September 2006 Archives

Learning From BURA

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BURA Logo.(small).jpg Membership of the British Urban Regeneration Association has helped me to see a wider picture of renaissance and renewal in the U.K. Lessons learned include: 1. Wider stakeholder engagement is vital right from the start of a proposed regeneration programme. 2. Environmental sustainability also needs to be built in from the start. 3. There is a need, increasingly recognised, to 'translate' the perspectives and understandings of different players at all levels in the process of renewal.

I’ve been a member of the British Urban Regeneration Association (BURA) almost since its beginnings. They held an early event in an enormous marquee on the brownfield site of the old Liverpool Speke Airport, now home to the Liverpool South Marriott Hotel; and somehow HOPES, the community-led charity which I chair, was invited to send a representative.

Now, a decade or so later, I am delighted just to have been elected to the BURA Board of Directors.

So the past few weeks have been a steep learning curve for me.

Engaging in the business
Firstly there was a visit to the BURA offices in Hatton Garden, London, where I met the very busy and welcoming officers and staff. There’s nothing like seeing people actually at their workstations for perceiving how involved and interconnected their business is.

Then I found myself in Manchester, chairing a BURA Forum of practitioners from all sorts of backgrounds who are connected with that city. And again, a few weeks later, I attended a dinner in that same location where we discussed the issues currently facing the construction industry, as it moves towards a more coherent and cohesive identity.

And finally this week I went to my first full Board meeting, in London – an event where, new girl as I am, I felt immediate resonance with many of my own concerns and interests, but in the course of which I also discovered a great deal more about the wide and fascinating remit of BURA overall.

An emerging consensus
Three things have struck me particularly about everything I’ve seen and experienced over the past couple of months.

Firstly, there is a rapidly emerging new core emphasis on what it means to talk about stakeholding in regeneration and renewal. At last it seems to be understood (a) that the engagement of wider stakeholders (for which read, ‘the community’ and others who have no direct commercial or public service interest) is not a desirable add-on to be pursued once the main objectives of a programme have been determined; but, rather (b) that without the insights and active consent of at least the majority of those unto whom a programme will be ‘done’, there is little point in the programme anyway. And this applies whether one considers the proposals from a straight business or from a wider social perspective..... Look no further than this week's High Court judgement on proposed Edge Lane (Eastern Approach) developments in Liverpool, for evidence of the impact an individual - the doughty Elizabeth Pascoe in this case - can have on a situation where, in some people's view, more emphasis should have been given early on to stakeholder issues.

Secondly, the consensus now developing offers a much more integral position on environmental sustainability. Again, those involved in regeneration now concur that this needs to be built into their plans right from the beginning, especially since energy will often be produced much more locally to its destination in the future.

And the third lesson so far? It’s that the sort of tasks I tend to find myself undertaking these days will become even more an aspect of professional activity in the future. There is sometimes a real need, now much more commonly acknowledged than previously, to ‘translate’ the work and understandings of given parts of a professional team to people in other parts of it; and often on top of this there is also a requirement to translate the perceptions of wider stakeholders to the professionals (and vice versa). Sometimes this has to be done on a ‘salvage’ basis, to re-stabilise a programme already under way, and other times it can be undertaken, more comfortably, far earlier in proceedings.

The humble joined-up approach
I suspect we are seeing the establishment of a new phase in now-maturing regeneration good practice.

For some while there has been considerable consensus about the core skills and activities which comprise most of the professions relating to regeneration. There are now established paradigms around particular professional contributions to regeneration, with all the power and conviction which arises from clearly defined and accredited expertise.

Alongside this however I detect a growing realisation that with acknowledged power and expertise must come a new humility, a genuine desire to learn from other stakeholders of all sorts (and as early on as possible) if regeneration programmes are to achieve their objectives. Whether it’s renewable energy specialists talking with construction engineers and planners, or developers and local residents trying to communicate with each other, everyone is having to articulate their positions very clearly, whilst they also try to perceive how other people see things.

It’s these wider perceptions about how we can learn from each other which BURA’s developing agenda will help to bring about.


In Praise Of Politics

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Election Night (tables, small) 05.4.26 057.jpg The benefits of modern democracy which we in the U.K. enjoy are diminished by the media when they invite us to confuse the real thing with synthetic 'political entertainment' concocted by those who then 'report' it. At a time when cyncism about politics is rife, people need to know about the realities of political involvement, so they can make informed judgements about whom they wish to support.

