Leeds West Indian Carnival 2020 Cancelled – A Message from Leeds Mas Media

Dear Carnival Family,

On 28 March 2020 it was announced that the Leeds West Indian Carnival due to take place in August had been cancelled due to the Corona virus outbreak. This news came just a day after the announcement that the Black Music Festival due to take place during the same August Bank Holiday Weekend had also been cancelled.

In a press release the following day the chairman of the carnival Arthur France said:

As carnivalist, we know how to unite the city through joy, happiness and adversity and it’s these qualities that will help us get through these difficult times. We will be back in 2021 bigger and better with an array feathers, gems, sequins, costumes and music. I would like to thank everyone involved in carnival over the last 53 years and especially the carnival committee who given up their time for the love of carnival. We support our long standing partner, our friends at Leeds City Council and together we’ll be jammin again.

For the Leeds West Indian Carnival, this marks the first time the event has been cancelled since it first began in 1967. The first ten years of the carnival’s history were often an uncertain time for the hardworking carnival committee and while the carnival was close to being cancelled a couple of times, the committee and friends of the carnival worked extra hard to make sure things went ahead. Getting the first carnival on the road in 1967 was no easy task but it was the coming together of the community that made it happen. Leeds University students, NHS nurses, Burton’s staff and many, many others all had a role to play that was equally as important as the carnival committee. Not to forget the work done by Leeds City Council and the West Yorkshire Police. People worked hard, for free, to make the carnival happen every year and it was that community spirit that kept the carnival going during those difficult early years.

In 1974 there was difficulty finding a venue for the Last Lap Dance and the Queen Show had to be cancelled in both 1976 and 1978. 1976 was the closest the carnival came to being cancelled during those years. The Queen Show had already been cancelled and the committee once again struggled to secure a venue for the Last Lap Dance, the two events helped finance the carnival parade. Leeds Other Paper reported at the time that “there was some doubt a few months ago about whether the celebration would take place”. After negotiations with the Education Committee, a venue at Leeds University was agreed upon and the carnival was saved. In their July issue Chapeltown News were proud to announce “Chapeltown carnival is ON”.

Things ran a lot smoother over the next decades. Come rain or shine the carnival went on.  Even the heavy downpour of 1988, which forced the Reggae Concert to be cancelled, was no match for the carnival. The riots that took place in the summer of 1981 and the two deaths in 1990 left the public uncertain of the carnival’s future but the carnival committee and supporting groups worked hard to ensure the carnival would remain a safe environment for all and would continue to go ahead as planned. The arson attack on the carnival centre in 2011, just three weeks before the carnival parade was due to take place, was perhaps the most difficult period in recent history for the organisers. With many costumes destroyed and the fear of further unrest the carnival came close to being cancelled. The carnival did go ahead but the decision was made to not include any steel pan bands. As recent as 2019, a murder close to the carnival route the night before the parade meant part of the route was cordoned off by police and the jouvert morning parade had to change its route last minute. With the police cordon still in place in the early afternoon there were fears that the parade would be cancelled but after a delay the parade went ahead.

For many of us who have been a part of Leeds West Indian Carnival in one way or another for years or even decades, this cancellation has hit hard and it was a hard decision for the committee to make. However, we must understand that it was the correct decision to make, for our safety and the safety of others. The Leeds West Indian Carnival is a symbol of what can be achieved when we work together. Now we must work together to beat the Corona virus, to save lives, to protect the NHS and to save the carnival from future cancellations. Please follow the government’s guidelines. Stay indoors as much as possible, protect yourself and others and practice social distancing at all times when you do go out. Stay safe and we’ll see each other on the road in 2021.


25 Books on the Black Community In Leeds

The Windrush Generation 

Eulogy – Susan Pitter (2019)

Homecoming: Voices of The Windrush Generation – Colin Grant (2019)

Mother Country : Real Stories of The Windrush Children – Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff (2018)

Why am I Here? A Life Story – Hubert Glendore English (2005)

A Journey Through Our History – Melody Walker (2003)

Black Community in Leeds and beyond 

Don’t Stop The Carnival –  Kevin Le Gendre (2017)

They Gave the Crowd Plenty Fun : West Indian Cricket and its Relationship with the British-Resident Caribbean Diaspora – Colin Babb (2015)

The History of the African & Caribbean Communities in Britain-Hakim Adi (2014)

Nationality – Wog : the Hounding of David Oluwale – Kester Aspden (2007)

Anti-apartheid : a History of the Movement in Britain : a Study in Pressure Group Politics – Roger Fieldhouse (2005)

The Heritage Journal – The United Caribbean Association (1996)

Land of Hope and Glory? : The Presence of African, Asian and Caribbean Communities in Leeds – Mohsin Zulfiqar (1993)

Leeds West Indian Carnival and Steel Pan

Celebrate! 50 Years of Leeds West Indian Carnival – Guy Farrar, Max Farrar, Tim Smith (2017)

Pan : The Steelband Movement in Britain – Dr Geraldine Connor (2011)

Life In Chapeltown

Another Crossing – Khadijah Ibrahiim (2014)

The Struggle for ‘Community’ in a British Multi-ethnic Inner-city Area : Paradise in the Making – Max Farrar (2002)

Where’s The Water Gone? : A Chapeltown Soap Opera – Millicent Francis (2000)

Constructing and De-constucting Community : A Case Study of a Multi-cultural Inner City Area: Chapeltown Leeds 1972-1997 – Max Farrar (1999)

When Our Ship Comes In : Black Women Talk – Chapeltown Black Women Writers’ Group (1992)


The Parish History of St. Martin’s Church, Potternewton, Leeds, 1881-1981 – Frederick Fisher Heath (1981)

A Goodly Heritage : the History of St. Aidan’s Church, Leeds – Barrie Pepper (1994)

Roscoe Methodist Church : A Unique History – Roscoe Methodist Church (2011)

Famous Names

Brutally Honest – Melanie Brown (2018)

Believe – Nicola Adams (2017)

The Black Flash : The Albert Johanneson Story – Paul Harrison (2012)


Hot, Hot, Hot Carnival – Leeds West Indian Carnival 2019 – Part Three

Soca Village, set up on the corner of Reginald Terrace and Chapeltown Road, once again provided late-night entertainment for carnival fans. On 25 August they hosted the ‘Carnival Invasion’ event from 12am until 2am the following morning. Tickets were priced at £10 for which guests enjoyed a party night of dancehall, hip hop, afro beats, R&B, and reggae that was advertised to deliver “the grown up hype of the carnival weekend”. Live music was provided by dancehall singer Trudiva from Jamaica.

Carnival Invasion poster.

As most of Chapeltown celebrated into Bank Holiday Monday and experienced the ‘grown up hype of the carnival weekend’ very few were aware of what had taken place on the streets earlier in the night. Shortly before 10pm, at the junction of Button Hill and Grange View, 21-year-old Tcherno Ly was stabbed. He was rushed to hospital but sadly passed away. The area quickly became a crime scene and last minute changes had to be made to the J’ouvert Morning parade route so that the 6am parade could continue to take place. Avoiding part of Chapeltown Road, the new J’ouvert parade began at the West Indian Centre and travelled down Chapeltown Road before turning up Francis Street. From Francis Street the parade headed down Nassau Place (one street across from Chapeltown Road) before entering Harehills Avenue. From Harehills Avenue the parade was able to continue on its planned route down Spencer Place and Francis Street before returning to the West Indian Centre around 8.30am.

Chapeltown Road on Monday morning. (Photo: Ben Lack)

As the day continued, a police blockade was still present on Chapeltown Road and it was uncertain whether the carnival parade would be able to go ahead. It wasn’t until around 12pm that the carnival committee were informed by police that  the road would be opened in time for the 2pm parade. The police blockade on Chapeltown Road meant that the Mama Dread troupe could not access their mas camp or any of the costumes locked inside. Police eventually allowed access to the building so that costumes could be retrieved and a makeshift mas camp was set up outside on St Marys Road. Part of Chapeltown Road was still taped off by police as late as 1pm and the parade start time was set back to 3pm.

Makeshift Mas Camp on St Marys Road (Photo: Danny Friar)

Waiting for the parade to begin, crowds and troupes gathered in Potternewton Park. Prior to the parade taking off, BBC News spoke to Pareesha Valentina in the performer’s arena. She described the 2019 Leeds West Indian Carnival as “Probably the happiest day of my life so far.” She went on to say “Seeing, like, everybody just happy in their costumes and just feeling like a king and queen for the day, it just makes everything all worthwhile.” Chelsee Henderickson from Valentina’s Collective troupe also spoke to BBC News saying “You can’t complain can you? The sun’s out, it’s hot, everybody looks amazing so it’s going to be a really good day.” It was later reported that the August Bank Holiday Monday was the hottest on record, with temperatures in Leeds reaching 27C, around the time the parade set off from Potternewton Park.

A total of eighteen troupes took part in the 2019 Leeds West Indian Carnival. High Esteem in their peacock inspired ‘Birds of a Feather’ costumes led the parade with their winning King and Queen. They were followed by Unity Carnival Arts troupe which included carnival princess Carmen Brown. Joining the carnival parade for the first time this year was 39-year-old Ben Tuyak in a self-made individual costume.  He was followed by Valentina’s Collective troupe which this year was named ‘Rise of The Phoenix’. Some members of the troupe had recently appeared on television during an episode of the Channel 4 programme ‘Come Dine With Me’. They had appeared in an episode alongside footballer Sanchez Payne aired on 12 August. Troupes from outside of Leeds included The Ancestors troupe from Nottingham who dressed in traditional clown costumes complete with whips. They danced to music played on the big drum and kettle drum. The one and only steel band on the road in 2019 was the New World Steel Orchestra. They were followed by the X-Treme Mas troupe from Leicester and Cultural Roots Carnival Troupe from Derby. Arriving in Leeds by coach earlier in the day, the Cultural Roots Carnival Troupe had used the Mandela Centre on Chapeltown Road to prepare for the parade. Troupe members had enjoyed food at the centre before heading down Chapeltown Road to Potternewton Park. In the parade they were followed by a small group from Callaloo Carnival Arts from Mirfield which included Marina Poppa and DJ Soca Haze in Fancy Sailor costumes. An almost all-white troupe, Spectrum from Preston, danced in purple and green costumes. They were followed by the Kweku Ananse troupe led by Nii Kwartey Owoo, a dancer originally from Ghana, in his Ananse spiderweb inspired king costume. The costume had been built in three weeks with the help of Hughbon Condor. The Harrison Bundey Mama Dread’s Masqueraders were celebrating 21 years on the road. Their message for 2019 was ‘Hand In Hand, We Beat Di Beasts’ and their truck included a placard that read ‘Beat The Beasts…Boris, Brexit, Climate Change’. Adult members wore hand costumes while younger members of the troupe wore red and green dragon costumes. They were followed by the AAA Team in their ‘Black Panther Tribe’ costumes led by Arthur France. His blue flag included an image of Africa and the words ‘Protecting and Promoting Our Culture Heritage’. Another member of the troupe also waved the pink ‘Leeds West Indian Carnival’ flag. The RJC Dance troupe wore a mix of costumes from previous years. However, the focus was on their amazing dance routines. They were followed by the Pure Elegance Carnival troupe from Huddersfield. In their blue and green feathered costumes, the Ferm and Ready Mas troupe this year was called ‘Humming Birds’. The Jamaican Rugby League team, the Reggae Warriors wore their team kit and headdresses designed and made by High Esteem. They were followed by Team Creative in African Zulu inspired costumes. Their troupe was named after the female warrior Shujaawa Kike. They were joined by a group of African drummers. The parade ended with Professor Black’s troupe from Birmingham. Hebrew Rawlings and Michael Paul were also present at the 2019 carnival and this year saw the return of the red haired clown costumes.

Michael Paul at Leeds West Indian Carnival, 2019.

Back at Potternewton Park the One Plus Soca band from London performed live on stage and guests enjoyed Caribbean food from one of the many stalls set up in the park and along the parade route. New for 2019 was a stall set up on Harehills Avenue by Flava Hut. The Caribbean restaurant and take away had first opened in May 2019 and was based at 307 Roundhay Road, not far from the carnival parade route.

Once the troupes had arrived back at the park, the winners of the best and biggest troupe were announced. Winning the Best Youth Group was RJC Dance and winners of the Best Adult Troupe was Team Creative. As the awards were announced, members of Team Creative could be heard chanting ”Shujaawa Kike” from within the performers’ arena. When Sheila Howarth announced them as the winners of the best adult troupe there was loud cheers and blowing of horns and whistles before the troupe made their way to the stage to dance. They were joined on the stage by the winning Carnival Princess Anelia. Team Creatives winning moment was captured and edited in a short video by GL Photography. The three-minute long video included a short interview with some troupe members. One troupe member, Faye Kenny said “next year we’re coming for it again”. Team Creative also won the award for biggest troupe.

Team Creative on the road, 2019.

The following day BBC News reported on the carnival on their website. They reported that “Thousands of people lined the streets of Leeds on August Bank Holiday Monday to watch the 52nd Leeds West Indian Carnival”. The short article included a three-minute long video which included some footage of the day but mainly focused on the Valentina Collective’s preparations leading up to the parade day.

Despite one arrest being made at the Black Music Festival the previous day and the murder which occurred the night before, the Leeds West Indian Carnival was again crime free in 2019. Tuesday’s Yorkshire Evening Post ran an article on the amount of rubbish left behind by those who attended the carnival. Under the headline ‘Massive clean up operation underway after 150,000 people attend Leeds Carnival 2019’ Rebecca Marano wrote “Cleaning crews started the post-party blitz around the area at 3am this morning – cleaning around the late night revellers who were still in the streets enjoying the Caribbean carnival.” The article went on to inform the reader that a “new team of cleaning staff” had arrived at 7am “and the shifts are set to continue throughout the day.” The article included several photographs of piles of rubbish which was mainly made up of food and drink containers. “A few pineapples, leftover fast food and even a pile of leftover chicken thighs were also spotted during the clean up” Rebecca Marano wrote. An unnamed member of the cleaning team spoke to the Yorkshire Evening Post and said “There’s quite a few departments involved so it’s gone really smoothly.” They added “Leeds Carnival is great. The clean-up is worth it because hundreds of thousands of people turn out for it and it brings a lot of money back to the city”.  Praise for the carnival in the press came later in the year. In December, Alison Bellamy wrote in the Yorkshire Evening Post that Chapeltown was “a thriving, creative inner-city suburb, with the world famous Leeds West Indian Carnival headquarters putting Leeds firmly on the map”.

