VIDEO: Damon Albarn and Africa Express pop-up in Stoke-on-Trent
Damon Albarn and the Africa Express train rolled into Stoke-on-Trent's Victoria Station today and delighted music fans with a series of impromptu pop-up gigs.
Blur and Gorillaz frontman Albarn was joined by African and British musicians including former libertine Carl Barat, Romeo Stodart from the Magic Numbers and John McClure from Reverend and the Makers.
Africa Express has been going for just over five years and raises awareness of African music and culture.
The musical troop is touring the breadth of the UK throughout the next week and will perform a number of shows across the country, sometimes without warning.
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The special train had left London's Euston station at 11.30am, where it was waved off by Jarvis Cocker, and stopped for a surprise gig in Milton Keynes.
It arrived in Stoke at precisely 2pm where it was greeted by an excited crowd.
Musicians then set off to perform gigs at four venues, including Hanley Park, Fountain Square, the North Staffordshire Afro-Carribean Association and the City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College.
Co-founder Ian Birrel said: "We have about 80 musicians from Africa and the West and we're stopping off to do a couple of pop-up performances.
"The purpose is really to take good music to different places and foster collaboration between artists."
Albarn has played a pivotal role in organising the collective.
He said: "We're just going all around the whole of the United Kingdom this week, getting off, playing, getting back on, playing on the train.
"We're just getting to know each other and the people watching.
Albarn led a crowd of fans from the station to the college, where three bands played a lively, energetic set.
"We had desert blues from Mali followed by blind singer and guitarist Amadou Bamako, taking to the makeshift stage with a very fetching gold guitar," he said.
About 60 people watched the intimate gig in the college reception.
It was all over within an hour, as the musicians boarded the Africa Express train and set off for their next stop in Leeds.
That is very much the nature of Africa Express, blasts of radiant music occuring seemingly at random all over the UK.
The ongoing exploits of Africa Express can be followed on Twitter @africaexpress. On today's evidence, it will bring a joyous and infectious transfusion of melodic and energetic music wherever it stops.