BBC’s Collaboration Culture travels to Trinidad where British artist Jeremy Deller teams up with steel pan band arranger Michelle Huggins-Watts
For a long time I’ve been interested in steel bands. Trinidad is the home of steel bands so it makes sense to go to that place and see what you can come up with."Jeremy Deller
In the fifth episode of the series, scheduled to air on 28 July, Turner Prize-winning British artist Jeremy Deller teams up with Trinidad's ‘First Lady’ of the steel pan and her champion band, the Valley Harps Steel Orchestra.
Jeremy Deller is a celebrated conceptual, video and installation artist. A hugely influential figure on the international contemporary art scene, and due to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale next year, he was recently the subject of a critically acclaimed retrospective show at London’s Hayward Gallery. He’s also famous for not being an artist in the traditional sense. He can’t really paint or draw. Instead, Deller specialises in creating unique events through unusual collaborations. From working with British miners to recreate The Battle of Orgreave, to Acid Brass – a colliery brass band performing Acid House music – his work is highly original.
In 2009 Deller orchestrated a civic parade through Manchester city centre in the UK which put some of the city’s more contemporary iconography to the fore, including songs from the British band, Joy Division, which were played by a steel band. In this episode Jeremy heads off to collaborate on a new artistic work featuring a steel pan band in the country that invented them: Trinidad.
Michelle Huggins-Watts is the band leader and musical arranger of champion Trinidadian steel pan band The Valley Harps. Huggins-Watts toured the world as a steel pan musician before settling back in Trinidad determined to bring more young people into the music. A decade ago she set about rejuvenating the Valley Harps steel pan group and was rewarded with a first place victory in the 2011 Panorama music competition – the most keenly fought annual music event in Trinidad. Michelle has an MPhil degree in cultural studies from the University of West Indies and is a music teacher at Trinity College in Moka, Maraval, where she also runs a junior pan band.
This collaboration sees Deller and Huggins-Watts combining their very different skills to create a brand new, one-off performance and music event in Trinidad, featuring some of the best-known carnival artists on the island.
Jeremy Deller, speaking before the collaboration said: “For a long time I’ve been interested in steel bands. Trinidad is the home of steel bands so it makes sense to go to that place and see what you can come up with.”
Michelle Huggins-Watts, speaking about the song they used in the collaboration said: “It’s really different, not something you’d readily hear on the pan – but there are some interesting parts… My main thing is to get the song down on the steel pan… even if it’s just the first chord! Just so I know how it sounds on the pan… I’m really looking forward to working on this piece… in however many days we have!”
Collaboration Culture, broadcast in association with Emirates, will air weekly on BBC World News from 30 June on Saturdays at 00:30; 07:30, and Sundays at 12:30; 18:30 (all times GMT).
For all the latest news from the series, please visit bbc.com/collaborationculture or join the conversation on facebook.com/collabculture and/or on Twitter at @collab_culture.
For more information please contact:
Sophie West t: +44 (0)7718 117 723 / e: firstname.lastname@example.org
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