Saturday, 21 October 2017

Foxwood Steel play the Mansion House for Sophie and Tommy's wedding.

setting up beside the House
After the massive flurry of high-profile gigs over the summer "holidays" September was almost unbearably quiet, musically speaking. Then suddenly two very big gigs in one day [September 30th]. The first is Sophie and Tommy's wedding at the Mansion House Roundhay Park.

The weather was uncertain. Hedging our bets we set up both gazebos, but as close as possible to the House itself in case we need suddenly to dash inside.

We were me, Bex, Vicky, Daisy, Lola, Sophie, Natalie, Georgia, Charlotte, Sheeks, and for the last two tunes, Bart  [much teasing ensued].

The weather held until suddenly it didn't. In the meantime we included the song that Sophie had requested, Bex had arranged, and we had sort of learnt. We don't think that Sophie [bride] was around to hear it, and we think that that is probably no bad thing.

Well, after that, the deluge. As Louis XIV once nearly said. The banner that Trish had originally made for us in the 80s took the brunt and consequently was too wet to use at John's fiftieth.

If It's Raining . . . . 

Vicky and Daisy did insect impressions as they carried their pan loads from gazebo to van.

Thankfully we were able to set up immediately for the next gig [at TJs], and the pans dried before we returned to play on them.

The End

Friday, 6 October 2017

Foxwood MiniSteel play Marcele's Wedding Anniversary

I can't believe it is nearly a month since our last gig, Leeds Carnival on Chapeltown Road. That was in summer, and now it far from that.

Now it is Saturday night in downtown Roundhay. Not sure the others know what they have let them in for. Do I?

famous impressionist picture


Marcele asked me to be a soloist pan player for her 25th wedding anniversary. I told that me as soloist would entertain no one. I would bring a small band.

No room, says Marcele. So we are an acoustic four-piece, i.e. four pannistes, no drum-kit. And we just fit in under the gazebo with its lovely fairylights. In the Roundhay Steelpan triangle with students Bella, Judy, Julia, Satinder, Ella, Isha, Kurum, Theo all living in adjoining streets. Wow!

I had hoped to meet her son who I had taught way back when at Moor Allerton Primary. He keeps out of my way opining that I would make him play on a pan. As if!

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Foxwood Steel at Leeds Carnival Monday 2017

On Monday I meet Wanda Vicky Sophie and we load in from the Primrose. Then over to Chapeltown.

Officially the parade is starting at 1pm, and we need to be ready to start also at that time. although we are taking bets on anything starting on time. There are fifty troupes and thirty trucks and, in a compact area such as a local main road this is a jigsaw not easily pieced together.

We just manage to find parking spaces near to Chapeltown Stores, but by now all the Mexboroughs Saviles Reginalds and Sholebrokes are chokka.

We are ready to play at one but the last two trucks waiting to get into Harehills Avenue are parked exactly next to us, and playing their sound systems onto the shop fronts. We take bets on whether they can see we are ready to play, and would turn it down if asked. Lol. We wait.

And wait.

Further up the road Pan Nation from London and New World are already on their floats. They are going to be tired! We are itching to play and handling the wait with various degrees of patience and impatience.

At last one and half hours later we can start. Mostly we play road tunes, but also I slipped in Redemption Song, but not without some opposition! Lol!

And, after four days at Northern Ballet playing the melody to Swan Lake with Keisha, Phillipa, Xolani and Akeim, I have leant all the tricky bars off heart and even the ending. So it is officially back in the set for good.

We were filmed for Made in Leeds, stangely enough playing both our Abba numbers. Ceri who runs the café/barbecue today loved Dancing Queen, said how appropriate for the parade. It is nice to have it back in the set.
handy beer/tea holder
band bonding

met Emma watching Pan nation

In the end, nothing really went wrong apart from v slow driving out of the Mexboroughs at fivish, while cars still tried to pour in. Gridlock gone mad and not a traffic officer in sight. Rick dropped me off later; I came back for some tinnies, I found Marcelle parked up on the pavement, where she had been for an hour!

But this has just been the best carnival since that fateful day in 2011. Felt really welcome; and Debs was able to play, first time since going to work in Abu Dabi. Sunny without being too hot.

[Thanks Hilary, thanks Ceri, Candice, Katisha for sorting this spot for us]

There were so many best moments, met so many friends and old friends, so many people danced, saw so many great costumes, and troupes, having a good philosophical with Farmer [from Paradise Steelband], seeing Margaret from pan classes, Claire from the NUT,  and this:

was when two older black men with St Kitts emblazoned across their chests, who had been dancing along with our tunes, said thus: "It is so good to see you, a white band playing pans". I pointed out Natnat and Varshika in what I hoped was a humorous way. But they were earnest, and brushing my flippant observation aside, they went on, "People always think that is a black person's instruments. So good to go see anyone, to see you play them", and more in this vein.