LouiseEllmanAdoptionMtg05.4.15c.jpg I’ve just returned from the Labour Party conference in Manchester. Personally, I was impressed. The Prime Minister and Chancellor each spoke with great authority and conviction about what politics means to and for them, and I think it would be fair to say their orations resonated clearly with what the large majority of those attending believe and were looking to be affirmed.

My belief is that the Labour Party, whatever its blips and foibles, stands for a way of life which is fair, progressive and ambitious for everyone’s future. Other major parties in the U.K. can make their own case, but there is no doubt that those who seriously subscribe to these alternative credos also believe that their politic represents a way of life which makes sense to some people. I am content to acknowledge this - and where necessary to ‘take them on’, as Tony Blair urged in his speech. No doubt willingness to contest the political territory would apply in reverse for other parties, too.

Political debate about the future
The Labour Party national conference is one of the largest and without a doubt one of the most inclusive conferences in Europe. Women and men, first-time attenders and cabinet ministers, delegates of all ages, ethnicities, faiths and walks of life, meet in the course of that event as equals to bring their richly diverse experience and expertise to the issues of the day.

And the same applies to the democratic political process in the U.K. on a wider scale.

Election2005CampaignMK&JN,Sudley1.jpg The critical point is this. Where citizens are prepared to give their time and other personal resources to engaging in debate about the future of our country (and that of the globe), they should be respected for having the courage and conviction to do so.

Of course there are caveats to this general position. When opposing parties permit the debate to become unpleasantly personal, or when they step outside the boundaries of decency (as for instance the British National Party does frequently) they diminish fundamentally the democratic process and thereby lose the right to respect and engagement in that process.

Synthetic ‘news’
So what do we make of the media coverage this week?

Frankly, it has not so far been consistently of the best. I have no problem about considered critiques, or even criticism, of the political offer – that’s what politics is about – but I have plenty of reservations about lead stories concerning what Cherie might or might not have muttered to herself, or about the future prospects of John Reid and Gordon Brown, following the synthetic televised gruelling of a supposedly ‘representative’ (and, for its purpose, woefully small) focus group.

This is the media making the news, not reporting it…. Not an unusual occurrence, but one which does not deserve the headline reporting these matters were given. There are serious issues at stake, and the wider public needs to know about them. Such trivial issues are entertaining, but they don’t take us very far in understanding what the underlying politics is all about.

Politics as commitment
Election2005CampaignOffice(chaps).jpg Perhaps this needs to be said loud and clear: Many people are involved in politics with no expectation of personal reward. Most professional politicians go the extra mile and more (if they don’t, they deserve the abrupt termination of their political careers which is likely to follow).

Politics on the ground comprises hours of envelope stuffing and telephone calls; it requires rainy Saturday mornings in surgeries in what are now called challenging contexts; it involves knocking on the doors of not-always-appreciative strangers; it requires digging into one’s own pocket far more than filling it. And, critically, it demands the courage and conviction to stand up and say what one believes, and to take the reputational consequences.

And, most of all, decent politics at every level is underpinned by hope for the future – the belief that people can be persuaded to one’s view of what could be.

Politics as entitlement
I disagree fundamentally with the politics of the right, but I agree that sometimes the questions posed by right-wing politicians are valuable pointers to important issues which require resolution. I also accept that, within the bounds of decency and respect for other decent people (a requirement of us all), those who promote such right-wing positions have an entitlement to do so.

Political debate from the beginning of time has been the fairest way to decide who has the best ideas about what should happen, and who should be given the power to make that come about.

News, Politics or Entertainment?
If the media want to tell stories about what Cherie might have said to herself, or about a synthetic, manufactured event around the future of Gordon and John, no-one should stop them, self-serving of media pundits and distracting from serious debate though these stories are. Indeed, perhaps we are all complicit in this, at least insofar as the media would say we read this stuff and don’t challenge it.

But let’s at least ask that spurious ‘political’ stories be reported under the heading of Entertainment, not News; and let’s try to ensure that proper political reporting is delivered in ways which mark it out as Politics properly defined.

Politics is a difficult and sometimes even dangerous game; it needs, and democracy itself needs, the best people and the best efforts we can muster – and this in turn requires a modicum of underlying respect for those who still choose to make the effort.

Hope not cynicism
Election Night (Lpool MPs) [smaller] 05.4.26 051.jpg If there were a better way to run modern societies than democratic politics, someone would have invented it by now. At a time when the victory of cynicism over respect for engagement in the political process has probably never been greater, we, the public, damage ourselves as well as the politicians if we don’t insist at some level that politics is fundamentally about hope for the future; and that political media-created 'entertainment' and democratic politics are different things.

