Saturday 30 March 2013

Contacting us via email

We've recently had some trouble with our emails and haven't been receiving them. If you have tried to get in touch and haven't had a reply, please have another go and we'll get back to you or give us a call. You can see telephone numbers on our contact us page. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Sunday 29 April 2012


As with any steel band, there is always a list of things that we need to buy in order to keep our instruments in the best shape possible- whether it is new stands or perhaps new sticks or cases. So, when the opportunity to do some fundraising comes along, we gather up a band (and often a small army of bag-packers) to head along to local shops and community events.

Most recently, we spent a day at Sainsbury's in Haltwhistle, Northumberland, where the staff there kindly allowed us to perform in their car park, whilst parents and some of our younger players bag-packed inside the store. Thankfully, we were very lucky with the weather- we had a few spots of drizzle throughout the day but despite it being cold and miserable, we raised a significant amount of money and it was a good opportunity for our newest members to perform their pieces of music.

We would like to say thank you to Sainsbury's for this opportunity and would love to hear from any other businesses or local events that can provide fundraising opportunities.

Saturday 7 April 2012

Sunshine Panners play on The One Show!

Late afternoon on the 19th of March we received a call from the BBC, asking us to perform on The One Show the following day. Having very few details about location, time, performance requirements, if we were going to be on television etc., we frantically sent messages and emails trying to get a band together while the researcher spoke to the producer and got back to us. Later that evening, we got a call that finalised most details but we didn't know whether or not we would be live on air...

Gig day! We got to the panyard for 3:30pm to practise our newest pieces before we packed up and set off to Once Brewed, Hadrian's Wall Country. And it was cold. Very cold. But even though the temperature wasn't that great, loads of spectators came to watch the current person run one out of The One Show's 1000 miles for Sport Relief. After the crowds were assembled, a short piece was filmed about this and then it was practise time for us. Or so we thought! It was actually practise time for all the pieces to camera and for the spectators- I've never known as many rehearsals for cheering and waving!

Eventually, we got our turn to practise which not only brightened the mood, but warmed us up a bit too! Then, after running a couple of pieces to entertain the crowds (we weren't allowed to play all the time because it was deafening the BBC employees who were wearing headphones linked to all the microphones!) we were live! What an overwhelming feeling it is to know that thousands (well, millions we were told) of people are watching you, on TV, LIVE! What if we played a wrong note? Or missed our cue?! Thankfully, everything went as planned and minutes later and it was all over.

The crowds soon disappeared and we could pack up and go home to eat our teas and warm up! It was an awesome experience and I'm sure if the Sunshine Panners were asked to perform on a live TV show again, they would!

Unfortunately, the BBC are no longer showing this show on iPlayer, and although we aren't mentioned, the synopsis of the show is nice to have as a reminder of who and what else was on the show that night:

"Matt Baker and Alex Jones are joined by musical legend and the UK's Eurovision entry Engelbert Humperdinck. Rani Price looks into the rise in State run boarding schools and we catch up with the fifth day of the One Show 1000 as it runs through Northumberland."
Rosie Webster

Thursday 5 April 2012

Sunshine Panners visit Trinidad and Tobago!

In February 2012, the Sunshine Panners made their most recent trip to Trinidad and Tobago!

We left at midnight on Tuesday the 7th of February and drove down to Gatwick over night. I think it's fair to say that no one got much sleep! When we got to Gatwick we all had a well needed breakfast and then spent some time looking around duty free.

The plane journey took forever, but there were some good in flight films and most people actually enjoyed the food! If they were awake. When we got to Tobago we walked to the hotel and went to sleep.

Beach in Tobago

On the first day we spent some time exploring the area before heading down to the pan yard for our first workshop with Delbit Henry from Steel X-plosion. We learnt a song called 'Woman is boss' and MOST people enjoyed the session, even if it was hard. throughout the week we visited the pan yard three times and learned 'Rebecca' and 'Romance' in the evening we went to visit a Mas camp, where the costumes for carnival are made. We all got to try on all the costumes, and we made friends with a lot of the children. They were all really friendly and wanted to have a go with our cameras.

Trying on costumes

Whilst on Tobago we did our fair share of sightseeing. We visited a bird sanctuary, and a sugar plantation which was interesting. The birds are much more colourful then the ones in England and parts of the sugar plantation looked like something from an Indiana Jones film!

At the bird sanctuary

We also had a trip out to the Buccoo coral reef where we went snorkeling. We visited a part of the ocean called the Nylon Pool where the water is very shallow. The sand in the pool is supposed to make you look ten years younger, but you'll have to ask one of the adults if it worked! After that we went to No Man's land peninsula for a BBQ. We were outside all day, and because we were having a BBQ, it rained all day! We still managed to play limbo on the beach, and even had time to play with our guides afro.

No-man's land

The locals were all very friendly and helpful throughout the trip. Everyone made new friends, and got some facebook friend requests when they got home. On the Thursday, we visited Bishops High school and talked to some of the sixth form there. It was interesting to talk to some people my own age! In the afternoon we went to watch the Bishops High steel band play in Junior Panorama.

