Thursday, 24 September 2015

Foxwood Steel and Sparrows play for Communications Matters Conference at Leeds Uni

On Monday evening Daisy and I met Yi Bai outside the marquee opposite the University Union. We were greeted by Connor, with How may I help? Heavens, I have only got replies for You can't park here!

 It was a good start and it stayed good.
First we played for the pre-dinner drink in the marquee which had been kindly left over set up for the piano competition.
Combining two bands is easy if you stick to tried and tested songs, but I'm up for a few risky moments, and  we had them and there were indeed a few slip-ups.
Hilary who booked and liaised with us came dressed as a camel. This was a bit disconcerting.

For the first set we were me, Daisy, Yi Bai, Charlotte, Ashley, Claudia, Milly, Gary, Varshika, Georgia G2, Vicky and Bart. And half-way through Bex popped up. Yippee!
We exchanged Georgia G2 for Georgia G1 for the second set, also lost Daisy, and gained Sophie and Fehmina. We also move over to Refec. On the balcony we were provided with posh sandwiches and cake, then set up on the stage where I watched, amongst others, Wilson Pickett, The Yardbirds, The Ramones and the Cure. Not all at the same time of course. Staveley got very excited about the photography possibilities, and somewhat neglected his percussion responsibilities.
There was a live twitter on the big screen behind us, and lots of compliments to us came up live. This, plus the great audience response, their conga, the insistence on an encore lifted our spirits no end. The acoustics were great in the marquee but a bit weird in the big hall.
Sadly we weren't to everyone's taste. On the way to the bus stop one of our players overheard two people discussing us:
 ". . . next time they play . . . "
" . . . yeah, I was so bored. Couldn't wait to get out . . ."
I told the player I was sorry they had had to hear that, and asked if it had spoilt the feeling [cos the feeling was buzzing!], and they replied, "Of course not! . . . It was great! you can't please everyone all the time. . . "
Well, I wouldn't have coped so well, but, hearing about it after the event was okay. When Foxwood, or any of our bands play, it is not just for the money or for the good cause, it is for the buzz and the lift that we get doing it, and the buzz and the lift that we want our listeners to feel listening. And if neither of those things happen, it is quite pointless.

Very sad that someone couldn't wait to get out, but as the player texted me, "You can't please everyone all the time, it's only two, so no big loss." Wise words.
Next: Dewsbury Town Hall.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

East Steel Rocking Elland Road Police Station

Well Joyce has come back for more! She joins Wanda, Lynn, Kirsty, Pippa, Sophie, Yi Bai, Vicky, Anne, Trish, Maddie, Bex and me for the last sunny gigging day of the summer - as it turns out.
This was a very well played gig, song after song - just perfect. The weather warm and still; no amusing mishaps; Liam took pics from all angles, so here it is in pictures.
East Steel was born in 1999 at East Leeds Training Centre [formerly Foxwood School] as a satellite for East Leeds Music Centre. We were gigging by the summer. We rehearsed in the old weights room just off the main hall, then back stage. After a year or so we moved into Parklands School to be properly part of East Leeds Music Centre. Sixteen years later, East Steel is regularly gigging band, part of the Leeds music scene. [And what started at Foxwood School in the early eighties was continued at East Leeds Music centre in the late nineties].
To learn steel pans you can go to classes at three music centres, organised, funded and run by Leeds ArtForms Music Service: North Leeds Music Centre, East Leeds Music Centre and the Steel Pan Music Centre. For details see the Leeds ArtForms website.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Foxwood Steel and Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows play Leeds Rhythms Carnival Village

By the time Foxwood and Sparrows took to the stage this afternoon, it was dry and all the electrics in order. We were me, Bex, Georgia, Ash, Wanda, Yi Bai, Vicky, Sophie, Milly, Holly and Charlotte.
Sue [ex-Foxwood] came to watch, but wasn't tempted on stage. Next time, Sue. We put Ashley where he could rest against the side wall if needed. ! Wanda from Steel Rising was doing sterling on them basses. Staveley [Andrew] played tambourine when he wasn't snapping us. And he perfectly captured the moment we play each others' Cs in Lay All Your Love.
We stopped as the Carnival Procession came past. It was smaller than usual. It had two live bands, New World, whose playing sadly was drowned out by the following float, and later down four djembes, sensibly miked up, looked good and sounded good. Nice scaffolding.
Some nice costumes. here's a coupla pics. The two girls in pink had escaped from the main procession and were shimmying up the other side of Chapeltown Road. Then, just as Sophie and I decided to go back to Rhythms Carnival Village, the spectator side of the road filled up with dancers, so danced sideways through them to get to the pavement again.


Saturday, 12 September 2015

Leeds Pan Central open up Rhythms Carnival Village Leeds Bank Holiday Monday.

 Sophie Bex
Well we would never had fitted onto the stage anyway, but overnight it had flooded, so while Marcus and Connor sweep away the wet, we put up the gazebo and cunningly attach a nice piece of waterproof sheeting. Attaching it from the gazebo to Marcus's van. Put Ash to stand under where when it dipped. Joking! Actually looking at the photo below, perhaps not.
This morning we play to revellers returning from J'ouvert, to cooks and djs setting up their stalls along Chapeltown Road, to individual troupe members as they walked up from the West Indian centre to the Potternewton Park. It was bit rainy but the sound carried, amplified by concrete and gazebo. And maybe that pans can be loud.
Joyce and Adele braved us two days running. Pippa, back from her holiday made it over. The rest of us were me, Bex, Vicky, Yi Bai, Wanda, Sophie and Ash. We were ace. We have a repertoire of well over twenty songs that we are common to all three bands, and, give or take a couple that at least one band was sight-reading, we played from these.

