“WHEN I first heard I was going to play in the Hyde Park concert I couldn’t tell anyone. When people heard, everyone started ringing me, saying ‘wow, that is amazing.’”
Talking to The Specials bassist Horace Panter about the part he and the band will play in the forthcoming Olympics closing ceremony concert, the musician – who grew up in Kettering – was remarkably humble.
The Specials will take to the stage on Sunday, alongside the likes of Blur, New Order and George Michael, to celebrate the culmination of an event which has swept the majority of the population into a frenzy of sporting fervour.
He said: “It is a big concert in Hyde Park as far as I’m concerned but has links with the Olympics. I knew we were one of the bands being considered for it and that it was on the radar.
“I don’t think I was fully aware of the cultural weight behind it but now I realise what a great honour it really is.”
Nowadays Horace balances his time between performing with ska group The Specials (they recently performed at The Fuji Festival in Japan) and making a name for himself as a recognised artist.
And it was while living in Northamptonshire that Horace’s love of both ska music and art was born. Having spent most of his formative years in Kettering, Horace undertook a one-year art course at Northampton Art School in 1971 before going on to study fine art in Coventry.
He soon met Jerry Dammers and formed The Specials.
For 10 years Horace was also head of art in a school for children on the autistic spectrum but now focuses his time on creating his own work.
Horace, who is 58 and now lives in Coventry, but travels to Kettering regularly to visit his mother, said: “My first ambition was to be a pop star, like it is when you are 13. But I gravitated towards art and got a place at Northampton Art School.
“I like pop art and think that pop art is to art history what punk rock was to music in the 70s.”
He added: “With The Specials, I just consider myself to have been a very lucky man to be in the right place at the right rime. It was terrific.
“Even before we were able to get our record deal we were able to go on tour with The Clash in 1978 and that was a terrific boot camp. Then to pick up ska and reggae music at that time; I think we were in the right place at the right time.”
Today The Specials still have fans across the world but Horace is also keen to be accepted for his artwork.
He said: “There are celebrities who do paintings as well. I’m not famous enough for people to buy my art based on that, my work stands on its own.”
MUSIC, ART AND SCOOTERS...
As a bassist with The Specials, Horace spent a great deal of time on the road, and any spare time was devoted to visiting art galleries and buying art books.
The artwork he produces now is partly inspired by the places and people he encounters on his travels.
This autumn alone his artwork will be displayed at Metropolis art in Bournemouth, the Icon Gallery in Singapore and at the Artists’ Gallery in Aberdeen.
Most recently, Horace travelled into Coventry in the official Herbie 11 car which was on route from Liverpool to Monte Carlo, in order to raise funds for Claire’s Hospice in Liverpool.
Horace photographed many of the cars and scooters he saw, producing a painting of one particular scooter rider at the end of the trip.
Through Facebook, Horace was even able to track down the mystery scooter rider as Carl Barlow from Leamington Scooter Club.
He said: “When I saw the fantastic, colourful display of the scooters and their riders I just couldn’t resist taking as many photographs as I could, with the knowledge I could turn one into a painting.”
Horace’s work can be seen at the website www.horacepanterart.com.