Monday, 26 December 2016

Homeless in Leeds

Friday, 26 February 2016

When the train driver attempted to smash the Underground Speed record . .

When the train driver attempted to smash the Underground Speed record, and went for 0 to 60m.p.h. in under 6 seconds at Oval, I was thrown across the carriage with such force that its took the following forty plus people to put me back together:

From the Underground staff (Femmy and Andy), then the paramedics, nurses, auxillary nurses, cleaners, physios, dinner staff, docs, surgeons, anaesthetists, ambulance drivers and all the rest were

Mitch, Elizabeth, Andy, Omar, Marlie, Anni-fried, Ruth, Renata, Abdul, Priscilla, Doreen, Faduma, Grace,  Ziyad, Tomas, Sharon, Vera, Amanda, Dgemal, Jenny, Abigail , Gloria, Maria, Dean,  Katie, Adele, Ads, Andrina, Ali, Janet, Adayam, Helena, Elena, Elina, Natasha, Alex, Denise, Hawa, Adriana, Melda, Intisah, Mr Berwin, Zandile, Simonette, Lizzie, SK, Justice, Karlene,  Jayla, Rico, Rob, Vicky.

Waiting on the platform at London Bridge

I don't think I ever cried with the pain [well, not much], but the very thought of what all of these people at St Thomas, working as a highly organised professional team, did for me, and all the others around me makes me well up with gratitude and admiration every time. [It would probably have been cheaper to train the driver to pull off smoothly though, and then I wouldn't have missed the MU Teachers Meeting]].

saw more London friends . . .
If any names wrongly spelt or people missed out, and you read this blog please let me know.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Digging Deeper to find Leeds' Culture heroes

Thanks for Yorkshire Evening for letting me enter this debate. [I've added pictures]:

YEP Letters: May 30


Check out today’s YEP letters.

Dig deeper to find the city’s culture heroes

Victoria Jaquiss, Meanwood
If Leeds is serious about its City of Culture bid, I think it should look past the usual suspects.
Instead take a look at the background boys and girls who have been beavering away for years teaching the arts, putting on shows, and including them all, from those with additional needs physically and mentally to those whose life chances are reduced by social circumstance.
I will mention the two activities that I know best and am personally involved with: YAMSEN:SpeciallyMusic, formerly known as YHAMSE is an organisation set up over 30 years ago by a group of Music and Special Needs teachers, which is now well established both within our schools and in community settings.

East Steel and choirs 2004

Apart from teaching and training we run festivals, including the Christmas Town Hall concerts, when the stage overflows with the three choirs. These choirs meet fortnightly, and play other events throughout the year.

rehearsing 2014
Town Hall 2014 waiting for East Steel set
My other area of expertise is steelpans: Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows, East Steel and Foxwood Steel. When the Tour de France needed a big steelband at its events, we all came together to be Leeds Pan Central in the Victoria Gardens on the Monday, outside the Arena on Thursday and Briggate on Friday, in just one week, June to July.
outside Arena [Thursday] Grand Depart
outside Arena [Thursday] Grand Depart
Between them our steelbands play about 80 gigs a year, including Wharfedale and Harrogate Festivals, and also Otley, Huddersfield and Manchester Carnivals. After a decade of playing we are sadly not now invited to Leeds Carnival. Four years ago the Leeds Carnival Committee informed us live music on the parade might “cause a riot”. Playing Leeds Carnival, on a float or mainstage used to be the highlight of our steelband year.


Victoria Gdns [Monday] Grand Depart
To play our own hometown now a small group of us have had to resort to popping up, predictably not causing a riot, in Savile Park.  
“Authentic” carnivals, in Port of Spain or in London, include many steelbands. With the costumes, they are the backbone of Carnival.
Briggate [Friday] Grand Depart
Leeds West Indian Carnival Committee, at public expense, only invites its own steelband to play.
Being “bigger and better” is meaningless in itself.
If Leeds is serious in getting people to flock to our city for other than economic reasons, it needs

Popping up in rain at Leeds Carnival 2014
a proper audit of what’s already going on, or not, and actions taken now to plug the gaps.
Popping up at a sunny Leeds carnival 2013
If you want to book a steelband, work with a steelband, or join a steelband, please contact Victoria or Bex on

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Why would any children of no faith in Moortown be directed to a faith primary school in Chapeltown?

I wrote this letter to the YEP before the tragic Tory success in the latest UK general election. Sadly this "success" will mean that the Conservatives think they have a mandate for dismantling our public education system:
This debacle over the allocation of places to the Khalsa Science Academy throws up a number of uncomfortable issues.

1. It is a free school/academy. As such it doesn't need to conform to national or even local educational standards, such as employing qualified teachers or providing healthy meals. Despite Gove and Cameron defending this "freedom", no one else in the country is buying this is as a good thing.

2. It is a Sikh school. Are the parents religious? Sikh even? Well, for me this begs the other question of why are Christian schools bursting with Muslim children? And one answer is that church schools only survive because they include children from other faiths. Is this a good thing? Debate. But when my Muslim friend was in 6th form at a Catholic college she had to attend masses in order to qualify for EMA - the allowance that sixth-formers used to get to help them finance staying on in education.

4. By its name this new school seems to be a Science specialist institution. At primary age! Research clearly show the value of the Arts in education. This title does not bode well for them.
5. This local school isn't actually yet in Moortown, but presently housed in Chapeltown, not, I think "local" at all!
So, it's up to Leeds to sort this out, because this will be being replicated around the country and making us the world's laughing stock

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Using personal tragedies to silence the opposition - Cheap!