Some of the rubbish left in the park. 

The party atmosphere in Chapeltown continued well into Tuesday morning. Outside the TD News newsagents at 137 Chapeltown Road, reggae fans could enjoy the ‘Strictly Roots Till Dun Carnival Special’ which included sound systems from Leeds, Bristol, Huddersfield and Birmingham playing until 2am on both Sunday and Monday night. At least two venues claimed to be hosting the official last lap event. Soca Village’s Last Lap began at 1pm on Monday and ended at midnight. It was advertised as the “best Kizomba party held over the carnival weekend” and featured DJs playing soca and reggae including DJ Dico, DJ Plux, Sensation, and Godfather as well as live soca music by Kollision Band from St. Kitts and Nevis. Entry before 8pm was free with tickets priced between £7 and £10 after that time.

A second ‘Official Last Lap’ was held at the Lake Victoria Club on Roseville Road from 10pm until 4am. Some ‘early bird’ tickets were available at £5 and normal tickets were priced at £10. Music, which was advertised as “50% Soca, 30% Bashment, 20% Urban” was provided by DJ Trini, DJ Toro, DJ TJ, DJ Vybz, and the Hypa Crew. The event was organised by Soca Up North.

Troupe members from Leeds once again appeared in Masham for the end of The UCI Road World Championships on 29 September. Protected by plastic ponchos and umbrellas, members of Team Creative, High Esteem, Anonymas and the AAA Team all danced in heavy rain to soca music provided by DJ Zebe. They performed at Market Square twice during the day. The first performance took place at 12.30pm with a second performance, a parade around the square, taking place at 4pm. The troupe members wore a variety of costumes from various years.

Leeds troupes in Masham, 2019.

During Black History Month in October, students at Allerton CE Primary School were taught about the Leeds West Indian Carnival. Members of Team Creative were special guests at the primary school and carnival costumes were on display in the school. Children were taught the history of the Leeds West Indian Carnival and why it takes place. Tashi Brown also gave a masterclass on soca dance moves and carnival drumming. Speaking to Leeds TV both Tashi Brown and teacher Leonna Lynch spoke about an up-and-coming long-term collaboration between Allerton CE Primary School and Team Creative.

Leeds West Indian Carnival was a part of other Black History Month celebrations across the city throughout October.  A performance of ‘Kweku Ananse’ took place at the Leeds Central Library on 2 October. The dance performance was choreographed by Nii Kwartey Owoo and was inspired by the West African folklore character Kweku Ananse. The Kweku Ananse king costume was used during the performance. The evening also included a talk by Anansi expert Dr. Emily Zobel Marshall. Tola Dabiri gave the presentation ‘Fish, Chips and Jerk Sauce: The Growth of British Caribbean Carnival’ at Leeds Beckett University on 10 October. The 90-minute long presentation, held at the Broadcasting Place, began at 5pm. The winning Carnival Queen, Tahila Hamiton, and winning King, Rushaun McIntosh performed in their winning Carnival costumes at the opening of the newly refurbished West Yorkshire Playhouse on 12 October. They danced to music provided by the New World Steel Orchestra.

Leeds West Indian Carnival lost one of its unsung heroes on 20 October. Wilmot James, a retired engineer, had been involved with making frames and costumes for the carnival for a number of years. He sadly passed away at the age of 75. His funeral took place at St Martin’s Church on 7 November. Wilmot James was one of the people interviewed by Colin Grant for his 2019 book ‘Homecoming: Voices of the Windrush Generation’ which had been released earlier in the month. Other people interviewed for the book included Arthur France, Sheila Howarth, Rashida Robinson, Brian Phillips, Hughbon Condor, Angela Wenham, Susan Pitter, Ian Charles, and Lord Silky.

Wilmot James

The ‘Carnival: Man Behind The Mask’ exhibition was held in Derby as part of the Black History Month celebrations. The exhibition displayed several carnival costumes from across the UK including ‘Peacock Queen’ designed by Hughbon Condor. The Exhibition also included black and white portraits of designers including Hughbon Condor, Lorina Gumbs and Arthur France. Hughbon Condor gave a talk about costume making at the opening of the exhibition at QUAD on 28 October. The exhibition toured various venues in Derby during October and November.

Exhibition Tour Dates:
28 October – QUAD
29 October – 2 November – Derby West Indian Centre
4 – 16 November – Arboretum Park Orangery
18 – 22 November Derby College Roundhouse

Portraits of Arthur France and Hughbon Condor.

In Leeds, The Childrens’ Carnival Awards ceremony took place at the West Indian Centre on 27 October. The ceremony included arts and crafts and a party. Awards were given to all the children who took part in the Prince and Princess Show and to members of the RJC Dance troupe who won Best Youth Group. Two videos of youngsters who attended the ceremony were uploaded onto the carnival’s Facebook page the following day. The children spoke about what they had enjoyed about the 2019 carnival which included “all the different troupes” and “that there was loads of people to watch us”. They also spoke about what they were looking forward to for 2020’s carnival which included “dressing up”, “new costumes” and “seeing the different costumes”.The Adults Carnival Awards ceremony took place at the West Indian Centre on 2 November. Special guests at the event included members of the Jamaican Rugby League team, who handed out awards during the evening. Awards were given to Carnival King, Carnival Queen, Best Troupe, Biggest Troupe, and Best Individual.

The short documentary film ‘Ancestors ‘The Journey’’ which had been made by Simon Taylor earlier in the year was released on YouTube on 24 November. The documentary focuses on Stanley ‘Jerry’ Carey and the Ancestors troupe from Nottingham. The troupe have made regular appearances at Leeds West Indian Carnival since 2016. The documentary features an interview with Arthur France, filmed in early September 2019.  Photos and film footage of Leeds West Indian Carnival, including the King and Queen Show, are also used in the documentary.

Leeds troupes continued to make appearances in Leeds and Bradford during the last months of the year. Members of Team Creative appeared at the ‘Let’s Ride’ event at Millennium Square on 1 September, the Leeds Rum Festival at the Corn Exchange on 21 September and at the Leeds Legacy Awards at the Leeds Town Hall on 20 October. During the evening Geraldine Connor was posthumously awarded the Outstanding Achievement Award. On 20 October members of the RJC Dance carnival troupe performed at Headingley Stadium in their 2019 costumes. They danced on the stadium ground prior to the England Knights vs Jamaica Reggae Warrior Rugby League match. A steel band also performed at the match. The following day the Yorkshire Post reported “With a steel band playing in the background, Headingley sounded more like Sabina Park yesterday afternoon”. Members of the Anonymas Carnival troupe performed at the White Rose Awards held at the First Direct Arena in Leeds on 25 November. December saw the launch of ‘Jump & Wave’, the first ever carnival themed trampoline and soft play experience organised by Soca Up North. The first Jump & Wave event took place on Saturday 7 December at Airbounce at The Wardley Centre in Bradford. Tickets were priced at £15 for which guests where given access to trampolines, soft play, giant inflatables, laser tag and arcades for four hours beginning at 5pm. Members of the Anonymas Carnival troupe attended the event, bringing carnival vibes with them. Rasta Claus also made a special guest appearance. Food was provided by Flava Hut from Leeds. Soca music was provided by DJ Trini and DJ Toro. Photographer Edmund Ohene was on hand to photograph the event.

Team Creative at the Leeds Rum Festival, 2019.

On 2 December, students from the UK Centre for Events Management at Leeds Beckett University paid a visit to the Carnival Centre in Chapeltown. During their visit they learnt about the running of the Leeds West Indian Carnival, the team of volunteers behind the carnival and how the carnival works towards protecting Caribbean culture and heritage through education. The students were given a tour of the Carnival Centre and were given a chance to try on some of the headdresses.

At the end of the year an official ‘Thank You’ message posted on the Carnival’s website and social media pages read:

Carnival is love! It’s what brings us together as we celebrate the emancipation of slavery. Carnival is in our blood, it’s our past, present and future.
LWIC would like to thank everyone that has supported carnival this year and the years to come.
THANK YOU – Chapeltown community, people of Leeds, visitors, participants, troupes, designers, workshop workers, volunteers, DJs and everyone else!
We’re still jamming!

Hot, Hot, Hot Carnival – Leeds West Indian Carnival 2019 – Part Two

Carnival costumes were on display throughout the city during July and August. The ‘A City & It’s Welcome, Three Centuries of Migrating to Leeds’ exhibition was opened at the Leeds City Museum on 12 July. Among the items displayed was part of the 2017 ‘King David Oluwale’ king costume, the three ‘I’m Carnival Happy’ headdresses from 2017 and two official Leeds West Indian Carnival magazines. A steel pan was also on display alongside items from St. Kitts and Nevis. Annette Morris gave a talk about her father St Clair Morris at the Leeds City Museum on 12 July. During the talk, titled ‘Bringing A Taste of The Caribbean To Leeds In The 1960s’, Annette spoke about her father’s journey to the UK, Paradise Steel Band, and her father’s legacy as England’s first steel pan teacher in schools.

A special exhibition ‘Leeds West Indian Carnival: The Early Years’ ran throughout August at the Leeds Central Library. The exhibition focused on the years 1967 – 1979 but included recent items including a 2018 troupe costume. Also on display were photographs from the Max Farrar collection and items and books from the Central Library’s collection. The exhibition curator Danny Friar gave two tie-in talks on the early years of Leeds West Indian Carnival. The first took place at Chapeltown Library on 6 August. The talk was repeated at the Central Library on 14 August. A tie-in article was published in Community Highlights at the end of August. The Eulogy Exhibition opened in Room 700 at the Central Library on 2 August and run until 1 September. The exhibition told the stories of the first generation of Jamaicans in Leeds. This included a number of people involved with or linked to the Leeds West Indian Carnival in the 1960s and 1970s.

Part of the Leeds West Indian Carnival: The Early Years Exhibition (Photo: Danny Friar)

On 28 July the West Yorkshire Police announced that “extra Police Officers and PCSO’s will be working in the Chapeltown area from now and the lead up to the August Bank Holiday Leeds Black Music Festival & Carnival Weekend.” In a letter addressed to the “Chapeltown Community” the West Yorkshire Police said: “We are working closely with the community, Leeds Black Music Festival and the Carnival committee to offer reassurance by maintaining a safe environment for everyone.” Residents were asked to say ‘hello’ to any officers they may see. The letter continued: “We really enjoy the build up to the Bank Holiday weekend and we look forward to celebrating the weekend with you all.”

letter 2
Letter from the West Yorkshire Police, 28 July 2019.

The AAA Team from Leeds, featuring Lara Rose in her 2018 Winnie Mandela, Mother of the Nation queen costume took part in Leicester Caribbean Carnival on Saturday 3 August. Photos of the troupe, including Khadijah Ibrahiim waving the pink Leeds West Indian Carnival flag, were included on the Leicester Mercury website. The Yorkshire Evening Post went behind the scenes of this year’s Leeds West Indian Carnival in a special report published on 6 August. Under the headline ‘Meet the team hand stitching costumes for the Leeds Carnival 2019 this month’ Alison Bellamy reported: “the making of scores of costumes and headdresses has to be finished in time, with most created from scratch each year, with often a last minute scramble to meet the deadline.” Arthur France spoke to the newspaper explaining the hard work that goes into costume making. “It is a yearlong task really with extra pressure as carnival approaches” he explained. He went on to add “the volunteers do a great job and give up many hours in the run up to carnival to ensure the costumes are perfect. And they usually are”.  The article included photographs of Arthur France and Yvette Small working on costumes at the Carnival Centre in Chapeltown.

Fans of Reggae were excited to see the return of the ‘Salute To Reggae’ concert held in Millennium Square on 8 August. While the concert had been free in 2018, tickets for the 2019 concert were priced at £10. Richard Smith Sr. and Khadijah Ibrahiim were again the hosts of the event. The line-up included Kenny B, Fidel and The Harbingers, Carrol Thompson, Anette Bee, Kofi, Graft, Stylo G, and Dawn Penn. Three days later, Reggae star Chronixx performed at the O2 Academy on 11 August.

Building up to the Leeds West Indian Carnival, troupes from Leeds continued to appear across the UK during August. Members of the High Esteem troupe in their 2018 costumes, members of the NWA Montserrat Masquerades troupe and members of the Ferm and Ready troupe from Leeds all took part in the Manchester Caribbean Carnival on 10 August. The Ferm and Ready troupe danced to music provided by DJ Trini, who had played at the Manchester Jouvert Morning parade earlier in the day. For 2019 the Manchester Caribbean Carnival returned to its usual route, taking in Alexandra Road, Moss Lane East, Upper Lloyd Street and Claremont Road. (The route had been shortened the previous year.) The parade began and ended at Alexandra Park. Awards were given on the stage in the park and the Ferm and Ready troupe took second place in the best troupe cartography. Guests at Alexandra Park were entertained by the young calypsonian Invincible who was visiting England from Nevis and was due to appear in Leeds the following week.

Leeds troupe member in Manchester, 2019.

The following week, on 16 August, DJ Trini had made a live appearance on BBC Radio Sheffield talking about Soca Up North and his involvement with  Sheffield Carnival and other carnivals across the UK including Leeds, Huddersfield, Manchester, Derby, and Leicester. Speaking about soca, he said “Soca music is what pumps carnival and is the heart of carnival”. The following day, DJ Trini played at the Sheffield Carnival which had reintroduced trucks and sound systems to its parade. DJ Trini led the parade and played on the stage at Norfolk Heritage Park. The next day the Anonymas troupe and DJ Trini took part in Nottingham Carnival on Sunday 18 August. They were joined by other troupes from across the UK in what proved to be the most traditional carnival of the year. The parade included troupes in traditional Caribbean Mas costumes, big drum and fife bands, a steel band and several Samba bands. One troupe even wore traditional African costumes and dress. Also taking part in the parade was Kamala Smyle Wisdom in her ‘Mrs Windrush’ Queen costume. On the same day, in Leeds, the annual Prince and Princess Show was held at the West Indian Centre from 3pm until 8pm. Tickets were priced at £3 for adults while children under 16 were admitted for free. The outdoor marquee was packed with approximately 700 guests and extra chairs were brought out from the centre to accommodate the guests.  Entertainment on the day was provided by RJC Dance, a brother and sister singing duo called Duo In Harmony, a 15-year-old rapper called Naomi and a dance troupe called Afro Angels Dancers made up girls aged 12-14. The star attraction was 14-year-old Junior Calypso Monarch Invincible (real name Terron Webb) from Nevis. He performed two numbers; ‘Social Media’ and ‘Change Ya Thinkin’’. Invincible had won the Junior Calypso Monarch for the past three years. Leeds Soca DJ Godfather had travelled to Nevis in July and had interviewed Invincible before his trip to the UK. A video of the interview was later uploaded onto the carnival’s Facebook page. Hosts of the event were Indira Smith and Richard Smith Sr.