Wheelchair person reading  (small) 80x64.jpg Conferences involving public funds and public policy are still too often devised and conducted as though the vast majority of the population were white, male, able-bodied and middle class. The time has come to start measuring in some way the extent to which this limited approach offers the general public value for money.

This is the twenty first century. We in Britain live in a democratic and accountable society run, on the whole, by people who are serious about 'getting it right'.

How come, then, that I find myself so frequently incensed by the line-up and arrangements for public conferences on critical matters? The answer is simple: conferences about pressing civic matters are still very largely (not exclusively) organised and presented as if the entire planet were inhabited by able-bodied white, middle class, men.

Democratic underpinnings?
There are of course many excellent conference speakers and delegates who happen to be able-bodied, white and middle class; but theirs is not the only perspective or understanding which matters. It therefore follows that policy developed largely on the basis of this perspective will probably be weak or even downright unhelpful (and the evidence of this abounds.... just choose your own example.) So check out the next conference on any matter of general public concern:

Does it have significant diversity in its speakers and and their positions? For gender? For age? For ethnicity? For influence?

Is the agenda helpful in terms of recognising and giving weight to the diverse perspectives within its given community of interest? Do the topics listed for discussion demonstrate this clearly? Do they include specific consideration of possible future action on diversity within the theme being considered?

Is it accessible to everyone? Does it offer a significant number of places for sensible prices (say, the cost of two meals, perhaps £20)? Is it near a train station on a main line (especially if it's more than local in its remit)? Is the venue easy to navigate for those with mobility and related problems? Assuming the issues under consideration are not privileged in some specific way, will the end-point papers be published on a free, publicly accessible and openly advertised website?

Where's the action towards inclusion?
The Fawcett Society recently calculated that, at the present rate, it will still be four hundred years before men and women are equal in terms of their influence in the corridors of power.

This is simply not good enough. Not at all. Not now, let alone in several hundred years.

I have decided therefore to take one small step for diverse-person-kind, and begin work on a Conference Diversity Index, which will be developed to indicate, however, impressionistically, just how much value and weight might be placed on various publicly funded events about matters of public concern. More diversity of involvement and experience, more value.....

I know a few conferences coming up on Merseyside which may prove to be of interest; and no doubt you know of others.

This is my website version of the article 'Can I have a speaker that reflects the community? Too white, too male and too posh. It's time conferences had an injection of diversity', published in New Start magazine, 27 October 2006, p.11

Hope Street kids! (small) 06.9.17 254.jpg The Hope Street Festival in Liverpool, delayed from Midsummer, was on Sunday 17 September. This exciting milestone in Hope Street's history, introducing of a start-of-season early Autumn 'Feast' to go in future alongside the Summer Festival, is however neither the beginning nor the end of the journey.

HOPES FESTIVAL LOGO.JPG The 2006 Hope Street Festival (later renamed 'Feast'), on Sunday 17 September, is a continuation of such an event on Hope Street in Liverpool sometime in the summer over many years. It included the Philharmonic Open Day, a Farmers' Market, events in Hope Street's cafes, guided walks, and a performance of Richard Gordon-Smith's 'Hotfoot on Hope Street', commissioned by HOPES: The Hope Street Association in 1997, to launch their campaign for the renewal of the Hope Street public realm.

We have already noted [here] something of the history of how it all began. This posting therefore looks only at how things have developed over the past decade, following the near-loss in the late 1980s / early 1990s of both the Liverpool Everyman Theatre and the Philharmonic, and the intervention of the Campaign to Promote the Arts on Merseyside (CAMPAM), with its cry of Once lost we will not get them back!

A new era
HSF Craft Fair 06.9.17 262.jpg Slowly, in the early 1990s, the threats of cultural annihilation subsided; but at the same time CAMPAM began to take on a wider and more involved role, recognising the strategic value of the Hope Street area (by then, acknowledged formally as the Hope Street Quarter). It was not enough to defend individual arts organisations, however significant. A more comprehensive approach was required; and this was what the newly emerging registered charity, HOPES: The Hope Street Association, a coalition of local institutions, traders, community organisations and individuals, was formed, with the encouragement of John Flamson and City Challenge, to bring about.

