by Joel Beaumont
The August Bank Holiday means carnival time for Leeds.
The West Indian Carnival will take to the streets of Leeds this Bank Holiday Monday. As Europe’s longest running Caribbean Carnival there is lots to take in and do.
The day of the carnival starts early with J’Ouvert morning. An early morning music march for anyone who wishes to attend. The only rule being you must wear your pyjamas. If pyjama prancing in Potternewton sounds like your kind of thing then head on over to the Leeds West Indian Centre on Laycock Place for 6am where the festivities last until around 9am.
If getting up at the crack of dawn on a bank holiday isn’t you’re idea of fun then stay in bed and get some rest ready for the big day.
The carnival is based in Potternewton Park in Harehills with a whole host of arts and crafts, music and dance, food and drink, all of course with a Caribbean twist, on offer to sample.
The Big Parade
The main focal point of the carnival is the parade. A vibrant and addictive blend of colourful costumes and music leaves the park at 2pm. The Carnival King, Queen, Prince and Princess are joined by troupes and floats to create a Caribbean carnival atmosphere.
It continues onto Harehills Lane, Roundhay Road, Barrack Road, Chapeltown Road, Harehills Avenue and returning into Potternewton Park at around 5pm.
Leeds West Indian Carnival is the brainchild of Arthur France, MBE, who arrived here from St Kitts-Nevis in 1957. In 1966, he and two friends, Frankie Davis from Trinidad and Tony Lewis, from Jamaica, students at the University of Leeds, as well as Ian Charles from Trinidad, organised a carnival fete at Kitson College (now Leeds City Technology College.)
Arthur France decided there should be a carnival parade along the streets of Leeds, with Ian’s support, plus help from others including Calvin Beech, Willie Robinson, Samlal Singh and Rose McAlister, Leeds West Indian Carnival was on the road for the first time in 1967.
The success of the Leeds Carnival paved the way for the famous Notting Hill Carnival in London. Arthur is still the chairman of the Leeds West Indian Carnival to this day.