A THORNBURY-BASED steel band is planning a cultural visit to the West Indies.

The Castle School’s steel pan group Panache is travelling to Barbados to play in hotels, at a prestigious reception for the British High Commissioner and participate in the traditional harvest festival Crop Over.

They will also learn more about the art from professional pan players.

The band is now raising funds for the trip which will take place in July after the players have completed their A Level exams. The group is entirely self-financing and raised £2,500 in three months towards the trip through performances and sales of their latest CD and other fundraising activities at various fetes, markets and craft fairs.

South West recruitment and training company Acorn has been helping the Barbados-bound students.

Debbie Cole, recruitment branch manager at Acorn’s Thornbury High Street office, visited The Castle School recently to present Panache with a cheque for £200.

Acorn’s cheque brings the total money raised so far to nearly £7,000 – almost halfway to Panache’s £15,000 fundraising target.

Gillian Holmes, director of Panache steel band, said: “We are so grateful to Acorn for this generous donation, which will help get the band on their way to Barbados.

“Acorn’s donation is a really helpful contribution to costs like transport, suitable hot weather uniform, flight charges for carrying instruments, and tuition from steel pan specialists Toussaint Clarke and Sophie Hanson.

“Our trip to Barbados will also benefit the other Castle School pupils, as Panache members are starting to teach other steel bands.”

Debbie Cole, Recruitment Branch Manager at Acorn’s Thornbury office, said: “Having seen Panache perform on several occasions, we at Acorn are really pleased and proud to be able to support them in this way. They are a very talented group and great ambassadors for the school and the Thornbury community.