A total of four princes and 11 princesses took part in this year’s competition. Among the judges was Invincible and rugby player Alex Simmons. The winning prince for 2019 was 14-year-old Tyrese Holmes in a costume titled Jah Lion, Protector of the Sun. The costume was designed and made by Unity Carnival Arts featuring Sheila Howarth. The winning princess was 12-year-old Anelia in a costume titled The Princess of the African Lilac Breasted Roller Bird. The costume was designed and made by Sabrina Collins and Asha France for Expressions supported by Team Creative. Other contestants competing for the title of Carnival Princess included the Reginald Centre’s first entry into the competition. The costume, which came second, was designed and made by Malachi Blair and members of the Reginald Centre.  The Reginald Centre had held auditions for their Carnival Princess on 4 May. Taking third place was Sukai in a costume designed by Pareesha Valentina Webster and made by Valentina’s Collective. The costume was titled The Guardian of the Phoenix and used the batik technique to decorate the cloth used for the costume. A member of the Valentina Collective, Chelsee Hendrickson had spent three weeks painting the entire costume. Other Princess contestants included Eve France-Mir and Carmen Brown who have both entered the contest in previous years.

Prince contestants at the Prince and Princess Show 2019 (Photo: Danny Friar)

During the build up to the August Bank Holiday weekend, media outlets began publishing stories about the Leeds West Indian Carnival and Black Music Festival. The Yorkshire Evening Post published “33 photos you’ll only understand if you love the Leeds West Indian Carnival” on their website on Thursday 22 August. The 33 photos, most of which were undated, spanned the entire history of the carnival. The Yorkshire Evening Post shared some photographs of past Black Music Festivals on their website on Friday 23 August. The article included 11 colour photos from 2000 – 2007. The website also published a story by Joe Cooper under the headline ‘Leeds West Indian Carnival 2019 get underway’. The article gave details of the up-and-coming events and quoted Arthur France saying “I’m excited that over 50 years since carnival started in Leeds, we can all still enjoy the first burst of Caribbean culture, music and art in the city.” The same day, the Leeds Live website published 40 photographs of the 2018 Carnival.

Tickets for the 2019 Carnival King and Queen Show went on sale on 17 June and a special promotional video was uploaded onto the carnival’s Facebook page on 23 June. Tickets were priced between £16 and £30 for V.I.P tickets that included backstage access. A limited amount of discounted tickets, priced at £12, were available for ‘Early Birds’. For 2019 the Carnival King and Queen Show returned to the New Dock on Armouries Drive. Actor and rapper Richard Blackwood was announced as the guest host but due to other commitments he cancelled a few days before the show and on 22 August it was announced that he would be replaced with comedian Danny ‘Slim’ Gray. The second host for the evening was local business-owner Faye Kenny. Born in Leeds in 1987, Faye Kenny is of Afro-Cuban heritage and is the granddaughter of a Cuban calypsonian. She has been involved with the Leeds West Indian Carnival since the age of 8 when she was a member of Sheila Howarth’s Unity troupe.

The Carnival King and Queen Show took place on Friday 23 August. Doors opened at 7.30pm and the show began around 8pm. Max Farrar and St Clair Brown were among those taking photos and film footage of the event. St Clair Brown’s photographs include snaps of the back stage area taken before the show began. They show designers assembling their costumes and adding finishing touches. The almost sold out show began with music by the New World Steel Orchestra Adult Group. Next, the winning Carnival Prince and Princess danced on the stage which was followed by another short set by the New World Steel Orchestra Adult Group. Among the songs they performed was the 2019 Soca song ‘Hookin Meh’. Arthur France gave a speech in which he spoke about starting the Leeds West Indian Carnival in 1967. He said “It is easy to start something but it is difficult to get it to last”. Next up was the newly formed Leeds Carnival Collective dance group which was made up of members from different carnival troupes led by Pareesha Valentina.

A total of four Kings performed on the stage in front of guests and judges. After the Kings’ performances, Leeds Soca performer Boyski got the audience up on their feet. He was followed by the Anonymas Carnival troupe who performed a dance routine. The big attraction of the evening was the acrobat and limbo group Afrikan Warriors who had found fame after appearing on Britains Got Talent in 2009 and Australia’s Got Talent in 2011. During their act, they welcomed audience members onto the stage to try their hand at limbo. Next up was the eight Carnival Queens. First out was Tahila Hamiton in a costume called ‘Peacock Queen’ designed by Hughbon Condor. In a similar fashion to his 1987 peacock costume, the Peacock Queen’s tail rose into the air, reaching a height of 16 feet. The spectacular received a massive cheer from the audience. Pareesha Valentina in her costume ‘Rise of the Phoenix’ also received great applause from the audience. Other Queens included one designed by Arthur France and made by the AAA Team and ‘Butterfly Cage with Wings’. Designed and made by Professor Black from Birmingham, the costume moved around the stage on wheels.

After an intermission, guests were entertained by Slim Gray performed a stand-up set before the winners were announced. The winning Queen was 28-year-old Tahila Hamiton in a costume titled ‘Peacock Queen’ designed by Hughbon Condor and made by High Esteem. Second place was taken by Pareesha Valentina in her costume ‘Rise of the Phoenix’ designed and made by Valentina’s Collective. Speaking to BBC News Pareesha Valentina said “I actually came up with the idea last year while we were doing last year’s costumes. I wanted to do like a phoenix-type costume and then call it ‘Rise of the Phoenix’”. Georgia Smith came third in a costume called ‘Pure Imagination’ designed and made by Solomon Lewis Hunter. Fourth place was taken by Elaine York who wore a costume called ‘Luna Goddess’ designed and made by Jessica Kemp.

The Winning King was 21-year-old Rushaun McIntosh in a costume titled ‘Two Cocky’ designed by Stepbon Condor and made by High Esteem. As Rushaun danced on the stage, the two peacocks at the top of his costume fought one and other. Niaz Stephenson took second place in a costume named ‘The Scorpion King’ designed and made by Jessica Kent and Niaz Stephenson. Third place was taken by Raheen Lindsay in the costume ‘King Mbuka’ designed by Arthur France and made by the AAA Team. The fourth King was Stanley Carrey, known as Jerry, in a costume titled ‘King Clown’ which was designed and made by the performer. A short documentary film, ‘Ancestors ‘The Journey’, released in November featured part of Jerry’s performance at the King and Queen Show. The documentary also featured interviews with Jerry, George Mighty and Arthur France.

The winner King and Queen posed for photos and were joined on the stage by the costume designers Hughbon and Stepbon Condor,Arthur France, the Lord Mayor Eileen Taylor and last year’s winning Queen Holly Southwell. The party continued with an official after party held at the nearby Holiday Inn. BBC News reported on the show the following day. “A father and son have designed both winning costumes as Leeds West Indian Carnival elected its king and queen” the article on their website began. Hughbon Condor was quoted in the article saying: “Getting to create the costume as accurately as I envisage it is the main challenge. It’s much more important than winning. The queen will lead the carnival parade when it leaves Potternewton Park on Monday. It feels good to keep this carnival tradition alive.”

Winning Carnival Queen and King, 2019.

Caribbean seniors enjoyed an afternoon of entertainment and food organised by Soca Village on Saturday 24 August. ‘The Hub Time’ event was held at the BAME Health and Wellbeing Hub on Reginald Terrace from 12pm until 6pm. Music was provided by DJ Daddy Rico and the Voice of Praise choir. Later in the evening, the Calypso Soca Monarch Show was held at the West Indian Centre from 9.30pm. Moving away from its competition roots the show was strictly entertainment. An advertisement placed on the carnival’s website and social media read “Get ready to Jump Up! Wuk Up! And Kick Up! For the 2019 Calypso Soca Monarch Show”. Admission to the show was priced at £6. The show featured the One Plus Soca band from London as well as a host of local calypsonians including Lady Sonia, King Vanguard, Lord Prinze and Volcano. Music was also provided by DJs Daddy Rico, Godfather and The Hypa Crew. Guests to the show were advised to “Bring your flags!”

Ahead of the bank holiday weekend, the Yorkshire Evening Post published a full list of road closures on 21 August. The list gave approximate closure times with some roads being closed from the morning of Sunday 25 August until the morning of Tuesday 27 August. Other roads were only closed on Monday for short periods. Parts of Savile Road and Mexborough Avenue were closed off from Thursday 22 August to be used for barrier storage. The Leeds City Council also sent letters to local residents regarding the road closures.

Letter 1
Letter from Leeds City Council, August 2019.

New to the official carnival event lineup for 2019 was the Thanksgiving Service held at the Roscoe Church on Chapeltown Road on Sunday 25 August. The special service began at 10.30am and came to an end at 1pm. Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post earlier in the month Arthur France said “Carnival is a celebration of the emancipation of slavery, the service will thank and remember our forefathers for what they went through and for what we have achieved today.”

Meanwhile, The Black Music Festival was taking place in Potternewton Park. The festival began at 11am and came to a close at 8pm. The festival featured Iration Steppas in the Dub Arena and local acts including The Hyper Crew, DJ RNB, Blitz, DJ SAF-MFD, Rizzi, and Tinykai performing on the Beatz and Vibez stage. Performers on the main stage included DJ Sensation, the Singspiration Choir, Brinsley Forde, international star Etana and the 2019 Unsigned winner Marnz (real name Armani Anderson Hamilton). He had won the Unsigned contest held at the Belgrave Music Hall on 5 July. Hosts of the festival were Fluid Irie (Richard Smith Sr), Esta Yemaya and comedian White Yardie. Lord Mayor Eileen Taylor was also present at the festival. A photo of her alongside White Yardie was later uploaded to her Facebook page. At least one arrest was made at the Black Music Festival in 2019. 21-year-old Karl Lewis was arrested after a photographer noticed he was carrying a knife. He was jailed for 18 months.

Comedian White Yardie with Audley Taylor and Eileen Taylor.


Hot, Hot, Hot Carnival – Leeds West Indian Carnival 2019 – Part One

Preparations for the 52nd Leeds West Indian Carnival began in February with troupes meeting across Leeds to discuss ideas, themes and designs.  Team Creative, who now has a reputation for being the hardest working carnival troupe, began weekly bootcamps at the West Indian Centre on Wednesday 6 February.

A community meeting was held at the Button Hill Community Centre at 6pm on 26 February to discuss the levels of late-night noise associated with the carnival and Soca Village. Local residents had voiced concerns about the amount of noise during carnival time, particularly after 8pm, which had mainly been attributed to Soca Village, sound systems and late-night parties. A compromise was reached at the meeting with Soca Village agreeing to work towards a solution. Meanwhile, in February, a new Carnival Committee was announced. One of their first actions of 2019 was to hold a meeting with costume designers at the West Indian Centre on 14 March from 6.30pm to discuss plans for the 2019 West Indian Carnival.

2019 Carnival Committee Members:
Arthur France (Chair)
Hughbon Condor (Trustee Director and Vice Chair)
Brainerd Braimah
Stuart Bailey (Acting Treasurer)
Melvin Zakers
Sheila Howarth
Norma Cannonier

The new Carnival Committee including returning member Hughbon Condor who had first joined the committee in 1971. A photograph posted on the carnival’s Facebook page included three Associate Trustees: Tashi Brown, Stephanie Amor, and Sharon Needle.

L to R: Stuart Bailey, Melvin Zakers, Norma Cannonier, Brainerd Braimah, Arthur France, Sheila Howarth, Hughbon Condor, Stephanie Amor, Tashi Brown, Sharon Needle.

Costume designing and making began as early as March. Costume designer Pareesha Valentina spoke to BBC News saying “Preparing for carnival is so long. It’s not just the day, it’s not just a week, it takes months of planning, organising.” In a video clip posted on the BBC News website on 27 August, Valentina’s Collective troupe member Chelsee Hendrickson added “We all work full-time jobs, so it’s straight after work. We’re here till midnight, two in the morning, getting all the frames ready, the troupe costumes ready, the queen costume, the prince and princess costumes. So there’s a lot of preparation because everything starts from scratch.”

For 2019 Hughbon Condor made two Queen costumes, one for Leicester carnival (designed by Sensational Vibes) and one for Leeds, as well as working on the High Esteem troupe costumes, helping the Harrison Bundey Mama Dread Masqueraders with their troupe costumes, helping the The Golden Coast Mas troupe with their King costume and making several headdresses for the Jamaican rugby league team.

While costume designers and makers were hard at work, the public enjoyed some Caribbean culture. The first part of the ‘Songs In A Strange Land – A Sound System Symposium’ took place in Chapeltown Library on 12 March. During the event, hosted by Khadijah Ibrahiim, members of Leeds Sound Systems discussed the history and culture of Sound Systems in the UK. The second part of the symposium was part of the ‘Colonizin’ In Reverse: Celebrating Caribbean Culture’ event held at the Central Library on 27 March.  The panel speaking at the second part of the symposium included Mykal Brown, a founding member of the Wassifa Showcase sound system from Birmingham, Grime artist Dialect and Mark Iration from Iration Steppas. Iration Steppas also performed at the event. ‘Colonizin’ In Reverse’ also included poetry readings by local poets Malika Booker, Vahni Capildeo and Khadijah Ibrahiim who premiered her new poem, ‘The Man Who Walks With Crosses ‘n’ Mas Feathers’.

Songs In A Strange Land – A Sound System Symposium, 12 March 2019. (Photo: Danny Friar)

Continuing the celebrations of their 25th Anniversary, RJC Dance held their first Fundraising Awards and Dinner at the Marriott Hotel on Thursday 28 March. The event was designed to raise funds for RJC Dance to celebrate the achievements of young people from the RJC Dance Youth Provision. Susan Pitter was the event host for the evening. In an interview on the night she said “They (RJC) encourage and motivate and they build and grow young people”. Among other guests at the dinner were Ruth Bundey, Guy Farrar, Khadijah Ibrahiim, and Sue Morgan MBE. During the evening, Monique Sheriffe performed a solo dance. A video of the event was uploaded to the RJC Dance YouTube channel on 17 July. It featured interviews with some of the guests and award winners. 13-year-old Indira Smith said “The annual fundraising event was really fun. I liked looking at everyone else, and having fun on the dancefloor and dressing up in my little suit. I loved getting the award, Nelson Mandela Award, I thought it was really fun to get it as well, to walk up on stage and see everyone clapping. I was really embarrassed and shy but taking that picture, it really meant a lot to me.”

