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Published on July 23rd, 2014 | by Robbie Joseph


BAS South London Blockorama and Family Fun Day

The first steelband to participate in the Notting Hill Carnival was the Russell Henderson steelband followed by Sterling Betancourt’s Nostalgia Steel Orchestra. By 1969, there were more bands starting to emerge and in that same year Islington Green School started the first school steelband under the guidance and tutelage of Gerald Forsyth OBE. That paved the way for a number of Inner London Education Authority (ILEA) schools to start up steelpan classes in schools and by 1978 there were over 150 schools in the Greater London Council with steelbands.

This year the UK Steelpan community is celebrating the 50th anniversary of steelband in the Notting Hill Carnival. In 1964, Rhaune Laslett-O’Brien organized a ‘festival’ to help combat the devastating effects of poverty and deprivation in the Ladbroke Grove area. She called Russell Henderson to ask if he could play but her first words were ‘we can’t pay you’ – his immediate response was ‘what time – we’ll be there’. Russell appeared out of a side street with his steel band, The Russell Henderson Steel Band, and the people followed him until nightfall. The community has never looked back. This event is now called the Notting Hill Carnival, the largest carnival in Europe.

The British Association of Steelbands hosted the South London Steelbands Blockorama and Family Fun Day at the South Norwood Lakes Playing Fields in southeast London on Sunday 20th July 2014. This was the first of many events to celebrate the 50th anniversary that BAS has planned for 2014.

Southside Harmonics, Endurance, Pan Nation, Croydon and London All Stars Steel orchestras performed at this iconic event. The Mayor of Croydon, Manju Shahul-Hameed opened the event at 2:00 p.m.  The Mayor ensured that she met every manager/arranger from each steelband as well as all the food and craft stall holders. Endurance Steel Orchestra as the resident steelband based in the Waterside Centre in the South Norwood Lakes kicked off the event with their young and gifted manager/musical arranger, Marlon Hibbert and his group of young pan musicians delivering a riveting repertoire from various genres before Pan Nation led by the talented Chris Storey took over the mantle and carried the entertainment to another level. Croydon Steel Orchestra followed with their skillful musical director, Paul Dowie, leading his youthful band and indulging the audience to another musical treat.

London All Stars Steel Orchestra, the Rollock Family Steelband, led by veteran steel pan tutor, arranger and master tuner, Frank Rollock, had the audience mesmerized with their musical renditions.  This family band, which initially began as the Royaltys has transformed itself into one of the leading steelbands in the UK.  Last but by no way the least to play in the first round of their musical repertoires was Southside Harmonics Steel Orchestra formerly known as the Lambeth Youth Steel Orchestra led by Julian Gibbs, their exceptionally talented manager/musical arranger treating the crowds to a musical explosion with a selection from various genres showing off the dexterity of his players and the adeptness of the instrument.

The rain came and had the audience under covers temporarily before the bands had them dancing to the mystical sounds of steel again. The evening ended with the Pan Podium team being congratulated on hosting a very successful event and plied with numerous requests of the date of next year’s South London Blockorama and Family Fun Day.

Pan Podium and BAS wishes to thank everyone who attended the event.


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