Pippa Sophie

After four years of being excluded from Leeds Carnival Proper, it was great that Hilary, George and Mexican gave us this opportunity, and I was pleased to be able to include all our players in this event.

Enjoy the pics.

Yi Bai

Anne Joyce Adele
Marcus Connor

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Foxwood Steel, Sparrows, Steel Rising do Sunday at Rhythms Carnival Village

Most of Foxwood was on holiday and Sparrows at work. So these two bands together nearly numbered less than East Steel on its own. Yo. Thankfully by the time we are on, the stage has been floored, and the sound installed, and the eight/nine/ten of us are miked up.
 After us a few acts including amazing Gospel choir, just back from not performing in the Park. 
For the afternoon set we were me [Victoria], Bex, Vicky, Yi Bai, Claudia, Gig, Charlotte [guest from Nostalgia], Wanda [Steel Rising], and just as we were starting to play up comes Ash. And then, the entire Keir family hoves into view.
Tamanna makes it onto stage for the rest of the set. After six years. That is brave. [But she did say, "Is Heat, I don't know that". I said, "You played it at the Albert Hall!" LOL]
The last set as the day darkens, is me, Bex, Vicky, Yi Bai, Ash, Milly, Charlotte, Wanda and now Sophie. Also featuring Andrew the Photographer on tambourine. Does that make a percussion section? Well, I like to think so.
Marcus and Connor are still on the sound; Ifty is making some cool vegan burgers. Grafton has now appeared. He has been tuning pans in London for Panorama bands and just driven up to Leeds. Partner, Charlotte is playing the single guitar pan that Grafton made for one our players a few years back.
Because Charlotte is used to playing with marching band, Nostalgia, she is happy with a single guitar pan.  In Leeds, because we don't march very often the single pan is often seen as either inferior because players think, as it has only nine notes, it must be in some way easy! Or they can't handle the fact that for some chords the root note is not an option, and sometimes neither is the third. Easy! Not at all!
I would like to thank Hilary, George and Mexican for this opportunity to play Carnival. It means an awful lot to us. I have been playing pans for over thirty years; Bex, Georgia, Wanda for over twenty years;  the others today for over a decade.  Between us, we have played some prestigious venues from Leeds Arena, Leeds Town Hall, Leeds Civic Hall, London Southbank Festival Hall, London Royal Albert Hall, Birmingham Conservatoire, Leeds Carnival mainstage and float, Manchester, Huddersfield this, that and the other. But, of all of them, playing your hometown Carnival is just the best. And, it has to be said, we were ace.
 I know.

Friday, 4 September 2015

East Steel Open up Leeds Carnival at Rhythms Canival Village

Leeds Carnival Sunday at Rhythms Carnival Village.

Leeds Carnival mainstage 2009ish
It was summer 2011, and after 11 years of being the band leader for what was sometimes the only steelband in Leeds Carnival, Foxwood Steel with Leeds Steel Sparrows and Steel Rising were finally given the push. The excuse was that recent riots meant that there was a chance that a live band on a float might incite a riot.

Foxwood on float at Leeds Carnival with Archway 2004 [?]
Foxwood float at Lds Carnival with Friends of Potternewton Park
Well the Yorkshire Evening Post, Look North, and bless 'em, even Radio Five Live didn't think this was likely and we got more coverage on tele, radio and in the paper for not playing Carnival than we ever got for playing it. Hoping that I would be invited back into the fold the following year, I didn't make waves, but it is fair to say that we were gutted.
I, personally, went down to London and played Notting Hill Sunday with Nostalgia marching band, and then all of Foxwood played the Malt Shovel in Armley, Leeds. Grateful to Joanne and Del for giving us this outlet, but sadly no possibility for Steel Rising and Sparrows, who had also booked their Bank Holiday weekend around their local Carnival.
in float at Leeds Carnival 2002 [?]
Lionel Victoria 2013 Nostalgia Notting Hill
Rhiannon Anne-Marie Victoria Garvin 2013 Nostalgia 
In the Malt Shovel Leeds March 2013
Notting Hill 2012[ ?]
Nostalgia Notting Hill 2012
Foxwood at Savile Park 2013 Leeds Carnival
Victoria and Annette
The following year, despite there being no riots in Leeds or anywhere saw us still uninvited to the party, so it was me and Sophie who hit Notting Hill and marched pan de neck with Nostalgia. Then 2013 Annette invited/made us play Savile Park, and I will never be able to thank her enough. She gave us the reason to fight for our right, and we did. And it was nice and sunny. Next year it poured; we ventured onto the bandstand and put up our wonderful and expensive gazebo, and even got filmed as officially part of Carnival.

Savile Park 2014

2014 Savile Park
This year I told Ashley to find us a café on the route at the time as Hilary was telling Ashley to find us. And we did rather better than a café. We got Rhythms Carnival Village. More anon.
And this is how we were able to invite East Steel and Sparrows again. I remember how Joyce once said, in a comment to the class about when East Steel could play Carnival i.e. when community bands were properly welcome. She said, Bloomin' 'Eck! I'll be in my zimmer frame before that happens. And I had just found out the very same that she would now be available to play again [for saddish reasons]. Adele too was back with us after a trying couple of years. Besides them we were me [Victoria], Bex, Vicky, Yi Bai, Lynn, Anne, Charlotte [from Nostalgia], Trish, Wanda and [guest Sparrow] Milly. The floor wasn't in place on the stage so we played on the ground, which really was better. Less status but more audience interaction possibility.
sorry about smudge on lens
The obvious audience, apparently was Wendy's friends [although in the end Wendy couldn't make it] and the next act, but all around the Carnival Village and the neighbouring streets, people were opening up and setting up and walking up Chapeltown Road and generally getting ready for Carnival to the sound of steel pans. It was good to be back.