Talking to students at Bishops High

Most of the group decided they would like to live on Tobago (despite the cockroaches, lizards and other massive insects)

On Friday morning we caught the ferry over to Trinidad. It was a smooth crossing and no one was sick. Phew. That evening we went to watch bands rehearsing for Panorama. At the Renegades panorama we saw Joseph and Jenny, and heard the song they would be playing for the competition. It looked complicated!

View from the ferry

On Saturday night it was Panorama! The competition went on until four in the morning as around 25 bands had to play. Everyone enjoyed watching the performances, especially the bands we had seen practising. We stayed until the end to hear the results, which was exciting, even if they were not what we expected!

The next day we went to Maracas beach and had a relaxing day. A lot of people got sunburned and a lot of us nearly drowned in the sea because of the massive waves!

The next morning we got up 5.30 to go to J'ouvert and think everyone enjoyed getting covered in paint, even if not everyone enjoyed the dancing.

Post- J'ouvert group shot

We spent the next day in Port of Spain watching the carnival. The costumes were amazing, and there wasn't a dull moment. Everyone enjoyed looking around all the stalls and watching the parade of the bands.

On Wednesday the 22nd of February we caught the plane back to Gatwick, most people slept for the flight, and the bus ride home! We got back to Haydon Bridge and everyone went home to see their family and show off their tans.

Everyone had an amazing time and most people are already trying to plan a return visit!

Olivia Donoghue

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Recording our new CD!

Working around our busy schedule, trying to find a weekend where we had both Saturday and Sunday free was the Sunshine Panners first problem; and as Saturday 13th and Sunday 14th November 2011 were the only dates available, this was perfect for recording our 3rd CD.

After lots of transporting, setting up and sound checks with microphones in numerous places, 17 band members turned up ready to record on the Saturday, and 23 turned up on the Sunday – some being our beginner band members (who had been playing for around 6 weeks!) and who also participated in the making of the CD. For those who went to both, it was proving difficult; a mixture of tension, tiredness and stress was starting to build as the long days progressed. Playing the same tune over and over, until it was note perfect was starting to become boring; just like not being able to make any sound until the recording had stopped, not even the small click of sticks, one tiny mistake and the whole song had to be played again, but we knew it had to be done!

We all battled on, and with a bit of persuasion for some, most of us went back the next day to record the final tunes. As the Sunday came to an end, everybody was relieved it was over but knew it was worth it, as we came away with a finished CD that we are really pleased with. Tunes on the CD include:
  • Marry you
  • Fragile
  • Hope Joanna
  • Three Little Birds
  • Tequila/Hawaii 5-0
  • Soca Party
  • I Gotta Feeling
  • Bailamos
  • No-one
  • Soca Train
  • Amazing Grace
Thank you very much to all those who helped.

Please get in touch via the website if you would like to buy this CD, priced at £7, or email us at

Molly Potts

Friday 9 March 2012

Notting Hill Carnival 2011

Spring 2011 saw some of our more senior members wanting to challenge their ability as pan players that little bit further by beginning to learn a new piece of music for Notting Hill Carnival.

During the Easter holidays Claire, Clare, Tom, Abi and Jess began to learn Brent Holder's 'Pan in de Panyard' in preparation for joining CSI (Caribbean Steel International) for the Carnival's National Steel Band Panorama competition. Having all played in panorama at least once before, we knew that once rehearsals began, we would be spending most of our free time learning the music and practising until it was note perfect! Joining forces with pan players from in and around Northumberland and Newcastle, we learned as much of the tune as possible before CSI players travelled up to the cold and rainy North to check that what we had was right (panorama pieces are prone to changing as the arranger tweaks his tune until it is just right) and teach us another section, so that by the time we headed to London we only had to learn the introduction and end.
Abi, Claire, Tom and Jess (among others!) on the bus on the way back from J'ouvert.

'How many months does it take to learn one song?!' I hear you ask- well, given the complexity and length of piece (just shy of ten minutes!) I can safely say that every minute was needed to ensure that we were able to confidently play our part and slot seamlessly into Caribbean Steel International. Rehearsals took place in our Panyard in Haydon Bridge, Newcastle, Wooler, living rooms, bedrooms and anywhere else we could set up a pan and play from Easter until the middle of August when we booked our accommodation and train tickets.
Clare playing during the performance

So August the 22nd saw us head off to the train station (with our instruments being driven down in a van) bound for London. One long journey later and we (Claire, Clare and Tom) found ourselves walking all the way around Queen's Park Rangers football ground in an attempt to find the pan yard! However, eventually making it, we were greeted by Brent who told us to head inside and find our pans- not an easy feat with a room of around 100 musicians and even more pans! We eventually found our pans and started learning the ending and intro straight away before coming together as a whole band and playing from start to finish; picking up dance moves and changes to notes along the way. By the end of the night we were so pleased to have all the notes so that we could use the rest of the week to rehearse.

