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UK

Published on December 23rd, 2013 | by Natricia Duncan - Voice Online.Co.Uk

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Steel Pan Bands Are Fighting For Survival

A Steel pan veteran has called for more support for the members of the bands who form the heart and soul of London’s famous Notting Hill Carnival and help keep old traditions alive.

Speaking at the British Association of Steelbands’ (BAS) 15th annual awards ceremony on December 7, Pepe Francis argued that collectives like Mangrove and Ebony help generate millions of pounds for the British economy, yet they are fighting for survival.

A 2002 report by the London Development Agency (LDA) estimated that the event, which takes place every August bank holiday, contributes around £93 million to the economy.

He said: “We work all year to find the many thousands of pounds it takes to prepare a steel band for an international platform. In return for this we get nothing. No thanks. No appreciation.”

BAS events coordinator Debi Gardner agreed, pointing to what she said was “a woeful lack of recognition of the importance and contributions of pan.”

She said: “We’ve got bands and tutors who do a huge amount of community service working with special needs groups and with young people not in education employment or training. Their work is neither recognised nor supported by the government.”

Concerns were also raised about the inability to find places to conduct rehearsals, heavy registration fees and the absence of a suitable, dedicated space for steel bands during carnival.

Notting Hill Carnival, which celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2014, is made up of five artistic arenas comprising calypso, mobile DJs, sound systems, costume or ‘mas’ bands and steel bands, overseen by the recently-formed London Notting Hill Carnival Enterprise Trust.

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