Two days after the official Notting Hill Carnival launch on 26 July, steelpan was the focus of an invitation-only function at The Tabernacle organised by Sonny Blacks’ Commonwealth Arts & Cultural Foundation (CACF).
In the exhibition area, Sonny had arranged some memorabilia of pan in times past – photographs, biographies of pan pioneers, and early steel pans and tamboo bamboo. Although the stories were familiar to pan aficionados, this historic material was fascinating for many other guests.
As well as providing the music, Smokey Joe presided over the presentation of awards for Excellence in Steel Pan Performance. This was a chance to honour those who have contributed to, and continue to elevate, the artform in the UK.
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CACF director Mark Ringwood recalled a memorable first visit to Port-of-Spain’s panyards, while NHCL CEO Matthew Phillip reminded us that those who had received awards were not just great players but also inspirational teachers. It was an important point, as passing on skills to the next generation is the only way to ensure steelpan’s survival in the UK.
No one would have argued with Matthew’s concluding remark: “Long live pan!”
The awards were presented with enthusiasm and good humour by the Mayor of Kensington & Chelsea the Hon. Gerard Hargreaves, who had also been present at the NHC launch event. He was accompanied by Deputy Mayor Cllr Sof McVeigh.
• Stephon Phillip (Phase One Steel Band) • Andrew Facey (Mangrove Steel Band) • Samuel DuBois • Delphina James • Leroy Clarke (Real Steel) • Eversley Mills (Metro Steel Band) • Winston Finlay (awarded posthumously,collected by Annie Finlay) • Russell Henderson MBE, “legendary steel pan pioneer” (awarded posthumously, collected by Joan Shenton).
Two awards celebrated significant anniversaries:
• Dixieland Steel Orchestra, 1961-2021
(collected by Alfred Totesaut, an original member of the band)
• Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra, 1951-2021
(collected by Pepe Francis MBE on behalf of original TASPO member Sterling Betancourt MBE FRSA).