UK National Panorama Finals 2017

As usual in early August in London, panyards are reverberating to the sound of practice sessions and enthusiasts are counting off the days until they can revel in that glorious explosion of steelpan music known as Panorama. This year, though, they will have to pay for that privilege.

Notting Hill Carnival Limited (NHCL) announced today that spectators will be charged £5 to attend Panorama. All the money raised will be distributed to the competing steelbands. NHCL describes the charge as “a simple mark of appreciation and respect for such incredible entertainment, and to help [the steelbands] recover some of the large expenses that they incurred in creating their performances”.

Few would argue against the giving something back to the bands that have provided such stirring musical competition at Panorama over the past 40 years. However, the introduction of a charge, even a modest one, is bound to raise concern given the way some politicians have called for the entire carnival to be moved to a park and turned into a ticketed commercial show. Organisers will need to make every effort to dispel fears that the Panorama charge is just the thin end of the wedge.

Apart from 2007‑2009 when it took place in Hyde Park, Panorama’s home has been Emslie Horniman’s Pleasance off Kensal Road. It returns there again on Saturday 25 August – but with a twist. Traditionally, the steelbands have moved along Kensal Road and played to the park; this time they will be in the park, which has a capacity of 6,000.

This is at least partly in response to complaints that audiences could no longer see the bands when they played. Organisers say: “This move will give the audience and bands a far greater and [more] engaging experience.” It will also, presumably, make it easier to ensure that only those who have bought tickets can watch the competition.

Every year the results of the contest are hotly debated by the highly partisan pan fraternity. The new Notting Hill Carnival app ‑ available from Google Play and Apple Store – will, for the first time, allow the Panorama audience to register its opinion. Who knows how this unofficial ‘People’s Vote’ will compare with the official verdict from the judges?

Competing bands this year are:

  • Croydon Steel Orchestra
  • Ebony Steelband
  • Mangrove Steelband
  • Metronomes Steel Orchestra
  • Phase One Steelband
  • Reading All Steel Percussion Orchestra (RASPO).

Matthew Phillip, executive director of Notting Hill Carnival Ltd, said: “Panorama is truly one of London’s undiscovered gems and I would encourage anyone who has not had the pleasure of watching a full steelband perform to come along.”

Few would disagree with Phillip’s verdict on Panorama: “It is a sight and sound like no other!”

Panorama takes place 6‑11pm Saturday 25 August at Emslie Horniman’s Pleasance, Bosworth Road, London W10 3DH. Tickets Adults £5, Children 5-18 years old £1 and Children under 5 free available from eventbrite at http://bit.ly/2vpoZ6m.

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