top of page

Forreggae - Beto Barbosa

Trevor Kates, the Islington Arts Resources Manager, was a true hero of community arts in London in the 1990's as well as being a thoughtful, kind and all round wonderful person. Through his management of the Arts Resources section, he enabled dozens of community groups and arts organisations to hold successful festivals, performances, exhibitions and other events not only in Islington, but all over London. He and his loyal team, headed by the ever-reliable sound specialist Mark Rackstraw, a necessary skill as Trevor, a lighting expert, was partially deaf, and the effervescent Kenny Everett - for me, the only Kenny Everett that matters - supplied equipment, training and onsite event expertise that was often above and beyond their jobs and the hours for which they were paid.

Sometimes we serviced festivals that went on for two or three days, necessitating early starts and late finishes which meant that those of us who lived outside London had to find a place to stay in the smoke overnight, and more often than not we would wind up at Trevor's.

I remember a start for the Scene on the Green Jazz Festival, that was so early that, walking along a deserted Clapham street to catch the first tube, I became aware of a large dog walking beside me. This was unnerving as there was no-one in sight let alone a potential owner of the animal. I continued along the pavement, trying to be calm, and deliberately not looking down at my four footed companion for fear of inciting it. When we came to a zebra crossing, I carried on and the dog paused then crossed by the crossing to the other side of the road as there were no cars approaching. I then dared to take a look at mys escort and was amazed to see not a dog but a fox walking parallel to me on the pavement on the other side of the road before jumping a low wall to access Clapham Common.

When I arrived at Newington Green, at around 7 am, I was amazed to find Trevor already there, well into staking out the park prior to putting up the stage and siting the control point, portaloos, bar area and so on. When the others arrived I told them my fox story and they all laughed at me, quizzing me about how much I'd had to drink or what drugs I had consumed the night before, but Trevor merely commented that we hadn't enough time to hang around listening to shaggy dog stories, and could everyone get a move on setting up.

There was no kind of event that Trevor hadn't worked on: Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Turkish, Chinese, pan-African, Afro-Caribbean, Latin American; kids' shows, youth and community theatre, lesbian and gay cabarets, tea dances, disability music festivals, International Women's Day events, gospel evenings, classical and early music concerts, Burns nights, community dance festivals, Bonfire Nights, and all manner of festivals at Islington community centres or in their nearby parks - the list seems endless. It is a tribute to his calm, unassuming character that he was able to work so tirelessly and creatively with such a diverse range of people.

Once I programmed a St Patrick's Day cabaret at the back "studio theatre" in the Union Chapel. I was nominally in charge, but all of the preparation had been completed so I had little to do and was enjoying a Guinness when I was told that the compere I had booked was ill and so I had to step into the breach. I was a dazzling link between the acts, making jokes, reciting snippets of Yeats and Flann O'Brien and toasting each artist onto the stage. After the sell-out crowd had gone home, and we'd packed everything up to take it back to the store, there was only Trevor and me left. I said to Trevor, "Well that went pretty well didn't it?" He looked at me and said, "Don't you ever, ever do that to me again". "Do What?" I asked. "Drink before an event you are working on". I had no idea that it had showed, or that my performance had been in any way impaired by the alcohol. No-one who was there ever mentioned it, but coming from Trevor, I cringed that I had made such a fool of myself. And I never drank while working again.

One of Trevor's favourite events was FestaBrasil, an annual Rio carnival-style event put on by Rene Lee at Highbury Roundhouse Community Centre. Trevor once, on his hour break from working on the sound and lighting, was roped into covering the box office and entrance point. He later told me that he let in four incredibly costumed and bejewelled female punters free of charge because they'd "flashed" their breasts at him. I asked him why, theoretically this shouldn't have influenced him - he was gay after all -, and he said, "Ah, the senoras have muchas cojones, you've got to respect that!"

In January 1997 Trevor died of a heart attack, while on holiday in Florida. He was a dear friend to many of us at Islington Arts and Entertainments and I miss the twinkle in his eye and his dry sense of humour still.

On the way back to Trevor's flat after the first day of the Scene on the Green, Trevor slowed down and stopped at a zebra crossing. It was two in the morning and there was no-one in sight, not one car, not one pedestrian. All was silence. "What the hell are you playing at?" I asked.

Trevor said, "I'm waiting for a fox".

bottom of page