Plans were drawn up to address the enormous potential of Hope Street Quarter as a hub for the arts, for business, for the knowledge economy, and as a focus for community engagement and capacity building. Trustees were elected to take the work forward. A Council with wider membership was convened to enable regular consultation of important issues. And a decision was made that, right from the start, there would be celebratory activities - concerts, other performances, social events - which would ensure the involvement of people at every level.. and would also give everyone an opportunity to get to know each other in a relaxed and informal ambience.

Hope Street Festival resurrected
HOPES Family Fun Day Flower Stall (PB) 18.6.2000.JPG Thus do we arrive at the re-emergence of the Hope Street Festival, in its new, more modernly inclusive, guise as an event co-ordinated by HOPES., but still, as in 1977 and 1980, intended vigorously to celebrate this 'unique street'.... and still supported by amongst others Adrian Henri, Graham Frood of the Unity Theatre and other leading members of CAMPAM and then HOPES, just as they had supported events two decades previously.

The very first 'modern day' event was in 1996, a weekend of activities centred around the Everyman and other venues, with poetry, small-scale music and other open-access offerings, over one of the wettest and coldest Midsummer Days on record - or so at least it seemed to the organisers! But from that we learned a lot, and in 1997 the Philharmonic Hall was hired for a special 'community concert' organised by HOPES on the basis of as much community inclusion as possible, and as a flagship event around which many other activities took place, with each event occurring on its own terms and HOPES acting as co-ordinator and promoter.

The HOTFOOT concerts
HOPES' Midsummer Festival concert in Philharmonic Hall also embraced another objective - the launch of the campaign to renew the physical structure of Hope Street's impressive but faded public realm. And so the piece of music entitled Hotfoot on Hope Street came about, written by HOPES' Composer in Association, Richard Gordon-Smith, commissioned by the charity to portray the street in a twenty minute orchestral piece at a level performable by good amateur and student musicians (with a little help from some friendly professsionals).

The world premiere of Hotfoot on Hope Street was in Philharmonic Hall on 21 June 1997, twenty years to the day after the celebration on Hope Street of the Queen's Silver Jubilee. Other performers appearing included Adrian Henri and Roger McGough.

HOTFOOT2005 Trade Winds 032.jpg HOPES Yellow Banners.JPG There has been a HOTFOOT concert at the Phil every year since 1997, sometimes performing the actual piece again and always picking up themes which resonate for Hope Street: the 2002 KOOL STREET project, developed in conjunction with local schools, the music on several occasions of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (Britain's foremost Black classical composer, whose friend from Liverpool, John Archer, later became the first Black mayor of a British town, Battersea in London), and Liverpool's only celebration of the 1999 centenary of Duke Ellington.

HSF1999Saurang25.6.99(1).JPG Nor must we forget the hugely popular Saurang concerts which HOPES presented alongside members of the RLPO. Then, in 2005 (Liverpool's Year of the Sea), we presented the world premiere of Richard Gordon-Smith's large-scale work for orchestra and four choirs, Trade Winds, set to the words of (another) Poet Laureate, John Masefield, whose Liverpool maritime experience aptly led him to prophesise great things for his city's future.

Millennium success
HOTFOOT Orchestra close-up 06.9.17 273.jpg In some years since 1996/7 the HOTFOOT concert has been scheduled alongside a wide range of other festival activities, the most wide-ranging of which was during Midsummer 2000. This Festival involved some twenty events, from plays and food tastings to art exhibitions and debates, all under the umbrella of the Millennium Commission's celebrations - and then, to HOPES' delight, selected as their national exemplar of community festivals, to make a presentation to the media and leading national figures (including, once more, then Secretary of State Chris Smith MP). The Millennium Hope Street Festival was led by an enthusiastic team of Trustees, volunteers, graduates gaining work experience and members of the business, faith and other communities along Hope Street.

A fallow period and a beautiful public realm
hopes_logo.gif Sadly, despite the enormous success of the Millennium Year, HOPES has found it difficult to sustain the Hope Street Festival at the level of activity many consider it deserves, and there is currently almost nothing in the HOPES kitty to keep the Festival going. Over the years it is estimated that HOPES has raised about a quarter of a millions pounds in cash and in-kind investment in developmental activities for Hope Street Quarter, and that has been matched by some ten thousand hours of volunteer work; but this massive contribution to the development of Hope Street remains very largely unrecognised, and certainly unmatched, in terms of encouragement of HOPES by the civic authorities. Nonetheless, there has been another very significant success for HOPES in that, ten years after the 'launch' of the campaign to achieve it, Hope Street finally has its brand new public realm.