The following month saw the launch of the short documentary film ‘We Ah All Migrants’. The film about David Oluwale had been made in 2017 and featured footage of the 2017 Leeds West Indian Carnival with a focus on the Harrison Bundey Mama Dread troupe. The film marked the 50th anniversary of David Oluwale’s death and had had a number of private screenings at the end of 2018. Its official public launch took place at 7pm on 23 April 2019 at Leeds Beckett University. It was shown alongside two other films about David Oluwale. The films were followed by a Q&A with the filmmakers. Since the film’s launch, it has been screened at a number of film festivals across the world including the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival on 23 August.

Troupes from Leeds took carnival across England from as early as April. The NWA Montserrat Masquerades took part in the St. George’s Day parade in Manchester on 22 April. The parade also included a Scottish pipe band, vintage vehicles, Morris dancers and a local carnival troupe. The BLAQUEXPLOSION event taking place in Leeds on 3 May featured both Team Creative and Anonymas troupes. The event also included performances by Iration Steppas and Khadijah Ibrahiim. Members of the Valentina’s Collective performed on stage at the Exposed magazine award night in Sheffield on 16 May. The dancers in carnival costumes performed alongside the Sheffield University Samba Drummers. The High Esteem carnival troupe took part in the Luton International Carnival parade on 26 May. The troupe wore a mix of their 2017 costumes and 2018 costumes including their winning King costume from 2017.

The EMCCAN Caribbean Carnival King and Queen show was held at Derby Theatre on 15 June. Hughbon Condor had made the Queen costume ‘Mrs Windrush’ for the contest. The costume had been designed by Sensational Vibes and was worn by Kamala Smyle Wisdom, who was the only contestant from Leicester. She competed with other Queens from the East Midlands including Queens from Nottingham, Northampton and Derby. Kamala Smyle Wisdom won Leicester Carnival Queen 2019 and EMCCAN Carnival Queen 2019. Among the guest judges was Arthur France.  During the show he presented George Mighty MBE with a Life Time Achievement award. George Mighty had been instrumental in founding the Derby Caribbean Carnival in 1975.

Kamala Smyle Wisdom as Mrs Windrush.

In 2019 Preston Caribbean Carnival celebrated its 45th anniversary. As part of the celebrations, Leeds dance teacher De-Napoli Clarke held a carnival dance workshop at Blackburn Youth Zone on 27 April. It was the first of a number of carnival workshops held during the year. Others included a sewing machine tutorial held in May and June. Leeds costume designer Renata Gordon held a costume workshop at the Harris Library in Preston on 1 June with a follow up workshop on 8 June. The Preston Caribbean Carnival parade took place on 23 June. While no troupes from Leeds took part in the parade, Iration Steppas sound system from Leeds took part in the ‘One Park Ten Sounds’ music festival held in Moor Park the previous day.

Special events to celebrate Windrush Day took place in Bradford on 22 June and Leeds on 23 June. Organised by Windrush Generations, the event in Bradford was titled ‘Carnival of Roots and Culture’ and it took place in Centenary Square in the centre of Bradford. Guests at the free event were entertained by live acts on a stage set up in the square. Entertainment included live music, dance performances and poetry readings. Stalls selling Caribbean food, crafts and clothes were also present in the square. The photography and art exhibition ‘From War To Windrush’ was held in the nearby City Hall from 21 June until 5 July. The exhibition included art work by artist Soraya Grayston which included a painting of a woman in carnival costume.

Painting by Soraya Grayston (Photo: Danny Friar)

In Leeds, a ‘Windrush 2019 Family Day Celebration’ was held at the Caribbean Cricket Club. The event was organised by Soca Village and the Caribbean Cricket Club. Music was provided by DJs Godfather, Sensation, Rico, and Natty. The headline act was Boss And The Horsepower Band  from Angulia. Other attractions on the day included a dominoes tournament, a cricket tournament, and children’s workshops in steel pan and soca dancing.

Carnival troupes in Leeds were busy throughout June. Several troupes had fitness routines in place for the last three months before carnival day. AnonyMas meet at the West Indian Centre on Monday evenings between 6.30 -7.30pm and Saturday afternoons between 12-1pm. The Mandela Runners meet at the Chapeltown Studios on Tuesday evenings from 7pm and Thursday evenings from 6.30pm. De-Napoli Clarke gave dance lessons at St. Aidan’s Church on Wednesday nights from 7.30-8.30pm. Valentina’s Collective held sessions at the West Indian Centre on Thursday nights from 8.30pm, part of their sessions were filmed by BBC News. Harrison Bundey Mama Dread Masqueraders troupe held regular dance sessions at their mas camp on Chapeltown Road. The Golden Coast Mas troupe held troupe taster sessions on 12 and 19 June and a research workshop on 15 June. Weekly workshops for their Kweku Ananse troupe began on 28 June. Team Creative held a Holiday Camp for its younger members during July.

Members of the RJC troupe performed at the Multicultural Arts and Faith Week held at Shire Oak Primary School in Headingley on 28 June. The next day members of Team Creative performed at Dawn Festival. The same day saw members of the AAA Team troupe from Leeds taking part in Deighton Carnival. They were joined on the road by the Crusaders majorettes from Huddersfield. Jazz steel pan musician Dudley Nesbitt performed at Seven Arts on 30 June. He performed a mix of jazz and calypso tunes backed by the Jazz Leeds Trio. The Trio’s members were Dave Evans (piano), Jonah Evans (drums) and Steve Crocker (bass).

BBC Radio Leeds broadcasted a special feature on the Leeds West Indian Carnival on 4 July as part of The Richard Stead Breakfast Show. At 7am the show featured an interview with Melvin Zakers who spoke about the cricket match taking place in Leeds later that day and likened the cricket build up and hype to carnival spirit. Melvin Zakers also spoke about how the Leeds West Indian Carnival attracts people from across the UK including London. He also spoke about the New World Steel Orchestra and explained how the band had classes every Saturday and Sunday with extra rehearsals at carnival time. The interview ending with Melvin playing “a Caribbean song” on the steel pan. At 8am members of the Harrison Bundey Mama Dread Masqueraders were interviewed at their mas camp on Chapeltown Road. Guy Farrar and Joan Jeffrey spoke about costume making and what materials were being used and how long they had been working on the costumes.

Members of the Harrison Bundey Mama Dread Masqueraders , 4 July 2019.

There was sad news for the UK Carnival community in July when it was announced that Preston Carnival Pioneer Phil Duncan had passed away on 5 July at the age of 80. Phil Duncan had arrived in the UK from St. Vincent in 1957 and had founded the Preston Caribbean Carnival in 1974. A short statement put out by Preston Caribbean Carnival read “We will always remember and appreciate all you did for Preston Caribbean Carnival over the years”. Carnival Troupe Spectrum Association, which was founded by Phil Duncan, put out a longer statement on 6 July. It read, in part, “We at Spectrum Association Carnival Dance Troupe are absolutely devastated to say our beloved Boss Man aka Mr Carnival has sadly passed away yesterday. Phil was known and loved and well respected both in the local community and in the carnival community near and afar.”

The High Esteem troupe from Leeds took part in the South Shields Carnival Parade on 6 July. The parade was part of the South Tyneside Festival. Again, the troupe wore a mix of their 2017 and 2018 costumes. Also taking part in the parade was the RJC Dance troupe in their 2018 costumes. Members of the RJC Dance Adult Community Class performed at the Faversham pub on Springfield Mount in Headingley on 11 July. The same group performed at the Jamaica Society annual ball on 13 July. The 18th annual ball was held at the Marriott Hotel in the city centre.

The Harrison Bundey Mama Dread Masqueraders troupe from Leeds took part in the third annual Mirfield Carnival parade on 14 July. The parade began at the Lidl car park on Station Road. From Station Road the parade headed down Huddersfield Road before travelling down Newgate and coming to an end at St. Paul’s Church. The troupe wore their 2018 Windrush costumes and teamed up with the Origin Mokos, a group of Moko Jumbies from Newcastle who also had Windrush themed costumes. The AAA Team troupe from Leeds took part in the Derby Caribbean Carnival on 21 July. Led by Arthur France waving the pink Leeds carnival flag, the troupe danced to soca music played by DJ Trini. Lara Rose joined the troupe in her 2018 Queen costume ‘Winnie Mandela, Mother of the Nation’. Also taking part in the parade was Kamala Smyle Wisdom from Leicester in her ‘Mrs Windrush’ costume made by Hughbon Condor.

Origin Mokos and Harrison Bundey Mama Dread Masqueraders, Mirfield Carnival 2019. (Photo: Unknown).

The AAA Team and Team Creative from Leeds took part in the Harrogate Welcomes The World Carnival Parade on 27 July. St. Clair Brown from Leeds, who had filmed and photographed many of the UK carnivals of 2019, reported on the parade for the August issue of Community Highlights. The magazine printed five of his photos of the day on pages 8 and 9. The multi-cultured parade also included a brass band, Chinese Lion Dancers, and Indian Bhangra bands. St. Clair Brown’s photos show troupe members dancing in the rain. They were again joined by Lara Rose in her Queen costume. The parade began and ended at Valley Gardens were food stalls had been set up and guests enjoyed live entertainment on the stage. A number of workshops took place in marquees set up in Valley Gardens. These included carnival mask making and belly dancing. Back in Leeds, the Cultural Arts Business Start Up Exhibition was held at Kirkgate Indoor Market. Stalls selling food, clothes, art and books from African and Caribbean sellers had been set up inside the market. Also on display were headdresses and carnival costumes from Leeds West Indian Carnival. Entertainment on the day included steel pan performances by the New World Steel Orchestra.



Carifesta 1978 – 1983


Carifesta was an annual festival of Caribbean arts and entertainment held at the Leeds Playhouse on Calverley Street during the summer. The first Carifesta began on 22 July 1978 and lasted eight days, ending on 29 July. It was billed as “a festival of West Indian culture in song, dance, music, art and film”. The week of events began with a performance by the Chapeltown Dance Theatre on Saturday 22 July. The Barbados Choir performed on Sunday night and the movie ‘Pressure’ was screened. The movie ‘Black Joy’ was screened the following day and the movies ‘King Carnival’ and ‘Black Future’ were screened on Tuesday 25 July.  An evening of poetry and dance was organised by the United Caribbean Association on Wednesday and the movie ‘Reggae’ was screened on Thursday night. A steel band concert was held on Friday 28 July which included performances by Paradise Steel Band, the United Caribbean Association Steel Band, Chapeltown Dance Theatre Steel Band and Leeds City Schools Steel Band. Leeds Other Paper also lists the movie ‘The Harder They Come’ as being shown during the festival but gives no date. The festival came to a close on Saturday 29 July with the ‘Gala Night’ which included a buffet of West Indian food and a ‘jump up’ outside in the car park. Leeds Other Paper also mentions that one of the steel bands performing at the concert were also due to perform at the start of most of the other nights. Attendance for the 1978 event was low which Leeds Other Paper put down to poor promotion.

In 1979 Carifesta was cut down to six days and began on 18 June. Two movies, ‘Dread Beat An’ Blood’ and ‘Roots Rock Reggae’, were screened every night at 7.30pm on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. On Thursday night, the United Caribbean Association hosted a night of poetry and dance which included music by the UCA Steel Band. Friday 22 June was dedicated to the Chapeltown Dance Theatre which included a play, a dance performance, singing and music by the Chapeltown Dance Theatre Steel Band. Saturday’s ‘Gala Concert’ included calypso, gospel, dances, folklore, and limbo. Guests enjoyed a West Indian buffet and after the show, a ‘jump-up’ was held in the car park with music provided by a steel band.

Carifesta 79
Poster for Carifesta 1979.

In 1980 a week-long exhibition was held in the foyer at the Leeds Playhouse from 23rd June but the festival itself was reduced to two days. Adult tickets were priced at 60p and admission for children was half price. On Friday evening from 7.30pm entertainment was provided by the Roseville Community Theatre, the Wendy Campbell Dance Group, The Chapeltown Dance Theatre Steel Band and the Chapeltown Dance Theatre drama group who performed a play titled ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’ based on the 1979 Boomtown Rats song of the same name. The play was directed by Pat Colmer, the drama teacher at Primrose Hill High School. The Saturday night ‘Gala’ included steel bands, dance performances, comedy by Paul Eubanks, reggae, gospel, limbo by Los Caribos Limbo Dancers, a fashion ‘spectacular’, and Sweet Unity from Sheffield. The bar was open until late and a West Indian buffet was provided. Again, the show ended with a jump-up in the car park with a steel band playing.

Poster for Carifesta 1981.

The 1981 Carifesta was held between 26 and 27 July. There was a price increase on tickets from 60p to £1 and 50p for children. Friday night’s entertainment began at 7.30pm and included a steel band, the drama group Urban Zebra and the Chapeltown-based dance group Mara Yi Pili. On Saturday night guests were entertained by dancers, comedy, reggae, a fashion show, gospel singers, limbo and a steel band. Once again there was a West Indian buffet and a jump-up in the car park after the show. The follow year Carifesta took place on Friday 2 and Saturday 3 July. Local reggae band Bodecian played on Friday night and two movies, ‘Dread Beat An’ Blood’ and ‘Roots Rock Reggae’, were screened. At the ‘Gala Night’ on Saturday, entertainment again included comedy, dance, limbo and a steel band. The night once again ended with a jump-up in the car park.

Poster for Carifesta 1982.

The final Carifesta was held in 1983. That year’s events took place on 8 and 9 July. Ticket prices had again increased. Adult tickets were now priced at £1.50 and child tickets were 75p. From 7.30pm on Friday 8 July, guests were entertained by music and dance. The line-up included the prize-winning Bhangra dance group Nachda Punjab, Sonik Four from Huddersfield, Mara Ya Pili and the Primrose Hill Chinese Dancers from Leeds. Music was provided by the Primrose Hill Steel Band. Saturday’s ‘Gala Night’ also began at 7.30pm and included dance performances by the United Caribbean Association Dance Group and the Los Caribos Limbo Dance Group, drama from Urban Zebra and music from the Elizabeth Noel Singers, Gospel Messengers and the funk band Brazilia.

