O Sonic is at the side of our float playing some tunes. Yo! He isn't persuaded, however, to climb on board.
So here we are, seven of us plus a parent [albeit a musical one]. When Ash finally realises he has slept through the alarm, it's too late. Even he can't make to Manchester in five minutes. Then enter a group of people in matching purple tops, looking for the float that they were expecting to put their banner on. I already know that one driver hasn't materialised and we are about to leave.
What is the banner I ask. UNISON. Well, as NUT and as general education campaigner I offer them the sides of our float, discover they plan to march next to the banner i.e. our float, invite them aboard and hand out tambourines, claves and cowbells. Suddenly we are twelve, and a whole load louder. Plus they have on these lovely matching shirts, and balloons. Later they thank us for the ride. Thank us! I book Elizabeth and her crew for next year!
And there you go. What an honour but what a year to be lead float! And the only steelband at Manchester Carnival. Damien working his socks off to preserve tradition.
And I wondered why there were no white members of UNISON, until I found the leaflet, called "Black Members in UNISON". That would explain it then. And, it did in fact, more than double the number of black players on the float. Never a bad thing for a steelband. [We always used to stand next to Jamillah and Henry etc to get into the papers!].
Actually, when I started Foxwood Steel Band up in all-white Seacroft, Leeds I never dreamt that one day it would be a issue. And really, by now: 2015 it shouldn't be!
If flying by the seat of your pants is for you, contact Foxwood Another Fine Mess Panyard.