Brief History of Foxwood Steel

Bandleader Victoria Jaquiss was an English teacher at Foxwood School in 1981 when headteacher Bob Spooner bought a set of steelpans for the school with Section 11 money, and hired the services of StClair Morris, Leeds first steelpan peripatetic teacher. Section 11 was part of a UK government initiative designed to promote multi-culturalism and combat racism. Shortly after this purchase Victoria was a steelpan teacher, then a general music teacher, then Head of Music, then Head of Expressive Arts. (not a journey she was expecting).
Bob Spooner chose pans for an almost all-white school in order to provide a positive example of black culture, but it was the sound, the looks and the great potential for educational and musical inclusion which hit all the right notes!

Foxwood Steel at Chapel Allerton Festival 2014/5

Foxwood Steel Band was gigging by the following year, playing local summer fairs , Old Folks Homes, and as many assemblies as the school could bear!
In 1987 Foxwood started using pans as its main instrument for GCSE Music practicals, and Charlotte Emery, another English teacher, had been sucked into the band.
In 1992 During the reorganisation of Leeds schools, Foxwood became East Leeds High School; Foxwood Steel Band reluctantly became Steel Express, and Charlotte found herself Head of Music at Merlyn Rees High School, and soon, steelband leader in her own right with the band Pantasia.
In 1996 East Leeds closed; Victoria set about rediscovering former players and Steel Express became Foxwood Steel Bandits.
Meantime, in the mid-nineties, deputy leader, Bex Ainge [then Smith] was also having her first steel pan lessons with StClair Morris, this time at St Michael’s College, Leeds. She and Victoria met in the late 90s and very quickly Bex was the first person outside Foxwood School to be in the Foxwood Steel Bandits.
In 2000 Foxwood became the backbone for the combined Leeds Carnival Band, after which the band played on floats or main stage until 2011 when riots stopped play as far as Leeds was concerned. However, Foxwood still regularly plays Manchester and Otley Carnivals.
In 1999 and 2002 Foxwood was also the backbone for the steelband playing the Hallelujah Chorus for Geraldine Connor’s Carnival Messiah. Victoria wrote the music out note for note and, with support of various Foxwood players, including Charlotte, Alicia, Bex, Dave, Hayley, Natalie, Georgia and Morgan, she taught the music to the rest of the players and organised rotas so that there was always a full team for every show [of two long five-week runs!]
In 1996 Victoria became steel pan development officer and Head of Steel Pans for Leeds Music Service, and, besides Charlotte, several players also became pan teachers – Natalie, Bex, Tim, Bart, and briefly and reluctantly, Morgan.
Now the band, known as Foxwood Steel, plays about 25 gigs a year, preferring to play locally, and a good many more in combination with sister bands: East Steel and Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows.

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