Carnival Says No To Hard-Drugs – Leeds West Indian Carnival 1989

The ‘Give For Life’ appeal continued into 1989 and on 28 July the 100K Club, with help from the Sikh Centre Women’s Group, organised a Community Lunch at the Sikh Centre on Chapeltown Road. The lunch was attended by 250 people who enjoyed a vegetarian menu. The event raised £500 for the appeal.

Community Lunch at the Sikh Centre, 28 July 1989.

On page 9 of the 7 July issue of Leeds Other Paper, under the headline ‘Don’t Stop The Carnival’, readers were informed that “as summer days get hotter, so are preparations among carnivalists for August Bank Holiday. In Huddersfield and Leeds (Britain’s oldest carnival) steel and mas bands are tuning their pans to new arrangements for the day; and talking through the finer points of costume design and material.” The short article went on to explain “Many carnival goers give little thought to the months of organisation that goes into making the street carnival work on the day.” The article then pointed out that “Bands (mas and steel) survive from each year to the next with little support, having to raise funds from dances and shows, so most places will be throbbing with pre-carnival dances and concerts.” The newspaper then told its readers “if you want to see more colour and splendour on the street on carnival day then support these events”.

Among the events that readers of Leeds Other Paper were encouraged to support was the Jamaica Independence Dance held at the West Indian Centre on 5 August. The headlining act was Leeds’ very own soca star Chevi backed by the Secret Army Band. Born in St. Kitts, Chevi (Eugene Chiverton) had recorded soca music in Trinidad, New York and London in the early 1980s and was now living in Leeds. He was a social worker, working with young offenders in Chapeltown, Seacroft and Gipton. He was a member of Lord Silkie’s Cockspur Crew and had performed soca across the UK including Manchester, Huddersfield, Bradford, Sheffield, Birmingham and London.  In early 1989 he had founded Cariba Records, to promote and record Leeds based artists and to bring over artists from the Caribbean to perform at the Leeds West Indian Carnival and other events. Cariba Records was based on Roundhay Road and incorporated a recording studio, publishing house and management and booking agency. “The importance of music must never be underestimated” Chevi told Leeds Other Paper in August 1989. “There are no age or class barriers when it comes to music, especially black music” he added. In July Cariba Records released it’s one and only disc – Chevi’s ‘AH-Beautiful Day’. The 12 inch single, backed with ‘Beautiful Rythem’ – an instrumental version, was reviewed in the 4 August issue of Leeds Other Paper. The review described the song as a “bouncy soca rhythm that makes you dance, sing or do most anything.” Chevi and Cariba Records were profiled in Leeds Other Paper in their 11 August issue.

Chevy (2)
Chevi, 1989.

The West Indian Centre hosted a “pre-carnival event” on 12 August. The headlining acts were Trinidadian calypso singers Mighty Sparrow and Baron. Mighty Sparrow had been recording since the 1950s and had released the single ‘Jump For Jesse’ in 1988. Baron’s most recent single was 1988’s ‘Ruction In Town’. Tickets for the concert were priced at £5 or £6 on the door.

Just short of two weeks after Chevi’s performance at the West Indian Centre, Reggae duo Royal Blood made their live debut there on 18 August. The duo was made up of sisters Annette and Paulette Morris who had previously sung with the ten-piece multiracial band Exiles Intact. Exiles Intact had broken up at the end of July, their last gig was at the Grove Inn on 30 July. Any engagements they had after that date were taken on by Royal Blood backed by Stone Roots. Despite a poor turnout, the concert received a good review in Leeds Other Paper and it was reported that Royal Blood performed ‘Slipping Away’, which was set to be their debut single, and ‘Things I’d Do For You’. Under Chevi’s management, Royal Blood would make their TV debut later in the month, appearing on the TV show ‘Ebony On The Road’.

Ebony On The Road was a series of six programmes produced by the team behind the TV programme Ebony. Each episode focused on a different Afro-Caribbean community in Britain and the programme had already visited Cardiff, Liverpool, and Birmingham. Its finial stop was in Leeds. The programme, presented by Brinsley Ford, Aminatta Foma and Martin Shaw, aired on BBC 2 on Tuesday 22 August at 8.30pm. The programme showed many images of Chapeltown, particularly in its intro, including the Hayfield Pub, Chapeltown Business Centre, The CAB-INN, The Northern School of Contemporary Dance, Kuffdem Theatre Company, The Palace Youth Project, The Mandela Centre, The West Indian Centre and WYBC (We’re Young, Bright and Conscious)Radio Station – a pirate radio station run by Culture T. The majority of the programme however was filmed inside the West Indian Centre. Backed by Stone Roots, Royal Blood performed the song ‘Things I’d Do For You’ live in front of the cameras and a live audience. In the audience was proud father St Clair Morris. The programme also featured the Palace Youth Project and The Chapeltown Anti-hard Drugs Campaign. In a pre-recorded segment, campaign committee members Marina Active, Eren Weekes and Ezz Witter spoke about the campaign and its aims. Back at the West Indian Centre the discussion continued with campaign group leader Yvette Small, Chapeltown resident Claude Hendrickson, businessman Victor Shaw and community worker and carnival committee member Susan Pitter.

Royal Blood and Stone Roots on Ebony On The Road.

Among the costume designers for this year’s Leeds West Indian Carnival was Kam Sangra. He worked on his costume for four weeks and had taken two weeks holiday from work to design and make his costume. In an interview for the 1990 Official Leeds West Indian Carnival magazine, Kam spoke about his experience designing carnival costumes. “I think I’ve got the Carnival bug. I got it from Arthur France. It was he who pushed me into helping him out with his own costumes. I did that for a number of years. Then he suggested I make my own costume” Kam explained. Kam went on to speak about how he was reluctant at first. “I’m Asian, not Afro-Caribbean. But he [Arthur France] told me Trinidadian Carnival had always been the product of many cultures, and that Asians had always played a significant part in it. That reassured me” he said. His costume, called ‘Rainbow of Peace’ was 13 feet high and included a giant rainbow, 16 feet wide, which stretched from one side of the queen to the other. The sun and clouds were also included in the design and in the centre was a giant pot of gold. Looking back in 1990, Kam recalled “I was working at 3 o’clock in the morning, music blaring, glue everywhere. The neighbours asked a few questions. But once they saw it was a Carnival thing, they were understanding. I have good neighbours.”

Leeds Other Paper published a feature on the Leeds West Indian Carnival in their 25 August issue, giving full details of the upcoming events. “Chapeltown is a hive of activity this Bank Holiday weekend” the newspaper informed its readers. Black and white photos of last year’s carnival were featured on the cover and inside. The first of this year’s events was the poorly publicised Prince and Princess Show (Not mentioned in Leeds Other Paper).  The Prince and Princess Show took place at the West Indian Centre on Sunday 20 August. The winning Prince was a boy named Marlin and a girl named Sabrina took the prize for the best Princess.

The Carnival Queen Show 1989 took place inside the marquee erected outside the West Indian Centre on Friday 25 August. The show began at 9pm (doors opened at 8pm) and admission was priced at £2.50. Susan Pitter was the compere once again and this year she was joined by Hughbon Condor. An hour of music was provided by DJ Godfather before the show was officially opened at 10pm. Entertainment on the night included a dance troupe called ‘Brenda’s Dancers’. The troupe was made up of young girls aged 6 to 13 and was organised by Brenda Monique.  They danced to ‘Mary Jane’. In the October issue of Corporate magazine it was reported that “the young group showed so much talent that it was hard to believe their ages ranged from only six to 13 years”. They were followed by the winning Carnival Prince, Marlin, and Carnival Princess, Sabrina, who danced to music provided by the New World Steel Orchestra. The October issue of Corporate magazine reported that “the audience made it clear that they approved of the committee’s decision in choosing these two to represent the youngsters at the carnival.” The Old Mas sketch followed which, according to Corporate magazine, compressed of “seven items of modern interest, cleverly mocked by the seven members of the group”. Among the seven members performing the sketch were Lord Silkie, African Man, and The Godfather. A singer, whose name is only given as Jenny, was performing in front of an audience for the first time in three years. She sang two songs, including one self-penned love song. Lord Silkie performed calypso music and Janet Halliday returned once again to perform limbo dancing. Six men and six women from the audience joined her on stage to try their hand at limbo dancing.

The full programme for the evening was as follows:

8.00 – Doors open
9.00 – DJ Godfather
10.00 – Opening
10.05 – Brenda’s Dancers
10.15 – Prince and Princess
10.30 – Old Mas
10.45 – Jenny
10.55 – Lord Silkie
11.15 – Queen Contest
12.15 – Limbo
12.30 – Results
12.45 – DJ Godfather
1.30 – New World Steel Orchestra

A total of six Queens took part in the Carnival Queen Show. They were:

  • Shelley Pratt in a costume called ‘Queen of Sheba’, designed by Matthew Stevens and made by St. Aidan’s Vicarage and sponsored by Scaffolding GB.
  • Nicola Shannon in a costume called ‘Blue Caribbean’, designed and made by Gloria Pemberton and Lesley Ambrose and sponsored by NatWest.
  • Erma Norford in a costume called ‘Fantasy Island’, designed and made by St. Martin’s Church and sponsored by M.S Training Agency.
  • Ingrid Collins in a costume called ‘World of Sweet Pan’, designed and made by Arthur France and sponsored by the West Indian Centre.
  • Cheryl James in a costume called ‘Black Pearl’ designed by Leo Small and made by the Palace Youth Project and sponsored by Yorkshire Arts.
  • Sheila Howarth in a costume called ‘Rainbow of Peace’, designed and made by Kam Sangra and sponsored by Leeds City Council.

Beginning at quarter past eleven, the six queens paraded in front of the five judges. Corporate magazine gives the names of four of the five judges. They were Felina Wood, Alan Julian, Derrick ‘Tubbs’ Lawrence and Brian Brammer. Sheila Howarth’s costume was one of the largest and had problems getting on the stage.  Ingrid Collins’ large sphere costume was based on the New World Steel Orchestra logo and moved along on wheels. Erma Norford, who had been a member of the girl group Silk Cut four years previously, wore a costume made by members of St. Martin’s Church. When she entered the stage the audience were unsure of the design. However, when the costume unfolded it received great applause. Max Farrar was on hand once again to take photos of the Queens as they danced on the stage.

Ingrid Collins in her costume called ‘World of Sweet Pan’, designed and made by Arthur France, took the third place. Second place was taken by Cheryl James in her costume ‘Black Pearl’ which had been made by members of the Palace Youth Project. The winning Queen for 1989 was Sheila Howarth in a costume named ‘Rainbow of Peace’ designed and made by Kam Sangra. This win marked two firsts for the Leeds West Indian Carnival. Sheila Howarth, just days away from her 32nd birthday, was the first married woman to take the Carnival Queen title (she had married Kevin Howarth in July 1984) and Kam Sangra was the first non-black winning designers, he was of Indian descent.  In an interview for the 1990 Official Leeds West Indian Carnival magazine Kam Sangra spoke about how he felt when he was announced as the winner. “I was very happy, joyous! And obviously thankful to the people who helped me, when I won. I felt happy for them” he said. “It was a marvellous feeling to win, but the other designs were very good as well” Kam added. “A lot of my success was because of the Queen. It was a joint effort. No doubt about that. At the end of the day it was the Queen, Sheila Howarth and the helpers who won it for me”. Kam Sangra went on to speak about the sportsmanship of the other designers. “Other competitors congratulated me on the night, and complimented the Queen” he said. The prize for the winning Queen and designer was a trip to the Caribbean.

Sheila Howarth felt transformed when wearing the costume. For one day she was transformed from an ordinary woman to a Queen. “I was Queen of Chapeltown” she told Colin Grant for his 2019 book ‘Homecoming’. She would later recall how she felt praised like she had never felt before. Everybody had cheered for her and wanted to take her photo.

Sheila Howarth, 1989.

Corporate magazine reported on the Queen Show in their October issue which included six black and white photos on the cover with more photos on pages 3 and 4. Three black and white photos of the Queen Show were included under the headline ‘The 22nd Carnival Queen Show’. The photos showed Sheila Howard [sic] as ‘Rainbow of Peace’, Erma Norford as ‘Fantasy Island’ and Cheryl James as ‘Black Pear’. In the article the Queen Show is described as “the best ever”.

Newspaper Advert for Black Heroes Concert II.

Despite last year’s concert being cancelled, the free reggae concert held in Potternewton Park on Sunday 27 August was still titled ‘Black Heroes Concert II’. For this year’s concert some rules had been put in place. Harehills Avenue between Spencer Place and Nassau Place was closed off and no cars were allowed in the park. The selling of alcohol and bottles in the park was also prohibited. Those wanting to sell food, drinks and other products had to make a concession booking in advance and were told to write to Richard Brown at the Leisure Services Department on Wellington Street.

The concert was reviewed in the 1 September issue of Leeds Other Paper. The line-up for 1989 included international, national and local acts. Among the local talent was the Bradford band Enuf-Sed who opened the show at 12 noon with “twin slices of funky soul”. They were followed by Rizla and Sister B, both of whom were backed by Stone Roots. Stone Roots remained on the stage and backed the other local acts including Stallion and Royal Blood. The latter performed a version of ‘Ain’t No Sunshine’. Royal Blood had appeared on the BBC 2 programme ‘Ebony On The Road’ five days previously. Creation Roots, a reggae band from Bradford also performed as did the Leeds’ based bands Symbolic and We Funk. The last of the local acts to perform was ragamuffin artist Judge D.

For the second half of the show Stone Roots were replaced by the Ruff Cut Band who first backed the dub poet Ras Firke. Lovers Rock singers Janet Davis and Kofi followed. Other national acts included Nerious Joseph and Crucical Robbie who performed ‘Proud To Be Black’. Daddy Freddy was up next and was followed by Scion Success from New York. Thriller U from Jamaica closed the show with “sweet lovers rock for a sultry evening”.

