Leeds West Indian Carnival

Leeds West Indian Carnival
Photo: leedscarnival.co.uk
The English city of Leeds is known for hosting numerous carnivals and festivals, such as the Leeds Festival, the Leeds International Piano Competition, the Leeds International Film Festival, the Leeds Festival Fringe, and others. One of the main highlights of the city’s festival calendar is the Leeds West Indian Carnival.

The Leeds West Indian Carnival, also known as the Leeds Carnival or the Chapeltown Carnival, is the oldest West Indian carnival in Europe and one of the largest such carnivals in the United Kingdom. It was founded in 1967 by Arthur France, then a Leeds University student from Nevis, and his friend Ian Charles.

France wanted to create Europe’s first Caribbean-style carnival organized by people of Caribbean origin. Unfortunately, the local Caribbean association was not forthcoming, so he formed his own committee.

The inaugural Leeds West Indian Carnival featured the Carnival Queen Show, a procession, a steel band competition, and a dance. Five Carnival Queen contenders joined dancers and bands in a procession that marched from Potternewton Park in north-east Leeds to Leeds Town Hall. Later that year the Leeds performers participated in the Notting Hill Carnival.

What started as a small local event has grown to become a three-day celebration of Caribbean culture held every August bank holiday weekend. The Leeds Carnival has an estimated attendance of 150,000, which makes it one of the largest Caribbean carnivals in the United Kingdom.

The Leeds West Indian Carnival kicks off the Friday before the August Bank Holiday (the last Monday in August) with the Carnival King and Queen Competition. The Carnival Queen Show has been a tradition since the very first carnival, and a Carnival King was chosen for the first time in 2008.

Saturday and Sunday are filled with live music and street parties. People dance to the sound of soca and calypso, having the time of their lives. But the main highlight of the carnival is the parade held on August Holiday Monday. The procession features dancers in gorgeous costumes, beautifully decorated floats, and musicians playing Caribbean music. It starts and finishes in Potternewton Park in Chapeltown, where stalls and stages provide live entertainment, delicious food and refreshment for carnival-goers.

In 2021, the event was held online due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Leeds West Indian Carnival

Photo: makinaman




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