Photography by Marian Hall
Boundless enthusiasm doesn’t even begin to describe the energy and vitality that Brian Parsons brought to every project he touched, writes Iain Scott.
Brian was born and raised in Birmingham, his father a draughtsman involved in the early designs for the Mini and his mother a housewife, school dinner and lollipop lady. After a short stint in Ken Livingstone’s GLC, Brian returned to Birmingham where in the early 1980s he could be found busking on percussion. With Brian as core member and energiser, this grew into the Birmingham School Of Samba, one of the earliest samba groups in the UK.
But Brian’s focus switched to concert promotion and DJ’ing. Constantly thinking of ideas, booking bands, negotiating venues, organising late licenses, designing and printing leaflets and posters, mobilising people to distribute them, booking PA’s, hiring instruments, dealing with riders, finding the right people to work on the night and still have time to cook meals for whoever turned up with the band that day. All this without a car – Brian never did learn how to drive.
By himself or in partnership with others, Brian promoted early concerts by Angelique Kidjo, Orchestra Virunga, Kanda Bongo Man, Les Tetes Brules, Abdul Raheem, Ali Hassan Kuban and many, many more. These events continued into the 90s, and as Zuppa Inglese with perhaps more emphasis on the DJ’ing and notwithstanding a year-long sojourn in Colombia, into the new millennium.
The vast majority of Brian’s events were held in the Midlands. Away from any London-based media and with its own dynamic, it is not the easiest of places in which to promote African or Latin music. Undeterred by this, one of Brian’s most recent passions was a forro project with another Midlands resident, Wagner of X Factor fame. But in 2013 Brian had several unexplained falls and in 2014 he was diagnosed with a cancerous tumour on the brain. Sadly it was malignant and Brian died in the morning of St. Valentine’s day not long into his 64th year. He is survived by his older brother Peter and family.