On Sunday night the Leeds West Indian Centre held ‘The Mega Bank Holiday All Nighter 89’. All night entertainment was provided both in the marquee outside and the hall inside. In the marquee, guests were entertained by reggae star Alton Ellis and Supa Youth and the Java sound system from London. Inside the centre was Mike Shaft, Our Man Flint – M*A*R, Mickey Spillane, DJ Martin, and Play Boy. Tickets were priced at £6 and were available from Jumbo Records, Jewel Records, Scott Hall Videos and The West Indian Centre in Leeds as well as Live Stock Records in Bradford and Baron Records in Manchester.

Newspaper Advert for ‘The Mega Bank Holiday All Nighter 89’

Monday’s Leeds West Indian Carnival parade took place on 28 August.  An estimated 50,000 people attended the carnival in 1989. Revellers in Potternewton Park were entertained from the stage by DJ Berisford and the Invaders Steel Band.  As troupes gathered in the park prior to the parade setting off, Max Farrar began taking photos. In the performer’s arena in front of the stage, he photographed St Martin’s Church’s Fantasy Island troupe and queen. Troupe members wore yellow and red costumes and proudly held their homemade banner.

Sheila Haworth and Kam Sangra with Lord Mayor Carter and the Lady Mayoress.

Lord Silkey and The Cockspur Crew were in full swing for 1989’s Leeds West Indian Carnival. Eugene ‘Chevi’ Chiverton acted as the crew’s marketing person, providing them with t-shirts and rum. This year’s uniform was made up of Cockspur Rum t-shirts and brightly coloured shorts. The crew’s membership was at its height around this time with an estimated 100 or more members. Twenty-one of those members were photographed by Max Farrar in Potternewton Park. Max Farrar took their photograph as they posed in front of a banner that read ‘LORD SILKEY + The COCKSPUR CREW’, each member is holding up a bottle of Cockspur rum. Prior to the parade leaving the park, members of the crew had been photographed by Yorkshire Evening Post photographer Mel Hulme dancing with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress. The following day Nigel Scott of the Yorkshire Evening Post reported “And Councillor Carter soon found himself joining members of the Leeds-based Cockspur Crew in an impromptu rumba which delighted the crowds waiting for the colourful and noisy parade to begin”. Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post the Lord Mayor, Councillor Les Carter said “It’s just fabulous. This must be one of the most spectacular events we have in Leeds.” The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress also posed for photos with Sheila Haworth and Kam Sangra in Potternewton Park.

The Cockspur Crew, 1989 (Photo: Max Farrar)

Five steel bands took part in the parade which set off from Potternewton Park around 2pm and returned to the park at 6pm. They were The Chromatic Steel Band from Oldham, Star Quality Steel Band from Manchester, Sweet Melody Steel Band from Huddersfield and The New World Steel Orchestra and The Caribbeans from Leeds. The latter had added extra players to the band especially for the carnival, giving them around 15 players on the road. The band’s leader Wilfred Alexander was interviewed for the Official 1990 Leeds West Indian Carnival magazine, in which he gave some information on the band. “We’re a professional band with five or six members and play all year round” he said. While the band earned up to £200 for a performance, sometimes earning up to £1,000 in one day, they always played at the carnival for free. The band had toured Europe and the Middle East and played regularly in Scotland. “Once they see we’re a success, they call us back. That’s how we get bookings” Wilfred Alexander said in the Official 1990 Carnival magazine. “We can play calypso, soca, reggae” Wilfred informed the interviewer before adding “you can play reggae on pan. I don’t mean play a calypso kind of reggae. I mean real reggae. We can do it – we’re professional.”

A total of 17 troupes from Leeds, Huddersfield, Manchester, and Bradford took part in the parade. Students from the CHALCS computer school on Harrogate Road had formed a troupe for this year’s carnival and members of St. Martin’s Church had formed the ‘Fantasy Island’ troupe led by their Queen Erma Norford. Hughbon Condor, sponsored by Grenada Association, had designed costumes for the ‘Carnival Fever’ troupe from Huddersfield.  Hughbon Condor had also designed and made the Queen costume ‘Carnival Fever’ which won the Huddersfield Carnival Queen contest when it was worn by Lucy Charles. Gloria Pemberton and Beverly Samuels designed a troupe called ‘African Princes and Princesses’. Members of the Cockspur Crew included Edmund ‘Shaggy’ Jeffers, Marilyn Freeman, Mitch ‘Godfather’ Wallace, Sue Saw, Lisa Fell, Reginald Challenger, Freddie ‘Kinkie’ Mills, William Ward, Mel Lewis, Eugeme ‘Chevi’ Chiverton, Moiraine ‘Yabba’ Hall, Ephraim ‘Wishbone’ Richards, and Brian ‘Bush Wacker’ Phillips. They were led by Artie ‘Lord Silkie’ Davis.

CHALCS Carnival Troupe, 1989.

The Palace Youth Project’s anti-hard drugs troupe attracted the most media attention. They were given their own feature in Leeds Other Paper in the 6 October issue. The troupe wore t-shirts with anti-hard drug slogans on them. Among the slogans were ‘Drugs Nah Sting Inna Chapeltown’ and ‘Chapeltown Says No To Hard Drugs’. The troupe was part of ‘The Chapeltown Anti-hard Drugs Campaign’ which had been launched earlier in the year to deal with the increase of hard drugs (crack, cocaine and heroin) in the area which coincided with theft, muggings and robbery. Led by youth workers from the Mandela Centre and the Palace Youth Project, the campaign of education was backed by a £6,500 council grant. The campaign committee had also set up campaign table in Potternewton Park. A ‘Chinese Victory Appeal’ table also stood in the park in 1989; it showed solidarity with the Tiananman Square protesters in China. Photographs of both tables appeared in September/October issue of Aire View magazine. Among those taking photos at the carnival was Max Farrar who had attended and photographed every Leeds West Indian Carnival of the decade. The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Les Carter, was also spotted with a camera around his neck.

Once the parade had returned to Potternewton Park around 6pm, awards were given out on the stage. The ‘Carnival Fever ’ troupe from Huddersfield won best troupe and ‘African Princes and Princesses’ troupe from Leeds won the biggest troupe. Arthur France took the title of best individual costume and New World Steel Orchestra once again won the best steel band on the road. This was another successful year for the New World Steel Orchestra who had now become an international carnival band, playing in carnivals and concerts across Europe.

Despite the issues the local area was facing with hard drugs and an increase of crime, the Leeds West Indian Carnival was reported to be crime-free once again, this marked over two decades of a crime-free carnival in Leeds. Speaking to Leeds Other Paper, Chief Superintendent Alan Stonely said the carnival was “a credit to the people of Chapeltown”.

A police officer during the Leeds West Indian parade, 1989.

The Last Lap Dance was held at the West Indian Centre from 9pm on Monday Night. The dance lasted until 6am the following morning and tickets were priced at £3.50. Financial support from Leeds City Council, Yorkshire Arts, and Nat West Band had allowed the Carnival Committee to book an international star for this year’s entertainment. The headlining act was the Antiguan soca band Burning Flames who had recently had international success with the song ‘Worky Worky’. Music was provided by DJs Kids Sounds and Godfather.

While the BBC broadcasted live coverage of the Notting Hill Carnival in London, the Leeds West Indian Carnival didn’t receive any such privilege. The Yorkshire Evening Post covered the carnival on page 3 of their Tuesday 29 August issue. “A fabulous carnival wins the civic seal” ran the headline and two black and white photos by Mel Hulme were published. One shows members of the Cockspur Crew dancing with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress. The other shows a police officer wearing a headdress, borrowed from the Carnival Fever troupe. Leeds Other Paper covered the carnival in their 1 September issue. A large black and white photo took up most of page 3. A colour photo of the carnival parade was featured on the front cover of the September/October issue of Aire View Magazine – a magazine for North Leeds. A two-page spread made up of 13 black and white photos appeared on pages 12 and 13. The photos show Queens and troupes in the parade, activity in Potternewton Park and the Cockspur Crew on the stage in the park. The Yorkshire Post included a large photo of Sheila Howarth on Roundhay Road, a photo of Cheryl James as ‘Black Pearl’,George Pike in a sun hat, Fred Lewis with a bottle of rum and the annual photo of a child. This year it was Daniel Powell, asleep in his pushchair.

Members of the Cockspur Crew with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress.

The Bradford Festival held in September had a ‘Carnival’ theme for 1989. Held from 21 September to 24 September, the festival included a carnival parade on Saturday 23 September. Bradford’s own reggae group Creation Roots and Paradise Steel Band from Leeds were among the acts performing on the stage in Lister Park. A ‘Carnival Fun Day’ was held the following day which included a fun fair, bazaar and food stalls, dance displays, fashion shows, fireworks and an array of Indian music on the stage in Lister Park.

In Leeds, the city’s most popular reggae acts were reaching new heights at the end of the decade. Plans for Royal Blood to record were already in the works by August and in the second week of September, the six-piece band Stone Roots, managed by Derek Lawrence, had publicity photos taken by Max Farrar. The photoshoot took place on the Recreation Grounds  on Chapeltown Road on 8 September. By November, Royal Blood and Stone Roots were playing regularly at the Phoenix Club alongside Mavrick Internash sound system. On 10 December both Royal Blood and Stone Roots supported reggae star John Holt when he performed at the Phoenix Club.

Stone Roots, 1989 (Photo: Max Farrar)

Pan Forever! A Brief History of the New World Steel Orchestra 1984 – 2019


The New World Steel Orchestra was founded by Arthur France and Melvin Zakers in Leeds in February 1984, just a month after Arthur France had helped to set up the Roscoe Methodist Church Youth Steel Band. While not a pan player himself, Arthur’s love of the music had led him to found or co-found several steel bands in Leeds beginning with The United Caribbean Association’s Steel Band in 1965. Melvin Zakers had become involved in steel pans when he joined the Chapeltown Dance Theatre Steel Band in 1981. He later joined Metro Steel Band before joining Paradise Steel Band in 1982. Both men were members of the Leeds West Indian Carnival Committee when the band was founded.

The band was formed after it became clear that the Music Service, or indeed any other establishment were not willing to form an official School of Steel Pan. Arthur and Melvin worked together to come up with a name for the band and they designed the band’s logo together, which is full of symbolism. In the 2011 book ‘Pan! The Steel band Movement in Britain’ Arthur describes the logo as follows:

  • The steel pan holds together in love and harmony, the divided world in which we live.
  • The African Eagle transports the steel pan around the world.
  • The sticks generate the music from within the steel pan.
  • The olive branch signifies peace.
  • The wreath declare that ‘pan is forever’.

The band needed an arranger and tutor and Arthur had Raymond Joseph in mind for the job. Raymond was from Huddersfield and was tutoring the Roscoe Church Steel Band at the time and wasn’t sure if he wanted to take on another band. Arthur travelled to Raymond’s home in Huddersfield and persuaded him to help the New World Steel Orchestra. Instruments for the band were also needed but funds were low. Arthur and Raymond travelled to London to meet with the leader of Ebony Steel Band, Pepe Francis and the band’s captain Earl Lewis,  who sold them a set of second-hand pans. The band consisted of local young people aged 14-22, all who had been students of St Clair Morris. Among their first members was 14-year-old Gail Claxton who was later profiled in the Official 1988 Leeds West Indian Carnival magazine. Melvin Zakers was chosen as the band’s captain. With players, a tutor and instruments all in place rehearsals began in Gloria Frederick’s huge cellar in her home in Francis Street.

The New World Steel Orchestra began making public appearances in the summer of 1984 and made their carnival debut that August. Their official launch came in November 1984 at the West Indian Centre. Wanting to make a good first impression, Arthur France invited a number of important people to the concert including the head of music for Leeds Education Colin Brackley Jones, the deputy head of Leeds College of Music Roy Warmsley and various councillors from Leeds City Council.  Raymond Joseph arranged popular and classical tunes in a calypso tempo including songs by The Beatles and Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus. Their early repertoire includes ‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’, ‘We Are The World’, ‘Human Nature’, ‘(They Long To Be) Close To You’ and ‘I Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely’. They became the first ever steel band in the North of England to stage a concert of Classical, Pop, Soca, Reggae and Hymns.

Dudley Nesbitt with NWSO, 1987.

Trinidadian pan player Dudley Nesbitt came to Britain in 1986 to arrange the Panorama tune for North Stars Steel Band from Huddersfield and shortly afterwards he began working closely with the New World Steel Orchestra. After seeing the second hand pans the band were using, Dudley promised he would bring a pan maker and tuner from Trinidad to Britain to make and tune pans for New World. Dudley kept his promise and thanks to the work of Kenrick Pernel, the New World Steel Orchestra got a new set of pans in 1986.

The band made public appearance in and around Leeds including annual involvement with the West Indian Carnival.The band practiced three times a week and they improved over time and increased in popularity. They soon became one of the most successful steel bands in the north of England. By the time they made an appearance in the 1987 documentary ‘Chapeltown One Year On’ they had new instruments, a uniform and a new tutor. Melvin Zakers had taken over Raymond Joseph and by 1987 he was tutoring several other steel bands in Leeds. The New World Steel Orchestra had become well-known outside of Leeds and in 1987 they performed at the Lancaster Hotel in London for the inauguration of the first black members of parliament.  As well as one-off performances, the New World Steel Orchestra toured the UK in 1987 and later toured Ireland and Switzerland. They made appearances at carnivals nationwide and became the only steel band to win three championship competitions, in Liverpool, Leicester and Leeds, in one year.

In 1989, sponsored by the Leeds City Council, the band travelled to Dortmund in Germany for an 8-day concert tour, representing their home city. Although Arthur France’s New World Steel Orchestra-inspired Carnival Queen costume failed to win the contest in 1989, the band won ‘Best Steel Band On The Road’ again that year. Dudley Nesbitt was now living in Leeds permanently and began tutoring the band on a regular basis. Dudley’s experience and expertise were crucial to the band’s success. He had been playing the instrument from an early age and had been arranging for steel bands in Trinidad since 1970. Geraldine Connor arrived in Leeds the following year and soon became involved with the band.

In 1990 Arthur France, Geraldine Connor and Dudley Nesbitt worked together towards enhancing the image of steel pan as a new art form.  However, in 1992 Geraldine Connor decided to move on and took up a full-time lectureship at Bretton Hall where she remained until 2004. Dudley continued to work closely with the band as their musical arranger and lead tutor. The New World Steel Orchestra continued to make public appearances across the UK during the 1990s and early 2000s.

NWSO in 1987.