This should be a given, but of late we have come across people from all sides of all cultural divides who think that pans is culturally inappropriate across the board.

I originally leant to play and teach pans [in the 80s] because they had been bought for our school [Foxwood]  with Section 11 money, this originally from a government act of 1965,
designed to combat racism [somewhat prevalent in the UK at the time!]; and when the Sparrows were invited to play for the Festival of Britain in 2011, I was proud that we were following in the footsteps of TASPO [whose Sonny Rollings predicted that every Englishman [by which he meant of course every British man and woman!] would soon own their own pan after they had left.

aerial shot Festival of Britain 2011
But more than that, I loved them: the sound, the looks and the total inclusiveness. When Sparrows won the Music For Youth World Music Award and we played the Albert Hall, out of the twenty-three players, we included children for whom English was their fourth language, children who were also parents themselves, one child who was excluded from school, one recently bereaved, one just out of hospital, very few who could read music, but we had a massive support network of accompanying staff and parents, so that all could be included.

We had played for so many rallies that in the early 2000s the TUC sewed us onto their banner. Wow.

Band No 3 1987/8
Festival of Britain

I knew that just by playing pans we were approving of them, admiring them, showing what a high value we placed on them. It was only when we started playing outside our home areas of Seacroft and Gipton that we started meeting curiosity and disapproval. It was a tremendous shock.

Foxwood Steel Rudding Park 2004
Foxwood Steel on TUC banner
A couple of years after Foxwood School closed, we were playing at a garden party in Roundhay and a rather drunk man wobbled past as we rested between sets and said, "Ooo, an all-white steelband! Well fair-dos. Why not!" and with that he walked on a bit and then fell into the host's pond. [This latter action made it into the local newspaper as one of its reporters was at the party]. We had no idea what he was talking about, but we were soon to find out. [Luckily it is only a few people, and anyway, it has probably made us more determined.]

And there is nothing better than playing at your own local Carnival. Thanks to everyone who has made this happen over the years. Cheers!

Looking up Harehills Lane to Roundhay Road from the float. Nothing better!

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Foxwood Steel at Vintage Vinyl at the Primrose Leeds Carnival Sunday 2017

Foxwood Steel at the Primrose 2017

Primrose 2017
Since our services were no longer required at the official Carnival, our contribution to the activities in Leeds [and beyond] have been a series of adventures.

Lionel Nostalgia at Notting Hill 2013
Notting Hill 2012
Notting Hill Nostalgia 2012
RowenaGarvinAnne-MarieMe 2013

The first year [2011] it was rather short notice, so we played the Malt Shovel in Leeds where Georgia and Lizzie then worked. I love playing in pubs, well we all love playing in pubs. Not just the booze, but the lack of pressure, the intimate relationship you can develop with the audience; the band gets to see each other socially, and it strengthens our relationships. Just all good. Pubs are good.

Foxwood at the Malt Shovel 2011

Second year [2012] Sophie and I did London, marching with Nostalgia. The first day we had to be Greeks. Then Sophie [wisely] left. Second day, exhausted beyond belief.

Savile Park 2013

Third year [2013] Annette asked us to play in Savile Park for her as she waited to join her troupe. So we kept it all really quiet, then we popped up. It was great. however I had already agreed to play Notting Hill again on the Sunday, this time with Rowena
[who also only ever played it once!]

We were grateful to Annette for pushing us in this direction, so . . .

Savile Park 2014
Fourth year [2014] we popped up again. This time it was pouring, but then we got filmed for the official video. Lol.

Carnival Village 2015
By the fifth year [2015] we were beginning to feel a bit stressed about all this popping up, and then Hilary found us [through Ash] and put us on at Carnival Village. We met owner Peter, and played Sunday and Monday, and as this was an official venue we were able to invite East Steel and Sparrows to join us again.
Carnival Village 2016

For the sixth year [2016] we played at Carnival Village again, and again including the other bands, although it must be said that Sparrows were short on the ground [well the under-18s were non-existent].

This year [2017] on Sunday we played for George and Hilary's Vinyl Night at the Primrose. We were me, Vicky, Debs, Charlotte, Gary, Sophie, Wanda, Natalie, Bex [unexpected nice surprise!]. We were able to leave the pans overnight, and the Primrose is en route for Chapeltown for the following day, so,

What are we having? Cheers! Now follows some band bonding.

We also played on Chapeltown Road on Monday, only able once again to bring Foxwood.  But that is for the next blog.