Rehearsals were long, sweaty (!) and deafening but we wouldn't have changed it at all! I can definitely say that I went to sleep every night singing the tune and running through which bit came first/ next/ after the chromatic/ before the 'new' bit etc etc before waking up and walking to White City to actually play the tune- whether it was section practise in the park or whole band practise until the early hours of the morning. Or as we soon discovered, in Sainsburys car park...

Rehearsing in the rain!

So, rehearsals moved to a corner of Sainsburys car park which meant that come Saturday the 27th (Panorama day, and Claire's birthday) we could wheel the instruments to the performance venue on Kensal Road. Rehearsals were very rainy and we had to stop playing mid-tune to empty our pans as they had filled with water on numerous occasions. The spirit and vibes in the band hadn't been dampened at all by the weather and everyone played their hearts out on every run through.

Claire and Clare at J'ouvert!

Panorama day was here (Happy birthday Claire!)!!

Panorama day was sunny/ rainy/ sunny/ rainy etc ALL day! We got to Sainsburys and started moving all the instruments down to Kensal Road and set up ready to spend the rest of the afternoon practising our tune. As the clock ticked on we grabbed our panorama t-shirts and white trousers (this was a concern due to all the rain!) but we got changed and moved the pans ever-closer to the judges.

Clare and Claire (opposite way around this time!) after panorama.

We wheeled the pans in front of the judges; binning our disposable ponchos on the way (these had kept us reasonably dry all day and we didn't want to take them off!). Before we knew it Brent was counting us in and we were performing! It seemed to be over so fast and we danced and jumped so much I thought I actually wouldn't make it to the end! No sooner had we started, we were at the end of the tune with all of CSI's fans cheering us on! We finished the tune and moved along the road absolutely shattered but thrilled with how the tune had gone and the vibes within the band. We packed up our pans and headed to wait for the results.

Waiting to perform- Claire and Tom.

The judges began with 6th position and we waited eagerly to hear where we had placed.... it was announced that we had been placed third (267 points) with Ebony 2nd (274 points) and Mangrove 1st (275 points)! Once the celebrations had calmed down, we began to walk back to the panyard but leaving Kensal Road took longer than we had thought! The further we walked the more people that stopped Brent to congratulate him on his tune and the band's performance- everyone was still buzzing from playing and to hear these comments was even better!

We headed back to the panyard to chill out for a bit and make arrangements for J'ouvert the following morning which included a 4am meet back at Sainsburys! We headed to the accommodation and tried to get in some sleep before our carnival celebrations. But, before we knew it, it was time to be up and about and I can tell you that, despite it being late August, London is cold at 4am! We waited at Sainsburys for the wagon driver to turn up so we could get on the road, play some tunes and get absolutely covered in paint (this year CSI chose yellow), talc, tomato sauce and whatever else people were throwing/ squirting/ splashing! It was BRILLIANT! As the sun rose and the paint began to dry on our faces we began to walk back in the direction of where we were staying- luckily, a nice bus driver let us on his bus so we didn't have to walk too far but we did get some funny looks! Lots of extra long showers later and it was time for Carnival...

It was definitely a fantastic experience and something that we are keen to repeat again this year with some more of the panners (hopefully). We would like to say a HUGE thank you to Mr Brent Holder and all our new friends in CSI steel band.

We are counting down the days....

Happy Panning!

Wednesday 21 September 2011

Sunshine Panners play for the Queen!

On Wednesday 22nd June, the Sunshine Panners Steel Band went to Alnwick Castle to play at a garden party for carers and volunteers which was attended by the Queen and Prince Philip.

The day before we went, seven volunteers (a mixture of adult helpers and panners) took all of the pans to the castle as we had two trailer loads! The next morning, all 24 band members – along with nine adult helpers - met at half past six and by seven o’clock we were on the road to Alnwick.

Once we got to Alnwick, we took all of the pans from where they had been stored the night before to where we were playing. With 33 people helping, it didn’t take us that long. We were in a fantastic position in a courtyard in the castle grounds. I think it was where they filmed the flying lesson in the first Harry Potter film. We weren’t the only band playing in the courtyard. There was a bagpipe marching band, a brass quintet and a big band that did a variety of music from the Blaydon Races to an Oliver medley.

About half way through our first set, it started to rain. There was a mad rush to cover up all of the pans with bubble wrap and plastic sheeting. Some of us got soaked! Once the rain had eventually died down, we took off the plastic sheeting, dried off the pans and started to play again. After that, the sun stayed out for the rest of the day and it stayed dry.

At eleven o’clock, the Queen and Prince Philip arrived. We didn’t get a brilliant view of them because they were walking along a path which was surrounded by people – five deep on each side and we were at the back. Some of us managed to get some good photos though. When they came back from lunch, the Queen and Prince Philip drove past us slowly while we were playing and apparently they were watching us and enjoying the music.

By three o’clock, the Queen and Prince Philip had gone (and so had the guests) so we packed up the pans into the trailer and headed home. It was a long day, but one of the best performances we have ever done.

Elliott Wallis