Panyard or Pan Theatre

A panyard is an enclosed area in which a steelband practices for social events and panorama.

The name panyard evolved from the days of Tamboo Bamboo and stickfighting. The stickfighters would occupy a specific area (known as the yard) in which they practice their art. As the yard became more popular, a perimeter wall was made using wire fencing to identify the yard as their dedicated space.

During the transition from tamboo bamboo to steelpans, the players instinctively began to use the yard for practising as many of them were former tamboo bamboo players. The yard soon became known as the 'panyard' and in so the main type of practice venue for steelbands was established. 

As more steelbands were formed, steelband leaders often used the backyards of their homes as their steelband's panyard. This was an advantage to the steelband players as they did not have to find a space to practice and they could practice as often or as long as they wanted.

The development of the steelpan also gave rise to the 'panyard' as many of the steelpan-makers were also steelband leaders. As the tonal quality of the instruments improved, the panyards of the pioneering steelpan-makers became household names. In addition events such as panorama forced the steelband leaders to seek larger accommodation for their steelbands. These new panyards would have areas for storage, pan-making, tuning and a 'roofed' area where the instruments could be shielded and performances could take place. They also allowed for the steelband's supporters to visit and support the band while preparing for performances.

Today, steelbands display the names of their corporate sponsors on their instruments and around their panyards. The members can be from five to one hundred in number and are usually from the locality of their steelband or members of a family and close friends.

 Pan Theatre
A theatre is a building or place where a number of actors or players present live performances before an audience.

A Pan Theatre is a merging together of a panyard and a theatre. As well as being the home of a steelband/orchestra it is also a space that benefits the local community through social, educational and economic opportunities.

Oscar Pile is believed to have created the first Pan Theatre while he was a member of the Casablanca Steelband in the 1940s. The pan theatre was originally a wide open space/area that could be used to practice and hold concerts. At that time pan theatres were popular with tourists who would visit to be entertained and as a result provided the steelbands with much needed income to finance their future plans.

Today, pan theatres are purpose built, often with the aid of sponsorship from corporate businesses. To gain this sponsorship the steelbands operate as organisations in their own right, stating their vision for the steelband and the surrounding community.

Throughout the year, many events are held at the pan theatres but some of these events are not directly steelpan related. The events help to maximise the use of the building and so strengthen the steelband's support network. In some areas the pan theatre is at the heart of the community.

 Ms Panness says.....
In the UK many of the early steelbands practiced in the homes of the band leaders. They would practice in their kitchen, front room or cellar. The steelpans were also stored in the home of the band leader or in their garage if they had one. Steelbands also practiced in pubs, clubs and community centres.

The introduction of steelpans in schools has also led to many of us practising at home or some kind of indoor facility. However many of the places we perform at are outdoors or in larger venues than where we practice. To remedy this, in the summer some steelbands take advantage of the weather and practice outdoors where possible.

Leading up to Panorama, competing steelbands practice on streets and in parks to rally support and get the general public involved in carnival.

 For many, practising outdoors is better as the sound is dampened when indoors. However, if you intend to practice outside you may need to:

  • gain permission from your local authority
  • notify the occupants of any nearby buildings
  • where possible, try to agree times when you want to practice

If you intend to practice at home:

  • notify your neighbours before you start
  • where possible, try to agree times when you want to practice
  • don't practice in any room next to your neighbour's property
  • don't practice with open windows
  • ask your neighbour if they can hear you practising and it annoys them