Steel band off to the Caribbean
STEEL band players are to leave the wintry showers of Huddersfield for the sunshine of the Caribbean next week.
Members of the award-winning North Stars Steel Orchestra is playing in the world-famous Trinidad Carnival during a three-week visit to the island.
North Stars founder Kelvin Benjamin, Samantha Bass, Leah Brown, Dennis Sylvester and Ruby Wood will join the Invaders Steel Orchestra to compete in the National Steel Band Panorama in the island's capital, Port of Spain.
They will play for hundreds of thousands of masqueraders and sightseers on the streets of the city over the four days of the carnival, which runs up to Ash Wednesday - February 25.
The visit is part of an international musical exchange which saw pan players from Trinidad visit Huddersfield last August.
Tour organiser Mr Benjamin has performed on his home island many times before.
"It will be a big challenge for our youngsters - but I know they can rise to it," he said.
Group member, Ruby, 17, a performing arts student at Huddersfield New College, said she couldn't believe her dream of going to play the steel pan in Trinidad was finally coming true.
"I'm excited, but nervous at the same time because of the high standards we will have to live up to over there," she said.
In Trinidad, the group will take part in a programme of educational activities organised by their hosts, the El Dorado Secondary Comprehensive School.
This will include visits to wildlife parks and rain forests, as well as a reception with the Trinidad Minister for Culture and Tourism, Mr Edward Hart.
The visit has been made possible with the support of the Commonwealth Youth Exchange Council, Arts Council England and Syngenta Huddersfield.
The North Stars were founded in 1975 and in 2002 became UK National Steel band Champions for the first time.
Its achievements include performing at Buckingham Palace for the 2002 Golden Jubilee celebrations, for Tony Blair and the Cabinet at the Labour Party's 100th birthday celebrations and appearing on BBC TV's flagship children's show Blue Peter.
Last year, Mr Benjamin won the Huddersfield Daily Examiner Community Award for Music and the Arts.