The New World Steel Orchestra was relaunched in 2004 and continued working closely with Dudley Nesbitt, Melvin Zakers, Arthur France and Geraldine Connor. A new steering committee was formed, a new vision and objective was set out and the band were renamed The New World Symphony Steel Orchestra.Some of the original committee members included Ian Charles, Rita Kingston, Arthur France, Stephanie Lewis, Paula Swanston, Zebe Straughn, Kevin Spencer and Yvette Smalle.

Extra members were added to the band for their performance of  Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus in ‘Carnival Messiah’ when it was performed at Harewood House in 2007. New members included James Clark who was later profiled in the 2011 book ‘Pan! The Steelband Movement in Britain’. The band now included 30 players. Their performance  at Harewood House was filmed and in 2017 it was released in the ‘Carnival Messiah’ film.

NWSO in Carnival Messiah, 2007.

In 2011 Geraldine Connor published the book ‘ Pan! The Steelband Movement in Britain’ which included a brief history of the band and gave profiles on some of the players including Dudley Nesbitt, Melvin Zakers, James Clark, Anthony Gatewood, Gail Parmel (nee Claxton), Shanice Lewis, and Sheldon Evelyn. The book also lists the 2011 committee members.

New World Symphony Steel Orchestra Steering Committee Members, 2011:

Arthur France – Chairman
Magda Lezama – Deputy Chair
Derek Evelyn – Project Co-coordinator
Asha France – Fundraiser
Jasmine Richards – Marketing
Anthony Gatewood – Course Coordinator
Debra Jeffers – Registrar and General Administration
Ken Wenham – Treasurer
Jenny Huggins – Secretary
Sheldon Evelyn – Youth Captain
Melvin Zakers – Associate Tutor
Dudley Nesbitt – Musical Director, Arranger and Lead Tutor
Geraldine Conner – Musical Supervisor

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NWSO perform for Princess Anne, 2008

Dudley Nesbitt retired from tutoring in 2012 and Melvin Zakers took over the roll. Their ability to play a virility of styles has led them to perform in a variety of places including town halls, concert halls, churches, community centres, theatres, carnivals, schools, outdoor festivals and even supermarkets. They have made several appearances across the country including York, Thorner, Gateshead and London. In 2008 they performed at York Minster for Princess Anne, in 2012 they performed at the Thorner Village Diamond Jubilee Party and in 2014 they performed as part of the Tour De France Grand Depart in Leeds City Centre. An Adult Group, made up almost entirely of female players, was founded in 2016. After 35 years,  the New World Steel Orchestra continue to play at the Leeds West Indian Carnival, Pop-up carnivals and other carnival related events including the annual Prince and Princess and King and Queen shows. The band has also made appearances at other UK carnivals. In 2019 the band performed at the re-opening of the West Yorkshire Playhouse. 


NWSO at the Thorner Village Diamond Jubilee Party, 2012.

Coming Of Age Carnival – Leeds West Indian Carnival 1988

 UK Carnival celebrations for 1988 began in Huddersfield in January. The Huddersfield Carnival Committee had organised an exhibition of carnival arts held at the Hudawi Centre. Among the costumes on display was Hughbon Condor’s ‘Peacock’ costume from 1987. Members of the Huddersfield Carnival Committee were photographed in front of the costume by the local press, appearing in the newspaper the following day (15.1.88).

Huddersfield Carnival Committee members with ‘The Peacock’, January 1988.

Hughbon Condor’s costume making began much earlier than normal in 1988 after he was invited to enter a Queen into the Huddersfield Carnival. In an interview for the Official 1988 Leeds West Indian Carnival magazine Hughbon Condor said “I’m thinking about my design over the whole year – I’m always thinking about costumes.” From March, Hughbon’s home and garage became a mas camp as he worked on his new creation, ‘The Visitor’.  On the 30 August, the Yorkshire Evening Post reported that the costume was made using “cards, wires, levers, and material”. “I couldn’t do it without an enormous amount of help from my family and friends” Hughbon said in an interview for the Official 1988 Leeds West Indian Carnival magazine. Hughbon also spoke about how his costume making had improved. “My weakness in the past has been the finishing and dressing of costumes” he said but added “but I’m improving on this now.” Looking to the future Hughbon said “I’d like to move towards the Trinidadian concept of Carnival with the troupe and Queen staging whole dramas on a particular theme”.

Hughbon had chosen 19-year-old clerical assistant Michelle Adams from Huddersfield to wear ‘The Visitor’, a costume inspired by a space rocket. Hughbon also made a princess costume of the same name. Worn by Shenika Joseph, ‘The Visitor’ was entered into and won the Junior Queen contest in Huddersfield in May. The adult ‘Visitor’ costume, worn by Michelle Adams, was entered into the Huddersfield Carnival Queen Show where it took first prize.

In 1988 the Leeds West Indian Carnival celebrated its 21st Anniversary. The 1987 and 1988 Official Carnival Magazines gives us a detailed look at the Carnival Committee members from this period. 1988 saw a few changes to the committee. St. Clair Morris, Alec McLeish, Leroy Norford and Jeannie Stoute had all left the committee and three new members, Stanley Monish, Melvyn Wyatt, and Tyrone Ambrose, had joined.

1988 Leeds West Indian Carnival Committee Members:

Arthur France (Chairman)
Brainard Braimah
Gloria Pemberton
Yola Fredricks
Hughbon Condor
Mavis Bell
Melvin Zakers
Susan Pitter (Publicity officer)
Ken Wenham
Stuart Bailey
Lennie Jeffers
Ian Charles
Stanley Monish
Tyrone Ambrose
Melvyn Wyatt

The 1988 Official Carnival Magazine informs the reader that Stanley Monish was a joiner, born in St. Kitts and a “die-hard committee member” who was responsible for the parade. Tyrone Ambrose was originally from Trinidad and had been a costume designer for “many years”. The magazine notes that he plans to raise the standard of costume designs in the future. As well as being on the carnival committee, Tyrone Ambrose was also the supervisor with Chapeltown Community Centre.

The 1988 Official Carnival Magazine gives information on other members of the committee, most of which is copied word for word from the previous year’s magazine. As well as the individual photos of the committee members that appear in both magazines, a group photo of the committee was taken by Max Farrar for the 1988 magazine. At least two different shots were taken. For the most part, the committee members are in the same positions with the expectation of Ian Charles who, in one photo (unused at the time), is stood between Ken Wenham and Tyrone Ambrose. In the photo used in the magazine (and Leeds Other Paper) Ian is stood between Gloria Pemberton and Arthur France. The black and white photo used in the magazine shows Lennie Jeffers, Gloria Pemberton, Arthur France, Ken Wenham, Ian Charles and Tyrnoe Ambrose stood in front of a car outside the West Indian Centre in a similar poses to the 1974 committee photo taken by Max Farrar (although the unused 1988 photo is a more accurate recreation). Kneeling in front of them is Mavis Bell, Melvin Zakers and Hughbon Condor.

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Some members of the 1988 Carnival Committee.

Ken Wenham is sporting an old Carnival Committee t-shirt. A new t-shirt design was introduced for 1988 – a white t-shirt with the official carnival logo in red and black with red and black text. Above the logo the text reads ‘Leeds West Indian Carnival’ with ‘Arts – Crafts & Culture’ under the logo and an added ‘Committee’ in red text under that. One committee member, Melvyn Wyatt, was photographed by Max Farrar wearing the t-shirt during the parade. Hughbon Condor was also wearing a 1988 Carnival Committee t-shirt during the parade and was captured by the BBC’s camera.

Costume making was well underway by July and one of Ken Wenham’s photographs from 1988 shows Debra Jeffers and others making costumes and using wire bending techniques. The Palace Youth Project’s Queen costume was inspired by the Free Nelson Mandela movement. South African anti-apartheid revolutionary political leader Nelson Mandela had been imprisoned since 1962. A ‘Free Nelson Mandela’ March took place in Leeds on 26 June which ended with a ‘Free Nelson Mandela Festival’ held in Savile Park in Chapeltown. The march and festival took place two weeks prior to the much bigger but similar event held in London on 11 July.

The costume, a giant butterfly with emblazoned wings with pictures of Nelson and Winnie Mandela, symbolised the free spirit. The words ‘FREE MANDELA’ ran across the bottom of the wings.  Members of the Palace Youth Project troupe were interviewed for the Official 1988 Carnival magazine. Designer Raymond ‘Straggy’ Rangers said “They are fighting to be free, and for the freedom of all the African people, and that’s what we want too”. Suzette Price, who was helping with the Queen costume, explained why more young people were now interested in the carnival. “Many of us have travelled back home to the Caribbean and seen Carnival there – we’ve come to realise how important our culture is”. Straggy compared Leeds West Indian Carnival with Notting Hill Carnival, saying “Notting Hill Carnival is just an excuse to get drunk. In Leeds we concentrate on Carnival in its proper mas sense. Carnival belongs to black people, that’s its attraction.” “The white people are there at our invitation” he added.

Chapeltown was a hive of Caribbean culture during the summer of 1988.  Melvin Zakers had taken over the role of the city’s number one steel pan tutor, replacing the recently retired St. Clair Morris. Melvin Zakers was the tutor for many steel bands in Leeds including the New World Steel Orchestra, Roscoe Methodist Church Steel Band, Little London Centre Steel Band, and Chapel Allerton Junior Steel Band. The Phoenix Club at 58-62 Francis Street held an ‘Afro-Caribbean Nite’ every Thursday. The Astoria on Roundhay Road put on live acts including, on 20 July, the “King of Calypso” David Rudder and Charlie Roots plus special guest Jester Turtle. Tickets for the show, which began at 8pm, were priced at £3.50. The Leeds West Indian Centre held the second ‘Mr. Cool’ contest on Friday 12 August. The A4 poster announced ‘Mr. Cool is Back’. Three prizes were up for grabs. First prize was a holiday for two, £100 was the prize for second place and the third place prize was £50. The evening, which began at 9pm, also included a blind date competition with first prize being an all-expenses paid night for two and a radio DJ competition with a £100 prize. Application forms for the three competitions could be picked up from the West Indian Centre, the Mandela Centre, One Stop Records, and Barone Records in Manchester. Tickets were priced at £4 or £5 on the door. Entertainment was provided by special guests Annette B and Kofi, two of the finest Lovers Rock artists on the Ariwa label, with Mavrick International providing the music. “come early” the poster advised “get a seat and avoid disappointment”. A week later on 19 August Mavrick Internash returned to the West Indian Centre for a night titled ‘Jump-Dance and Spread- Out’. These were just some of the events in the local area that captured the excitement of the upcoming Leeds West Indian Carnival.

Poster for ‘Mr. Cool 1988’

In August, the local community magazine, Corporate, published a ‘Carnival Special’ issue. Pages 7 to 10 of the magazine were dedicated to a lengthy piece on the carnival written by Jerome Williams. In the article, Jerome Williams wrote that the carnival “attracts people from local, national and various sectors of the international community.” Jerome Williams added that “Already at the ‘starting blocks’ are a small group of revellers from Miami, St Kitts/Nevis, Jamaica, the US Virgin Islands and the Bahamas”. Jerome Williams went on to mention that “The carnival spectacle unites people of all races, ages, cultures and religions. It is the perfect way of expressing humanitarian feelings to the natural existence of people whatever their origins”.

In the article Jerome Williams wrote “there is room for discussion that the programme is limited and might lack foresight and certainly not in line with carnival eventing as it should be”. He then mentions that carnivals in New Orleans, Rio and Trinidad last three weeks and that the Notting Hill Carnival in London stages events over a two week period. Jerome Williams suggests that the Leeds West Indian Carnival should be used “as a stage of development”. He points out that “Carnival is not only a cultural event, it is a business too”. Jerome Williams goes on to list businesses that might benefit from the carnival including catering, fashion, entertainment, transport, publicity, and the licenced trade. Local business “should benefit in an even bigger way than they might do at Christmas and other statutory holidays” Jerome writes.

Corporate magazine also includes a Carnival Route map and ‘Birthday Messages’ from various organisations and businesses including The Northern School of Contemporary Dance, the Harehills, Roundhay & Chapeltown Job Centre, Chapeltown Mini Market, West Yorkshire Fire Service, One Step Ahead, Palace Youth Project, Apex Trust, The Government Task Force, Leeds Business Venture, and the West Yorkshire Police.

Gerald A.H. Ingham, the superintendent of Chapeltown Police Station wrote:

I am very pleased to be asked to endorse this year’s 21st Carnival in Chapeltown. Over the years this event has developed into a first class multi-cultural fun day for the thousands of citizens of Leeds, and I believe this reflects great credit on the Carnival Committee and indeed the public of Chapeltown. My officers and I wish the carnival every success and I look forward to assisting the committee in any way we can on the day and in the future. 

Route Map from 1988 magazine.

A special official 21st Anniversary magazine was sponsored by the Leeds City Council and published by Caribbean Times. The front cover featured last year’s winning Carnival Queen Amaire Claxton. The magazine was priced at 75p and, at 40 pages long, was much longer than last year’s magazine but shared some of the same content. It included a ‘Chairman’s Message’ which read almost word for word as the 1987 ‘Chairman’s Message’  in which Arthur France reminded readers “Leeds was the  birth place of the first West Indian Carnival in Europe and it’s always been the happiest occasion in the area.”

The magazine also included a route map, a full programme of events, and letters of support. In 1988 letters of support came from Richard Bourne the Deputy Director of the Commonwealth Institute, James Aboaba the Chairman of Technorth Leeds, Colin Sampson the Chief Constable of the West Yorkshire Police and Councillor George Mudie the leader of Leeds City Council. The latter wrote:

Congratulations and best wishes to the Leeds Caribbean Committee, and to everyone who takes part in this happy event. Leeds citizens, from all cultural backgrounds, have taken Carnival to heart, and each year sees more people enter into the spirit and play mas.

For the magazine Willie Robinson wrote a short piece titled ‘The Origins of the Leeds West Indian Carnival’. In it he wrote: “When Arthur France asked me to write this article, it seemed incredible that over twenty one years had elapsed since he first had the idea of a West Indian Carnival in England”. Willie Robinson wrote about the struggle in starting the carnival saying “We had the task of staging a carnival without any finance.” (The magazine list ten sponsors of the 1988 carnival, highlighting how far the carnival had come in 21 years.)

“It is fifteen years since I left Leeds but I occasionally return for some of the carnivals” Willie Robinson wrote. “I have also been to many carnivals in other parts of the country” he added. “Leeds Carnival is still the best organised one that I have been to. It continues to be an occasion of peaceful merriment. Long may it do so” Willie wrote before wishing success for the 1988 carnival. “And I sincerely hope that the next twenty years will see growth and development, not only in the Carnival, but in the community as a whole”.

