The Global Grooves story begins with Iain Mellor, inimitable percussionist and workshop leader, who began Cabasa in Mossley in the mid-1990s. Each week in Mossley’s Community Centre, 30 people would gather to learn and share Latin percussion techniques and styles, including a teenage Leon Patel, now Global Grooves CEO.
The then Labour government’s initiative to widen opportunities for children enabled Cabasa to get out into schools and offer whole-class tuition in a range of percussive styles and traditions. This is something that many music projects were investing their efforts into at the time, including the Bean Brothers Bongo Band who performed at Saddleworth School in 1996, signposting wide-eyed teenager, Holly Prest, now Global Grooves’ Artistic Director, to join Cabasa. The rest is history.
Leon, Holly and a small number of others were encouraged to begin leading and managing Cabasa and soaked up all the other opportunities that Greater Manchester’s burgeoning Samba scene had to offer, resulting in a heady calendar of rehearsals, gigs, workshops and masterclasses.
Driven by their passion to raise the bar for Carnival, Leon and Holly established a series of workshops, the Republic of Swing, to engender a skills exchange between bands. This developed into the masterclass model that Global Grooves uses for all its major performances today.
Alongside the Republic of Swing, a partnership with São Paulo’s Meninos do Morumbi artistic social project was founded. Inspired by the ways in which the group engaged and supported young people and their families in the city’s favelas, Leon was keen to adopt a similar approach in Oldham, at a time when the town was suffering from significant racial tensions. Key players in Meninos do Morumbi, percussionist, Eraldo Marques, and dancer and choreographer, Adriana Rosso, amongst others, were invited to Oldham to share their artistic practice, and Meninos Oldham was born, providing free weekly sessions in percussion, dance, and Capoeira for young people aged between 7 and 18.
This interactive partnership compelled Eraldo and Adriana to remain in the UK and help grow the UK Carnival scene. With Leon and Holly, and the integral contribution of visual and textile artist, Emily Wood, Global Grooves was born.
Since then, the team has grown and our portfolio has evolved and diversified, but we continue to be artist-led and community minded, making sure we share opportunities with new and emerging artists and our raft of enthusiastic, much-valued volunteers.
However, we’ve certainly had our challenges along the way. In 2018, our storage facility in Stalybridge, where much of our visual arts work was stored, including many of our puppets, burnt down. Thankfully, nobody was hurt, but over five years’ worth of work was lost. Project Phoenix was subsequently launched: to bring new work to life lightning-quick to enable us to fulfil our bookings for the remainder of the year.
But Global Grooves is a remarkably resilient company, and from the ashes grew a renewed vigour. Later that year, our application to Arts Council England to become a National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) – the only NPO in Tameside – was successful.
Part of this development is the Northern Carnival Centre Of Excellence at our home, The Vale in Mossley, and you can read all about our exciting, ambitious plans – and how you can support us – over on The Vale’s dedicated website.