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Tuesday 10 December 2019
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London panman says little value to int’l pan conference

Founding member and leader of London’s Ebony Steelband, Pepe Francis, says the International Conference on Pan held two weeks ago in Port-of-Spain “took us down a garden path.” “If we had to do it all over I would cut out the conference and concentrate on the Panorama,” said Francis, who is also the chairman of the NottingHill Carnival Committee.

In an interview before he left Trinidad last week, Francis said: “Too much energy was spent on the conference where everybody was making a presentation. It seemed like they were saying ‘how wonderful we are, how wonderful my organisation is, how wonderful it is,’ yet the issue of standardisation never materialised,” he noted. “Still a final decision on the International Committee on Pan (comprising steelband bodies from all over the world) will take a few months.

Once the Trinidad elections (September 7) are over, there may be another party in power and it is likely they will revisit these projects even though the government is doing a fine job, as it is now,” said Francis.

Ebony Steelband tied for ninth place with Panorama Steel of Japan in the competition.

Current European Champions, the band was born out of the Ebonites in Morvant with a few Trinidadians who had moved to England. It is one of the first bands to start off NottingHill Carnival in 1969 and has developed a reputation for bringing out the biggest mas band on the road. “I would love to see the International Panorama happen again in the next three to four years but good management is lacking in a lot of areas,” said Francis, pointing to a need for more involvement with the overseas bands in the planning stages.

Among problems he identified as being faced by overseas bands was cost of transporting the band members and no budget for accommodation.

“I used my home at Pole #171 Laventille Extension Road, Mon Repos, Morvant and transported everyone to the Valley Harps Pan Yard in Petit Valley for daily practice .

“It all started from the moment we arrived from London; we were stuck at the Piarco International Airport for four hours because nobody knew who was supposed to come and get us. I eventually got two maxi taxis and when we arrived in Morvant we had to pack the pans in the yard, it was not until the the following morning Valley Harps came with two trucks to collect the pans to take to the panyard,” he said. “One of my dreams was to see my band cross the stage at the Panorama and I have also been pushing Pan Trinbago to do something like that, but it should have been better organised.

“There were other issues, for example, we could not get a proper six bass - so Harmonites sent us one, and we had to shift the B and F notes and then we got two G pan nine bass from Skiffle.

“Then there is the issue of how the steel band leaders were treated - a clear lack of hospitality. Players and their band leaders were pushed unto the grounds where the North Stand usually is, Francis said. Overall, Francis believes the experience would benefit the young players because “it’s an experience they might never get in their life again.”

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