In response to Michael Gove appearing on Any Questions:
Dear AA

There should be a ban on the use of dead and sick children in political debate. When Michael Gove described another panellist's attack on the Tories' plans for NHS as cheap he showed just how out of touch he and his like are. What  is cheap is to bring into the argument his own son's life-threatening illness, thereby alluding to David Cameron's personal loss of a child.  No panellist can take that up without risking the audience baying at their assumed insensitivity.

And why he is on Any Questions anyway? He is an intellectual lightweight for all his Oxford education.

Victoria Jaquiss
Leeds teacher and great lover of NHS

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Leeds Carnival to be more inclusive?

Foxwood Steel popped up at Leeds Carnival 2013
This is my letter printed in Yorkshire Evening post Friday 22 August 2014.
 I ask this question, not just because none of my own bands are welcome at Leeds Carnival anymore, but because there are good many people who would like to see and hear us, and a good many Leeds school children who would like to know that if they learn pans at school there's a good chance that one day they might be able to play their home town carnival - as indeed used to be the case.
Here's the full letter:
local kids curled up on our cosy banner
Letter to YEP re Culture and Carnival

I am concerned about the nature of the culture that Leeds is putting forward in its bid to be capital of culture, especially as it seems to be pinning a lot of its hopes on Leeds Carnival.

For size and longevity, Leeds Carnival is certainly a winner, but that seems to be about it. We read that Carnival will be bigger and better, but this year we now we also have "authentic Caribbean". Is this a way of explaining, I wonder, why music from other cultures is not included?

Cities like Liverpool, Cardiff and Bristol have expanded their carnival events in order to welcome and include their more recently arrived immigrants. I am sure I am not the only person who would like to see and hear a bit of Bhangra, dohls, samba, Junkanoo, New Orleans style marching bands, circus acts, gypsy music, and maybe even a Yorkshire brass band,  parading around our streets, and filling Potternewton Park and the streets of Chapeltown with all these different wonderful sights and sounds.

And, since when did an "authentic Caribbean" carnival only include one steelband, and why only the one run from the West  Indian Centre itself? Besides the many local Leeds bands, eg Casablanca, Sea, Sun and Sand or my own Foxwood Steel/Sparrows there are other UK steelbands that could come and visit Leeds as Foxwood Steel does every year for Huddersfield and Manchester?

My last point regarding the size of Leeds Carnival is that its size, colour and vibrancy depends not just on Leeds troupes but on all those who visit from other cities such as Huddersfield, Birmingham, Nottingham and Luton. All credit here to Leeds for inviting and making them welcome, but let's shout out for them too.
Annette and Victoria

It's a sad legacy that Leeds Carnival which originally did so much to unify newly-arrived West Indian immigrants with the host nation does not now include other than its own steelband, nor open up its own heart to the immigrating nations that followed. 

Victoria Jaquiss FRSA
Band leader Foxwood, East Steel, Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows,
steelband leader Leeds Carnival 2000-2010

Monday, 26 May 2014

Can charities spare a thought or even a dime?

 Here is the link to Yorkshire Evening Post who printed my letter on that perennial Musicians' problem: Work Not Play.
And here is the full text:
Spare a dime?

I’d like our charities to spare a thought or even a dime, for our local musicians.

On a regular basis my [steel]bands and I asked to play for charity events – races, summer fairs usually. And I like to play them if we can and if we can afford it, because I understand the power of live music. We like playing good cause gigs. But there is always that awkward moment when I bring up the question of budget, expenses, not even pay; donations, refreshments.

We get- it’s for charity, and, of course, if that was a one-off that would be okay. And there are some close-to-home events, eg Unity Day when I do volunteer to play, and payment is not a consideration.
For races the organisers have to get security barriers, marshalls, water; the risk assessments and general admin must be phenomenal. Do they all work for nothing, because they work for a charity. Do the ice-cream van give away ices? Is it only musicians?
All bands spend years learning their craft, saving up for and buying instruments, paying for lessons, then paying to tune and upgrade, buy insurance, maybe save up for a van, hire rehearsal space, get baby-minders. And in the run-up to all events leaders spent their time ensuring we have enough players, enough transport, a van, know all the new tunes . . . And the bigger the band the harder that is to organise!
Good musicians generally are trying to earn a living, so are charities expecting only to use amateurs, or are they asking professionals to work for free?  A band brings occasion to an occasion. We create an atmosphere, drive the runners on, bring in the passers-by from the streets outside. We choose and change the repertoire to suit and encourage the runners, or the toddlers skipping round the cake stalls, or do requests for Memory Lane. Are we just a nice extra or integral to an event? [Two years we met runners afterwards from a Leeds town centre race who said that hearing us as they turned off Briggate and up Albion Place gave them the strength to keep going.]
Organisers sometimes suggest that playing their event will give you publicity, but we have played the endless sides of endless roads only to find, in the local press, we rarely get name-checked or our pics shown.
Curiously it’s often the smaller organisations who make the effort to offer donations i.e those playing with less money. One such group [actually not so small] that I would single out for praise is Otley Carnival. The year that they couldn’t afford the previous year’s fee, they wrote and asked us if we could play for less. They always give us pride of place on a huge float, and always name-check in the local paper. Here we are treated with such respect; it is an honour to play for Otley.

A few years ago I tried to have this conversation with a big cancer charity’s event. On this occasion I did agree to play for nothing.  Later they wrote and thanked us, said they had made over £8,000. Taking into account our costs on the day, as well as the years of study, we ended up paying to play. We felt deflated and used. As a music teacher [obviously my main source of income] I encourage my students to consider music after school both as a hobby and a career. I would think that the pleasure and value that local musicians bring to local events is worth paying for.
Victoria Jaquiss FRSA

Bandleader, music teacher