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Concerns over the future of youth steel band in Stonebridge

PUBLISHED: 06:45 18 August 2016

St Michael and All Angels Steel Orchestra    Pic credit: Jonathan Goldberg

St Michael and All Angels Steel Orchestra Pic credit: Jonathan Goldberg

Jonathan Goldberg

A youth steel band in Stonebridge could be playing at Notting Hill Carnival for the last time this year amid fears it could be axed.

Freddy Totesaut and Patrick McKay have been involved in theSt Michael Youth Club since it started 20 years ago    Pic credit: Jonathan GoldbergFreddy Totesaut and Patrick McKay have been involved in theSt Michael Youth Club since it started 20 years ago Pic credit: Jonathan Goldberg

St Michael and All Angels Steel Orchestra, part of the St Michael Youth Project (SYMP), will turn 20 in November but is claimed to be in jeopardy due to a lack of funding.

They will play Gloria Gaynor’s classic masterpiece ‘I Will Survive’ at the carnival later this month under the guidance of Patrick McKay, co-ordinator, and Alfred ‘Freddy’ Totesaut, music arranger and teacher.

According to Mr McKay, the band faces the chop as the trustees of SYMP say there are ‘insufficient funds’.

He told the Times: “The Trustees have come to the conclusion there are insufficient funds to run a sustainable project. We are viable and we can continue.”

St Michael and All Angels Steel Orchestra    Pic credit: Jonathan GoldbergSt Michael and All Angels Steel Orchestra Pic credit: Jonathan Goldberg

He added: “Our concerts are free to the public. We tackle social isolation through positive engagement and challenge the negative perception of young people through our concerts and public activities. Last year we lost Stonebridge Adventure Playground, one of the two main youth providers in the area.

“If we lose this there is very little for our young.”

The club’s funding from the John Lyon charity ran out last year and Brent Council completely cut their funding after it slashed £1million from its youth budget as part of £54m cuts.

Through a grant from the Jack Petchy Foundation, the SMYP members have been awarded for a host of skills including volunteering and fundraising.

St Michael and All Angels Steel Orchestra    Pic credit: Jonathan GoldbergSt Michael and All Angels Steel Orchestra Pic credit: Jonathan Goldberg

At last year’s carnival they came second, by one point, in the steel band competition.

Mr Totesaut, who performed for Princess Margaret on her honeymoon, said: “There will be trouble, this club helps the people in Stonebridge and Harlesden but nobody is coming forward.”

Ann Jones OBE, former leader of Brent Council and board of trustee member, denied the group faced the axe.

She said: “There is no intention of closing the project but that doesn’t mean we don’t have some significant problems. We can’t get away from the fact that times are very difficult and funding is very difficult to find and facing testing times.

“We are thinking of possibly teaming up with others but for now we have the carnival to look forward to, we don’t want to worry them but we will do our best with it.”

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