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London panman says little value to int’l pan conference

Pepe Francis is Chairman of the British Association of Steelbands

by Sharmain Baboolal Sunday, August 16 2015 - Trinidad & Tobago Newsday

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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I have watched this process with fascination from the Virgin Islands. I too was hoping to see some real effort in standardizing the tunings and setups of various pans, especially those in most common use (the six-bass is a particular pet peeve), but also am not holding my breath, as I know all too well how hesitant people are to step outside their comfort zones, even if for the good of all and particularly for the future.

Steel bands could travel at much less expense if they could be assured that a local band would have instruments with familiar configurations for their use at their destinations. I don't think very many concert pianists travel with their pianos....

Apparently a logistics person  to oversee  and deliver the requirements of each arriving band was non existent. Furthermore each  foreign contestant was not requested to fill out a Technical rider, for the event organisers to be aware of their needs ahead of their arrival.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.  Fifteen million dollars and , and no airport-city transport  in place, when needed!!!!

I agree with Patrick and Pepe Francis on the comments regarding lack of  hospitality and courtesy. 

It's quite embarrassing to read in the 21st century that events of this calibre in T&T are still being presented with so many blind sides left vulnerable and open to negative feedback. More professional and experienced event planners  are needed for events of this magnitude and importance.

It would seem that the organisers focused on the bare essentials and ignored the other fine details.Clearly the 'V.I.P' sensibility was also non existent , neither was it valued. Is it because the musicians are considered 'just pan men,' rather than pan ambassadors?  This is Shameful.

If lack of funds was the case, this was a perfect opportunity to pair local bands (with visiting ones), to step up and extend hospitality to the visiting bands whether it is in offering to supply loaner pans, or providing transport, accommodations, tuning services  etc. These networking moments lead to other unexpected opportunities abroad.

 I am seeing that many of the valuable comments and observations and suggestions are leading to the production of a powerful  draft of a Memorandum of Uunderstanding that could be submitted to the organisers of the ICP for the future.

It is heartwarming to see Trinbagonians' concern and care for the culture and future of pan and T&T culture as a whole.

Thanks to everyone here. 

For the record, this ICP was produced by UWI and PAN TRINBAGO who was assisted by an inter-ministerial committee drawn from five government ministries and the office of the Prime Minister.

The most intriguing statement in the interview was this: "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.

Claude, the man said that "the gov't is doing a fine job, as it is now" Can't argue with that.

I could translate that sentence for you but it will cause TOO MUCH BACCHANAL on this forum!

I was quoting what the man said. No translation needed, thanks.
Well, well, well! Everything seemed so bright until the sordid facts came out. The treatment meted out to the guys from the U.K was indeed horrendous and inexcusable. One wonders what other horror stories emanate from this venture.

I praised PT for the success of this exercise and now I realize that I was only looking at the surface which turned out to be cosmetic.

patrick ramdoo, It was too good to be true. PT had us all fooled.

As usual!

Not me, Cecil!!! I never came on this forum and PRAISED DIAZ after that ICP. I even stayed away from my usual sarcastic commentary on DIAZ for fear that the intoxicated fandom might mistake it for genuine compliments.

Frankly, I was surprised to see Y-O-U praising the KING'S NEW CLOTHES.

Everybody got carried away with the ICP, we congratulated him last week, this week is back to reality.

I guess you didn't see where I said the ICP was a PR stunt or where I ask if the money spent would have been better on the Headquarters?

Diaz is such a GREAT POLITICIAN that he tie up PEPE head telling him how once the PNM win the elections the future of PAN will be ASSURED. Look at the conflict in Pepe's statement, which is what I was trying to HINT to Patrick.

It is my read that Lincoln Douglas was starting to breathe down Diaz's neck (ACCOUNTABILITY) and DIAZ is a rogue leader who doh want no interference from ANYBODY. So his dream right now is for the PNM to win the next election and get LINCOLN DOULGAS out of the way ... TING NICE AFTER THAT.

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