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Panorama steel pan competition
© Jeff Van Campen

Panorama steel band competition at Notting Hill Carnival

Here’s everything you need to know about Notting Hill’s annual steel band face-off

By Jude Brosnan

Panorama? What, the long-running BBC current affairs programme?
No, the other Panorama. Since 1978, steelpan (steel drum) bands from all over the UK have congregated the day before Notting Hill Carnival to battle for the title of Champions of Steel at this annual music competition.

How serious is the competition?
They battle to the death. Okay, not quite, but it’s pretty serious. Some bands practise for three hours a day, five days a week. There are costumes and themes – but no sheet music, mind, these guys know their stuff with their eyes closed.

Why don’t I know about this? Do they perform in hiding?
There’s nothing stealthy about a steel drum. They are massive and loud, with sessions often being held outside to replicate the acoustics of an authentic Caribbean practise area (or ‘pan yard’). Trinidad shuts down for their Panorama but for some reason it’s way more low-key over here.

What kinds of people play pan?
Bands contain members of different generations, races and levels of experience. They perform all year round and can swell up to 100 members approaching Panorama.

If I want to look like I know what I’m talking about, who should I cheer on?
Plymouth’s Real Steel are the reigning champions – they notched up a hat trick in 2014. Other regular strong contenders include Mangrove, Ebony and Metronomes.

Where and when is this spectacular event?
It takes place as a warm-up to Carnival, at 6pm on Saturday August 29 in Horniman’s Pleasance Park, Kensal Road. It’s ideal if you want a taste of Carnival vibes without the full-on festivities.

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Read our guide to Notting Hill Carnival 2015


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