Worthing Steel Band enjoy success on the world stage

Amid all the gloom, Worthing Steel Band is celebrating success.

Thursday, 21st January 2021, 7:00 am
Worthing Steel Band

Musical director Jim Bernardin explains: “Two years ago we hosted a memorable visit from a touring South African youth marimba band with a fundraising music night and workshops, raising £2,000 for the charity Education Africa.

“This led to new friendships and an association with South African music teacher Joan Lithgow, her son Brad and her family and team, who every year organise the International Marimba and Steel Pan Festival.

“Every July as many as a hundred steel and marimba bands from all over Africa and beyond gather in Gauteng, near Johannesburg, to celebrate their music together and compete for awards and prizes.

“Due to the Covid pandemic, this year’s event was online, with video submissions from bands all over the world. The festival was streamed over four days in December.

“Worthing Steel Band spent the window of opportunity between the two lockdowns at the end of the summer and early autumn practising and recording their pieces and entered four categories with pieces ranging from classical music to rock and roll.”

In addition, three members of the band, musical director Jim, Marie Vickers and Christine Brown also took part in the world largest online mass participation piece with hundreds of fellow musicians, lived streamed at the end of the festival.

“Given that all of the band’s gigs and events for 2020 were cancelled due to Covid, this event was a wonderful opportunity galvanise the group and reach out to join with other bands from all over the world to celebrate music together.

“No one was more shocked or amazed than we were when the band received the award for Top Steelband at the Festival for 2020. It was a fantastic way to end what has been a supremely challenging year and bring hope that we will be together again performing to audiences live in Worthing in 2021.

“With the award came a small cash prize of £50. We decided to add £50 from our own funds and contribute £100 to Turning Tides (formerly the Worthing Churches Homeless Project).”

Moira Gardner, community fundraiser at Turning Tides, said: “We were thrilled to hear that Jim and his Worthing Steel Band members won this coveted festival award. They are keen supporters of ours and to dedicate their prize money and then match-fund is so heart-warming, especially at this difficult time for everyone.

“The money will go to our appeal. Christmas, coupled with the harsh winter months, can really highlight the pain of what is missing from a person’s life – a secure place to live, family, food, safety, happiness...

“Across the county, outreach workers will be searching the streets and countryside to find people who need support. People who are having to sleep rough will receive food, clothing and other essentials. Crucially, Turning Tides’ frontline keyworkers will be on hand with emotional and practical support at this time.”

Worthing Steel Band began as a six-week steel pan workshop led by world music teacher Jim in October 2012 and has now become one of the town’s most active community music groups.

“We now have a repertoire of around 50 song arrangements covering every possible style of music and have performed at numerous local events.”