HopeStreetHeritageWalk8.9.05 006.jpg The three million pounds to undertake this public realm programme was promised by Steven Broomhead, CEO of the NorthWest Development Agency (NWDA) to HOPES some four years ago, and finally the physical work has just this summer been completed under the supervision of Liverpool Vision, with Liverpool City Council. And, as the last stones are laid and the final street lights installed, Liverpool Vision has generously given HOPES financial support to enable a street celebration and another performance of HOTFOOT, the music which launched the whole idea. This is what is happening on Sunday 17 September 2006 as part of the one-day Hope Street Festival devised and led by a number of partners, including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, the Liverpool Food and Drink Festival and, of course as always, HOPES.

The future
HopeStF Paul Askew demo 06.9.17 265.jpg The new enthusiasm for the Hope Street Festival reflects the confidence and sense of place which is emerging in Hope Street Quarter. We have always known at some level that this is a unique street, combining as it does the best of almost every sort of enterprise and community. Now, visitors and stakeholders in the area are beginning to develop this sense of something special in their own ways.

It is too early to make substantive predictions for the future, but my guess, as one who has been closely involved for the duration (I am founder-chair of HOPES and as such have organised all the Festivals from 1996 to 2005 as a volunteer), is that a number of themes are emerging.

Firstly, the city is beginning to understand why Hope Street's future is also the future of the whole Mersey sub-region. Strategically, there can be few such compact areas with such a lot to offer in terms of the knowledge economy, culture and much else.

Face Paints.JPG Secondly, Hope Street is beginning to find its feet as a place to celebrate. The 'street festival' has been resurrected and is much in evidence this year. Now we have to find a way also to develop our International Festival. (If Aldburgh, Edinburgh, Harrogate, Cheltenham and others can do it, why not us? We're bigger than any of them, and we have, as they do not, our own long-established resident international symphony orchestra.) And along with that, as perhaps the other side of the same coin, we need to extend our grasp of how to engage our local communities and neighbours, capacity building where there are currently aspirations rather than existing expertise; some work on this is now underway.

And thirdly we have to nurture the direct commercial and business needs of partners in the Quarter, be it via a business association or some other means. The door is open and the opportunity must now be taken, whilst the enthusiasm to collaborate is there!

The Hope Street jigsaw pieces are in place
HOPES (banners) 06.9.17 260.jpg The mechanisms to achieve all these objectives now exist. HOPES is an established charity with the remit to take any and all of these activities forward where partners wish it. Liverpool Vision has helped and led a number of initiatives, including the establishment o

Hope Street & Mount Pleasant (small) - view towards Anglican Cathedral 06.7.15 017.jpg The first Hope Street Festival was in 1977, to mark the Silver Jubilee of HM The Queen. The next event, marking the Centenary of the Incorporation of the City of Liverpool, was in 1980. There followed a period of great concern for the cultural fortunes of Hope Street.

Hope Street Festival poster 1977 & 199906.9.6 003.jpg During the 19803 and into the '90s Hope Street's cultural institutions were in great peril. From this time of peril however, in the early 1990s, emerged a community-led campaign -The Campaign to Promote the Arts on Merseyside (CAMPAM) - to ensure that Liverpool kept its flagship organisations; and from CAMPAM in turn emerged HOPES: The Hope Street Association, the registered charity which was to seek renewal of the Quarter and which was later to resurrect the Hope Street Festivals.

The original Hope Street Festivals were organised in 1977 and 1980 by a group of people who included Stephen Gray OBE and Andrew Burn, then managers at the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Society, as well as the late Adrian Henri, one of the founding Liverpool Poets, and other local artists and restaurateurs such as Berni Start of Kirklands Wine Bar, and Paddy Byrne of the Everyman Bistro.

Talking to people in Liverpool today, many of them recall the 1977 event as tremendously exciting, taking part as school children in one of the most massive pageants imaginable - 17,000 participants enacting eight scenes depicting the four seasons along the length of Hope Street, from one cathedral to the other. (As those then involved will tell you, some children even had to run from one point to another, to enact different parts of the pageant!)

