Officially the oldest carnival in Europe, the Leeds West Indian Carnival is preparing to celebrate its gold anniversary in 2017 and it promises to be a street party like no other.
A Brief History of the Leeds Carnival
To appreciate the enormity of the festival, we must first delve into its fascinating history. The first Leeds West Indian Carnival first took place back in 1967, after St Kitts and Nevis native, Arthur France, became homesick. Alongside Ian Charles, the duo organised Europe’s first open-air Caribbean carnival, after their initial proposal for the street party was turned down by the local Caribbean Association.
According to Ian, Leeds quickly felt like home: “I immediately liked the culture here in Leeds. I would always go dancing with my friends.
The only thing that lets England down is the cold weather - hopefully the carnival helps to bring a bit of Caribbean warmth and sunshine each year! The community can all come together and have a great time, no matter who you are or where you’re from.”
Despite initially being mocked for their plans, the friends formed an independent committee and as they prepared for the inaugural event and the first Carnival Queen Show, Ian’s home became an impromptu costume factory. Vicky Seal’s impressive sun goddess costume earned her the maiden crown, while dancers wiggled their way along the procession from Potternewton Park to Leeds Town Hall to live music played by local bands.
What to Expect at the 2017 Leeds Carnival?
- 20th August: Carnival Prince & Princess Show
- 25th August: Carnival King & Queen Show
- 26th August: Soca Monarch Show
- 28th August: J’ouvert Morning (06:30-08:30) & The Big Parade (14:00-17:00)
- 11th September: Carnival Chronicles
- 13th-15th September: Queen of Chapeltown
- 16th September: Carnival Messiah film screening
- 5th-6th October: Light Night Leeds