Steelpan organisations

The first steelpan organisation that was set up in the UK was The Steelband Association of Great Britain. Although it is no longer in operation numerous steelpan organisations have been formed throughout the UK as a testament to its legacy. Over time these organisations have helped to define the merit of the steelpan as an education resource. Regardless of each organisation’s individual achievements, they have come as a result of their endeavours to promote steelpans and bring enjoyment to the wider community.

Some of these organisations are as set out below:

Steel Pan Academy – Warwickshire

The Steel Pan Academy was formed with the aim ‘to further the steelpan tuition being provided by Warwickshire County Music Service’. 

In 1997, steelpan maker Victor Philip made the first set of steelpans for Warwickshire County Music Service. Within a few years more than 50 schools received steelpan tuition as a result. In 2002 Warwickshire’s flagship steelband, Pandemonium, along the parents of some of the band members went to Trinidad carnival to experience the Panorama finals, Jouvert and Mas. By 2005 Warwickshire County Music Service had organised three Steelpan Festivals for the schools in their area. The festivals were successful, each attracting up to 35 school steelbands. In that same year the County Youth Steel Pan Orchestra (CYSPO) was formed. 

In 2007, the Steel Pan Academy’s aim came to fruition and in 2008 it received funding to form a traditional steelband.  

The Academy provides 

  • Regular peripatetic steel pan teaching in Coventry and Warwickshire schools
  • Full and half day workshops for schools, community groups and corporate team building
  • After school or evening groups for both children and adults 
  • Holiday Clubs during school holidays
  • Traditional steelbands for performance and fundraising

The tutors Kali Matthu, Brian Noon, Lisa Russell and Bev Wickham are all experienced steelpan teachers and players who work for or have worked in schools within the Academy’s catchment area. The Academy also supports the University of the Third Age Steelband.

The Steel Pan Academy Steelband regularly performs in Leamington Spa and the surrounding areas. In 2012 the steelband performed at the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The Steel Pan Academy Steelband has also formed a close partnership with Victor Philip’s steelband Phase One. The two steelbands have collaborated on many occasions touring Barcelona (2007), Paris (2009), Italy (2011) and Belgium (2014).

Steel Pan Trust – London 

The Steel Pan Trust was formed in 2013 ‘to advance the appreciation of the steelpan through tuition and public performances’. 

The Trust has three core projects: 

  1. Pan Clash - an annual Soloist Competition held in October 
  2. Classorama - an annual School Steelband Competition held in July 
  3. STEELPAN - a theatre production

These projects are reminiscent of early steelpan festivals that were crucial in inspiring young children to start playing steelpans and gave those who were already playing a sense of purpose, fulfilment and optimism. 

The Trust also provides workshops, volunteer opportunities, weekly classes and a digital media communications platform to support their steelpan network. Many of the steelbands that are affiliated to the Trust regularly busk to raise funds to ensure its smooth running

Steel Bands North – North East 

Steelbands North was formed in 2000 as part of a Youth Music initiative to support young people in the North East who were involved in or wanted to get involved in playing steelpans. Youth Music set up and then developed Youth Action Zones in Morecambe, Norfolk, London, Thanet and the North to act as the driving force behind excellent music-making in those areas.

The aims of Steelbands North were to:

  • provide steelpan music across the whole of the North of England
  • manufacture instruments for outreach work
  • provide training for young leaders
  • offer training placements in local schools, and 
  • run a website

As the project took shape and the number of steelbands it supported increased, Steelbands North started to work with steelband leaders from other parts of the country such as Dudley Nesbit (Leeds), Scott Sinckler (Manchester), Earl Rodney (Bath), Toussaint Clarke (Bath) and Arthur Culpeper (Manchester). The success of Steelbands North was unprecedented with its quarterly newsletter being distributed worldwide. 

After the Youth Music project came to an end, NTSB took over the running of Steelbands North. The aims of Steelbands North remained the same; providing a much needed resource and link to the wider steelpan community. In 2015, Steelbands North formed a regional steelband called Northern Steel Orchestra to take part in Junior Panorama, London. 

Culture Mix Arts – Berkshire

CultureMix Arts (CultureMix) was formed in 1985 ‘to widely promote and raise awareness of the benefits of participation in carnival arts and music by encouraging access, education services to schools, professional development, employment and entertainment locally, nationally and internationally’. Culture Mix originally offered carnival arts, dance and music workshops for all ages. 

In 1997, CulturemMix formed Reading All Steel Percussion Orchestra (RASPO). The name was chosen to commemorate Trinidad All Steel Percussion Orchestra (TASPO), the first steelband to officially represent the art of playing steelpans in the UK. 

RASPO provides steelpan music tuition at their panyard and in schools across the Reading area as well as carnival and steelpan workshops, schools’ steelband festivals, tuning services, steelpans for sale and a steelpan agency for bookings.

  • Locally, CultureMix founded Berkshire’s first Schools’ Steelband Festival.
  • Nationally, RASPO provided entertainment (performing Quondo Quondo Quondo) for The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson’s press launch of the giant Olympic rings on the River Thames.
  • Internationally, RASPO in collaboration with Bucksburn Academy Steelband employed Berklee College of Music, New York, student Iman Pascall to arrange ‘Calling Meh’ for UK Panorama.

CultureMix also offers work experience to Year 10's and two annual internships for steelband members who are attending college and would like to learn the basics about running a business. The internships involve gaining day to day experience in the running of CultureMix, for example, project and event management, attending meetings, taking booking information and dealing with the general public.