In both 1977 and 1980 there was much support from the business community. The list of sponsors contains names which sometimes take one down memory lane: Leighton Advertising of 62 Hope Street, Modern Kitchen Equipment of Myrtle Street, Ford Dealers J. Blake and Company of Hope Street, , WH Brady of Smithdown Road, Girobank, Littlewoods, Radio City, and Higsons Brewery amongst them, alongside further flung organisations like the Chester Summer Music Festival, Welsh National Opera, Theatr Clwyd and even Decca, who recorded much Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (RLPO) music during that time... Strange to say, the first three businesses are now lost to Hope Street; but most of the others of course remain as current concerns in Liverpool. As we shall see, it was in part an enthusiasm once more to energise the business community in Hope Street Quarter which led to the resurrection of the Hope Street Festival in 1996.

1977 - The Queen's Silver Jubilee
The Valley & the Hill LP 06.9.6.jpg The 1977 Festival was centred on celebration of the visit to Liverpool of Her Majesty the Queen, during her Silver Jubilee tour of the United Kingdom. Malcolm Williamson, Master of the Queen's Music, wrote a pageant entitled The Valley and the Hill, to be performed in Hope Street on 21st June. (I know; I made thirty children's 'sheep' costumes for the performance, whilst on a teaching practice!) This was recorded in 1983 with a choir of 2,000 local school children and the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra (my violinist spouse was there...).

The 1980 Hope Street Summer Festival
Hope Street festival 1980 programme06.9.6 007.jpg Then there was another Hope Street Festival in 1980, directed once more by Stephen Gray as General Manager of the RLPS, with his colleague Andrew Burn - again an impressive programme of concerts, talks and other events by leading performers and commentators, including the Allegri Quartet, Christian Blackshaw, John Cage,

A Tribute To Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

 A Tribute to Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: CD cover of live recording, Liverpool Philharmonic Hall recital, 7 November 2001, by Ensemble Liverpool / Live-A-Music - Piano Quintet Op.1 & Fantasiestucke Op.5 The black British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875 - 1912) is known almost exclusively for his large-scale work, 'Hiawatha's Wedding Feast'. There is however much more to this fascinating man than just one work, including the story behind his very early chamber music works such as the Opus 1 Piano Quintet of 1893.

Life and art are intertwined in the biography of this gentle, committed advocate of equal rights who was also a hugely talented musician.....

If ever there was a tale to be told, this is it. Samuel Coleridge Taylor lived only 37 years and is one of Britain’s best kept musical secrets. Black History Month, in October, will offer an opportunity to reveal more about the story behind the life of this remarkable man.

Samuel Coleridge (he was named after the poet) was born in Holborn London on 15 August 1875, the dark-skinned son of Dr Daniel Taylor, a London-trained physician from Sierra Leone whom the child never saw, and of an abandoned English mother, Alice Hare, who later married a railway worker and with him struggled to support their family in Croydon. Samuel's arrival was quite possibly out of wedlock – a shocking start in life in those unforgiving Victorian times. And yet, from this unpromising beginning, he was by the time of his death in 1912 a nationally feted figure, a composer, conductor and professor of music who travelled extensively, both within the United Kingdom and even, three times, to the United States.

A talent emerging
Samuel’s change in reputational (if not financial) fortunes began when he got to know a wealthy Croydon benefactor, Colonel Herbert Walters, who helped to pay for his childhood violin and piano lessons. The boy's talent then took him at an early age to study performance and composition at the newly-established Royal College of Music in London, where by the age of eighteen in 1893 he had produed his first mature pieces, including the magnificent Opus 1 Piano Quintet*.

There were, as with every composer, many formative influences, but even from his earliest works Samuel Coleridge-Taylor showed an interesting combination of approaches to composition; he employed unusual time measures (5/4 at one point in the Fantasiestcke) whilst incorporating also into his music the sorts of melodies and harmonies which he, though never having heard them at first hand for himself, believed might be found in his black (‘Anglo-African’) cultural heritage. This later resulted in several works such as the African Suite with its Danse Negre, as well as his Negro Melodies and much else.

Slavery, inequality and widening experience
Given Coleridge-Taylor’s personal family history, and his concerns throughout adulthood with slavery, inequality and injustice, it is telling that the Hiawatha trilogy, his best-known composition, relates the story of an Amerindian child raised by his grandmother who, as an adult, seeks out his father before leading his people forward courageously, making prophesies about the future of his race and the arrival of the white man.

Indeed, by 1900 and at the age of just 25, Coleridge-Taylor was reflecting art in life, as an elected representative to the great 1900 Pan-African Conference in London, which publicised the plight of African peoples throughout the British Empire. By then too his professional career was taking wings, and he was for some years the protégé of amongst others Sir Edward Elgar, as well as his original musical mentor, the first Principal of the Royal College of Music, Sir George Grove, and the composition professor, Sir Charles Villiers Stanford.

Samuel was never to become wealthy – which, there being no Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Foundation to promote his work after his death, meant his music was effectively lost for many years. But as the composer developed in adulthood as a musician and as a man, he commanded huge respect across the very broad spectrum of his friends and colleagues.

Mature work
By his death in 1912 Coleridge-Taylor had produced well over one hundred works, but it was his early extended choral trilogy, Scenes from the Song of Hiawatha, composed between 1898 and 1900, which brought him to the public eye. For many years even after his death this piece was performed annually at the Royal Albert Hall, in elaborate costume with processions and much theatre.

Other music by Coleridge-Taylor included many interesting and varied works, including several operas (A Tale of Old Japan springs tantalisingly to mind), chamber works (mostly from earlier in his career) and a Violin Concerto only recently recorded after many years of neglect, sometimes by those who should have known better. Slowly however there has been a re-emergence of his music, as manuscripts are rediscovered and if necessary edited into performable scores. The annual HOTFOOT concert of HOPES: The Hope Street Association in Liverpool has since 1996 presented a considerable number of Coleridge-Taylor pieces, including excerpts from Hiawatha, the African Suite, the Romance for Violin and Orchestra, the Petite Suite de Concert and the Ballet Suite.

For several years around the Millennium these and other performances of Coleridge-Taylor's music were encouraged by Daniel Labonne, who chaired the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Society.

Visits to the United States of America
Coleridge-Taylor carried out a large number of appointments as conductor or adjudicator at festivals and competitions, constantly travelling around Britain and beyond, and visited the United States three times, in 1904, 1906 qnd 1910 (probably departing from Liverpool; he knew John Archer of Liverpool, who was later to become the first black British mayor, in Battersea, and whose portrait is now in Liverpool Town Hall).

One interesting aspect of these travels is that Coleridge-Taylor is thought on occasion to have sent his manuscripts ahead, and there is a suspicion that his very early String Quartet, now lost, may have gone down with the Titanic.

Whilst in America Coleridge-Taylor conducted many of his own works, often performed by black musicians whose recent family history included slavery and oppression (at one point he refused to return to the USA until he had assurances that his singers, if not players, would be black people). During all his visits he was received as a great celebrity, eventually conducting the New York Philharmonic Orchestra as the only black person present.

Because of this travel a considerable amount of Coleridge-Taylor’s music is to be found in repositories such as the Free Library of Philadelphia, rather than all at the Royal College of Music or elsewhere in Britain.. Coleridge-Taylor remains to this day a role model in the United States, with music societies and schools named after him.

A premature end
In 1912, after twelve years of happily married life (to Jessie Walmisley, another pianist) and fatherhood (his two children, Hiawatha and Gwendolyn, both also became musicians) but also of hard-pressed poverty, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor died of pneumonia, a condition which previous good health – or antibiotics, had they been available then – would simply have seen him indisposed for a week or two.

And so, in his prime (who knows what other music he might have produced, given time?), died a thoroughly decent man, much loved and respected across the nation, and an inspirational musician.....

* A note on Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s early work
Coleridge-Taylor’s early works were for chamber ensembles – probably the only performance forces available to him at the time. These works lay almost completely unacknowledged for the best part of a century. The Opus 1, or first formal work, Piano Quintet was resurrected from total obscurity in 2001 by Martin Anthony (aka Tony) Burrage (a violin and piano graduate of the Royal Academy of Music and member of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra) who is Director of Ensemble Liverpool / Live-A-Music. This ensemble recorded the Opus 1 Piano Quintet in 2001 at a concert in Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall.

Also recorded at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall concert was Coleridge-Taylor's 1895 Fantasiestucke for string quartet (first performed in modern times by Ensemble Liverpool / Live-A-Music, in 1993 to mark the Cornwallis initiative in Liverpool from a score also discovered by Tony Burrage, and originally published in 1921). The Op. 1 and Op. 5 pieces have also been performed elsewhere by Ensemble Liverpool / Live-A-Music, including during the 2002 Three Choirs Festival in Worcester, as part of the Ensemble's Across the Divide programme of works by a diverse range of turn-of-the century English speaking composers: Amy Cheney Beach (1867-1944), Coleridge-Taylor himself, William Hurlstone (1876-1906), Dame Ethel Smyth (1858-1944) and Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924).

[Copies of a 2001 live concert recording of some of Coleridge-Taylor's chamber music can be accessed via the Royal College of Music (RCM) and the British Library.]

Coleridge-Taylor’s Piano Quintet and Fantasiestucke show the influence of Johannes Brahms (1833-97; his Clarinet Quintet was written in 1891) and Anton Dvorak (1841-1904; the
American Quartet was composed in 1893), as well as his mentors, English composers Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924) and Sir Edward Elgar (1857-1934; the Serenade for Strings was written in 1892/3). Other English contemporaries of Coleridge-Taylor, with whom he may have been in touch, were Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958), Gustav Holst (1874-1932), John Ireland (1879-1962) and Sir Arnold Bax (1883-1953), as well as Coleridge-Taylor’s good friend and fellow student at the RCM, the tragically short-lived William Hurlstone (1876-1906).

The first ever public performance of the Piano Quintet Op. 1 was on 9 October 1893 in Croydon Public Hall, when the young composer himself played the piano part. (Other performers included a string quartet actually led by a woman, Jessie
Grimace.) The concert came about as a result of Coleridge-Taylor’s newly acquired status as a Royal College of Music composition scholar.

This experience must have been a huge ordeal for the shy eighteen-year-old, as yet barely acquainted with the ways of the London conservatoires (it is said he hid from everyone immediately after the concert); but it was, in the words of the Croydon Advertiser, an ‘astonishing’ event which left no doubt about either the performing capability or, even more strikingly, the compositional talent, of the retiring young man who was able even so early to produce an entire concert of his own work.

The Opus 5 Fantasiestucke, composed just two years after the Piano Quintet, was first performed on 13 March 1895, at the Royal College of Music in London. The work, in five movements,
is dedicated to Coleridge-Taylor’s composition teacher, (Sir) Charles Villiers Stanford. One tangible result for Coleridge-Taylor of this early performance was winning the Lesley Alexander prize for composition (£10, a very useful sum at that time for an impecunious student); and another was a ‘quite brilliant’ Spring report from his RCM teachers.

After his first engagement with chamber works – including the Clarinet Quintet, also of 1895 – Coleridge-Taylor veered towards wider forces and the more popular end of the musical spectrum, perhaps because of financial pressures.

We shall never know if, like some other composers, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor would have returned to the more intimate focus of the chamber ensemble in later maturity; but some performers of these early pieces like to think he would have done so.


More articles with information on contemporary performances of Coleridge-Taylor's works


More books about Samuel Coleridge-Taylor:
Geoffrey Self (1995) The Hiawatha Man, Scholar Press

Charles Elford (2008) Black Mahler, Grosvenor House Publishing Ltd.

Read more about Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

www.samuelcoleridgetaylor.org

Clock (small) 06.9.5 002.jpg The nights are drawing in, and the debate is beginning once more... Must we really turn our meagrely lit afternoons into even more gloom? Maintaining the extra hour of afternoon daylight year-long, over and above British Standard Time (BST), well compensates most people for even darker mornings, as reports by RoSPA amongst others have demonstrated. The net benefits to the economy, energy savings, health, safety and, for instance, for the leisure industry, would be many.

Already talk is turning to the dreaded day that The Clocks Go Back - this year, Sunday 29 October at 2 a.m, in the U.K.. What daylight we may have enjoyed at 4 p.m. on 28th October will now be our allocation for just 3 p.m. on Sunday 29th; and it will get a lot worse before it gets any better, in March next year, when British Summer Time returns.

Why can't we just keep to British Summer Time (BST; confusingly the same initials as the 1968-71 trial British Standard Time)? British Summer Time is Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) plus one hour. The evidence shows benefits on balance would be an improvement in our overall quality of life. It's been tried, from 1968-71, and it worked. And that was before issues around energy saving etc were deemed critical as well.

Background information
The background to the current situation, and the cost-benefits for health, safety, environmental sustainability, the economy, leisure activities and much else have had a good airing on this weblog:
The Clocks Go Forward (But Why, Back Again)?
Time is Energy (and Daylight uses Less)

The debate will continue
This is not an issue which is going to go away, so perhaps The Time Has Come for the Big Debate on this? In our eco- and economy-driven age, we can no longer simply do things as fundamental as this in a given way just because it's the status quo.

The full debate about BST is in the section of this website entitled BST: British Summer Time & 'Daylight Saving' (The Clocks Go Back & Forward).....

Read the discussion of this article which follows the book E-store...