Thelma Thomas interviewed the Chairman of Technorth Leeds and the Chairman of Chapeltown Citizens Advice Bureau James Aboaba. James Aboaba spoke about the similarities between the West Indian Carnival and the Masquerade in Nigeria, his native country. “Indeed this is one of the reasons why I always look forward to the Leeds Carnival, because there’s a tremendous similarity between the two” James told Thelma. James Aboaba also spoke about his own involvement in the carnival. “A few years ago I played the part of an Equal Opportunities Officer of the Local Council at the Queen Show” he informed Thelma. James Aboaba ended the interview by saying:

The Carnival time is the only time of the year when people forget their troubles, trials and tribulations with which they have been plagued, and enjoy themselves and show the English people that contrary to widespread notion, that they have cultural heritage which they have brought to enrich the lives of everyone in Britain. It also helps to break barriers between people of different socio-economic background.

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New World Steel Orchestra, 1988.

The magazine also included articles on The New World Steel Orchestra, the Palace Youth Centre, Limbo dancer Janet Halliday, 1981 Carnival Queen Theresa Thompson, The Cockspur Crew, and Hughbon Condor. Also included were interviews with people who had attended the first West Indian Carnival in 1967 including Louise Reed, Esher Walker and Alison Hodge, and Max Farrar interviewed Arthur France and Ian Charles.

“Talking to Ian Charles and Arthur France about Leeds West Indian Carnival is like being caught up in a whirlwind of enthusiasm.” Max Farrar wrote. “There are a few grey hairs in sight these days, but they have the energy which has been driving the Carnival in Leeds since 1967” he added.

The 1988 Carnival magazine encouraged members of the public to get involved with the carnival in one way or another and informed readers to “contact any of the Leeds West Indian Carnival Committee members and join the rest of us to make the Leeds West Indian Carnival the Carnival of the North”. The magazine gave contact numbers for the following committee members: Ian Charles, Gloria Pemberton, Arthur France, Susan Pitter (two numbers), Hughbon Condor, Melvyn Zakers and Stewart Bailey.

In the 26 August issue of Leeds Other Paper it was reported that “The coming Bank Holiday will witness a historic moment for the Caribbean community. It is the twenty first year in succession in which the Carnival has been celebrated in the streets of Leeds.” The report on page 6 went on to say “Carnival represents a high point in the development of Caribbean culture, both in Britain and throughout the world. In Leeds the Carnival is the product of inspired and dedicated work by hundreds of people.” Leeds Other Paper published an extract from an interview with Arthur France and Ian Charles by Max Farrar.

Programme of events from Leeds Other Paper (26.8.88)

The 21st Leeds West Indian Carnival began on Sunday 21 August with the Prince and Princess Show held at the West Indian Centre. The 1988 Carnival Magazine includes photos of two of the princess contestants, Dionne Daniels and Viola Boorne, but gives no further details. The Yorkshire Evening Post published a photograph of Shenika Joseph in a princess costume designed by Hughbon Condor. Among the Prince contestants was Andrew Claxton in a costume designed and made by his older sister 18-year-old Gail Claxton. In an interview with the Official 1988 Carnival Magazine, Gail expressed her hopes for the involvement of more young people in the carnival.  “The young people think that the older ones are so professional with their costumes that they won’t be able to do anything so good” she said. Gail went on to suggest that “special workshops to train young people in the arts” would be a good idea for the future. A second ‘Baby In Pushchair’ contest was planned but nobody entered and the idea was scrapped.

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Costume designer Gail Claxton.

The Carnival Queen Show took place in the marquee at the West Indian Centre on Friday 26 August. Tickets were priced at £2.50.  Photographs of four of the Queens were included in the 1988 Carnival magazine but names were only given for two; Helen Chapman and Heather Thompson. The Yorkshire Evening Post reported that seven Queens took part in the contest. Other Queens in 1988 included Michelle Adams in the costume ‘The Visitor’ designed by Hughbon Condor and Brenda Norfolk in the costume ‘Free Africa’ designed by the Palace Youth Project.

Michelle Adams in her Queen costume ‘The Visitor’.

Prior to the Queen Show, Hughbon Condor gave an interview for the Official 1988 Leeds Carnival magazine. “I don’t want to appear to be dominating the event, and I’d really like to help others develop their technique, so that everyone’s costume design skills develop. I’d like to get away from this competitive element to the Carnival” he said.

Max Farrar was among those that attended the Queen Show. He took a number of colour photos including one of Brenda Norfolk and one of Michelle Adams. Max Farrar also photographed one of the acts of the night, a group of traditional masqueraders led by Peter Wenham.

The winning Queen was Michelle Adams. Three black and white photos of her appeared in the December 1988 issue of Chapeltown and Harehills What’s On. The local newspaper informed its readers that this was Hughbon Condor’s third win (it was, in fact, his sixith) giving him “the reputation as the city’s most creative costume designer”. The Official 1988 Carnival magazine gives more details on Hughbon’s career thus far, pointing out that he had also had three runners up Queens. Chapeltown and Harehills What’s On also included a black and white photo of Brenda Norfolk in her costume ‘Free Africa’ which, despite not winning, became a favourite among the press.

Members of the Cockspur crew performed an Ole Mas Sketch at the Queen Show. The sketch revolved around the mock wedding of Shaggy (Edmund Jeffers), playing the part of the groom, and Godfather (Mitch Wallace), in a wedding dress, playing the part of the bride. Lord Silkie (Artie Davis) played the role of the priest. A colour photo taken by Ken Wenham shows that African Man (Freddie Mills) was also involved.

Earlier in the year, members of the crew had been interviewed by Max Farrar for the Official 1988 Carnival magazine. “I like to be in the humorous part of the Carnival” Lord Silkie said. “I’m a comedian, and I love the razzmatazz, I try to create some excitement and get people going” he added. “A drink goes a long way on Carnival day – it brings out the best in you” Lord Silkie told Max Farrar. Talking of the future, Lord Silkie expressed how he wanted to bring the Calypso King contest back and the other crew members agreed.  “It’s the music of the West Indians, it is part of our culture which is fading away” Lord Silkie told Max Farrar. “It should be preserved. I’d like to train the youths in Calypso techniques and start it up again” he added. “I want to preserve this West Indian culture, it’s what I’m used to and it’s what I love” Godfather said. “I love the Carnival because I’m a Caribbean man” said African Man “and I love to see black people dress up in the streets, especially the big bottom black women” he added.  Godfather, who played calypso and soca music on the local pirate radio station Rapid 105.8 FM spoke about calypso and soca music. “It reminds us of home” he said before adding “this is the cultural music, and the Carnival is special for steel band and soca music.” Godfather went on to note that the young people wanted reggae and sound systems. “But that’s not Carnival culture” he said. “Once a year we must give that culture its respect, and play reggae, soul and so on after that.”

Some members of the Cockspur Crew in 1988.

In their 26 August issue, Leeds Other Paper had dedicated a full page to the up-coming Reggae Concert to be held in Potternewton Park. “Reggae singer Maxi Priest will be topping the bill this Sunday at the third Leeds Reggae Concert, which is expected to bring up to 8,000 people to Potternewton Park in Chapeltown” the newspaper reported on page 7. The annual Reggae Concert was now being called the ‘Black Heroes Concert’ and Leeds Other Paper reported that “organisers hope that this will be the biggest and best concert so far and the attendance will be boosted by the added attractions of the West Indian Carnival and the Michael Jackson concert on the following day”. Corporate Magazine reported that the concert had two themes: The celebration of black heroes – Mandela, Marley, and Malcolm X and the support of Leeds City Council’s ‘Give For Life’ campaign for which there was a planned collection. Leeds Other Paper repeated this fact and gave information on Nelson Mandela, Bob Marley and Malcolm X. Leeds Other Paper also reported that “Two booklets about the Black liberation leader Malcolm X have been republished by the left-wing Pathfinder Press and will be available on stalls at the Chapeltown Carnival”. The line-up for the concert “held under the skies” included headlining acts Maxi Priest and Mighty Diamonds.  Also on the line-up was Nerious Joseph backed by the Ruff Cutt Band, Undivided Roots Band, and Sandra Cross. Local acts included Clifton Irie, Supa Youth and Fidel, Ulrik Dan, Exile Intact, Creation Roots, Natural Riddim, Little Chief and Enuf Sed. However, the concert didn’t go ahead as planned. In their 2 September issue Leeds Other Paper reported “No musicians performed, because the stage was dangerously wet after overnight rain”. The organisers blamed the scaffolding firm, Bridgecraft Scaffolding, who built the stage but the scaffolding firm told Leeds Other Paper that the stage had been passed as okay by the council.

Newspaper ad for ‘Black Heroes Concert 1988’

The Phoenix Club on Francis Street held a ‘Pre-Carnival Extravaganza’ on Sunday night. Advertised as an ‘All Nighter’, guests enjoyed music by ‘Special funk-soul-reggae DJ’s’ from 11pm until 5am Monday morning. Admission was priced at £2.

The Official 1988 West Indian Carnival magazine included a programme of events for Monday 29 August which gives some idea of what took place that day. Given the carnival’s reputation for running late, it isn’t clear how close to the times given that the events on the day actually took place. None-the-less the programme was given as follows:

12.Noon Assembly – Potternewton Park
12.30 Music – Bersiford Disco
2.00 Lord Mayor arrives
2.30 Parade sets off from park
5.00 Return of Parade
5.30 Troupes display for judging
Presentation of Queen costumes
Invaders Steel Band on stage
6.30 Announcement of winners
Troupes-Individuals-Steel Band


On Monday morning, members of Hughbon Condor’s troupe gathered in Hughbon’s mother’s house near Potternewton Park. The Official 1988 Leeds West Indian Carnival magazine reported that the house was “over-run with people getting into their troupe costumes, and his sisters can still find staples and materials in odd corners of their houses from previous years’ work.”

The Leeds Lord Mayor Arthur Vollans was present in Potternewton Park from around 2p.m to officially open the carnival. The Lady Mayoress Jean Vollans had her photo taken with Carnival Princess Shenika Joseph. The photo appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Post the following day.

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Shenika Joseph with Jean Vollans.

An estimated 40,000 people attended the carnival parade in 1988. The Carnival Publicity Officer Susan Pitter spoke to the Yorkshire Post saying “I am delirious. We were hoping for between 30,000 and 40,000 people but I think we have exceeded even that figure. I think everyone has made an effort to contribute and make today a success.”

Among the crowd was the Bailey family. Chris Bailey, originally from St. Kitts, and his wife Linda brought their children Corinne, Rhea and Candice to the Leeds West Indian Carnival every year. In the 2018 book ‘Mother Country: Real Stories of the Windrush Children’ Corinne Bailey Rae spoke about her childhood being raised by a Kittian father and English mother. “My mum made it her work to raise us in black culture” she told Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff.  “We went to Carnival every year” she added. At the 1988 Leeds West Carnival, Rhea Bailey was photographed by the Yorkshire Evening Post photographer Mel Hulme. The photo shows the five-year-old girl in her school uniform sat on the shoulders of PC Dick Braithwaite, his helmet is on her head, coving most of her face.

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Rhea Bailey at the Leeds West Indian Carnival, 1988.

Also witnessing the parade was Louise Reed, who had been in a troupe 21 years ago. It was reported in the Official 1988 Carnival magazine that ‘Nowadays she wears a big floral outfit of trousers and top and follows the procession for its whole length.’ “I like the way Carnival gets everybody together” she told the magazine. “You see people you never see and everybody enjoys it, even the police. You never have any quarrels; everybody always has a jolly time.” Louise Reed went on to explain her Carnival Day routine. “All our friends on the street go out there from about 1 o’clock” she said “We cook our food the day before. Even the babies come out for Carnival”.

Louise Reed, 1988.

Esther Walker said “I look forward to it every year” and Alison Hodge said “I enjoy the carnival every year, you meet a lot of friends from all over the country and some come from the West Indies”. “I go to every carnival, it’s very special for us West Indians, we all look forward to it” said Louise Reed. Vanessa Weight and Cheryl Daniel were photographed by the Yorkshire Evening Post enjoying ice creams and Ross Ratcliffe was photographed dancing in Potternewton Park. Hughbon Condor took a colour photo of Carnival Queen Michelle Adams and Princess Shenika Joseph in Potternewton Park before the parade.

A film crew from the BBC were  present at this year’s carnival parade. 40 seconds of coloured footage is kept in the BBC archives. They filmed Carnival Queen Michelle Adams as she made her way down Harehills Avenue. Members of The Visitors troupe in their blue and silver costumes are also seen dancing down the street. The Sweet Melody Steel Orchestra are shown in their khaki shirts and red berets. The banner at the side of their float shows they were sponsored by KFC.

Brenda Norfolk is shown, adjusting her mask and the New World Steel Orchestra can be seen in their blue uniforms. Their three floats have evolved to include roofs, to prevent the instruments from filling with rain water.  Shots of the crowd show white, Asian and black people stood shoulder to shoulder. Two women, dressed in the Goth fashion of the time, are also seen, showing just how diverse the Leeds West Indian Carnival had become. Members of Captain Wenham’s Masqueraders are seen dancing as are the Cockspur Crew. For 1988 the crew had new t-shirts – white with red text that read ‘The Cockspur Crew Rapid Radio 105.8 FM’.  

In their 2 September issue, Leeds Other Paper reported that “the streets of Chapeltown pulsated to the sounds of steel bands, whistles, reggae sound systems, and dancing feet”. On 30 August, The Yorkshire Evening Post reported that “Crowds lined the streets and spectators craned to watch the colourful processions from office windows and from flats above shops.” The Yorkshire Post made a similar report, informing their readers that “the large crowds lining the streets and roofs of buildings along the route were a clear indication that the carnival has a great future.” The Yorkshire Evening Post also reported that “Even the threat of an odd shower could not dampen the carnival atmosphere.”

Sweet Melody Steel Orchestra.

Five steel bands took part in the parade. They included The New World Steel Orchestra, The Caribbeans Steel Band, and Sweet Melody Steel Orchestra. Among the members of The New World Steel Orchestra wass 18-year-old Gail Claxton who played bass drum. Earlier in the year she was interviewed for the Official 1988 Carnival Magazine. “We’re trying to get West Indian culture recognised in Britain, because we’re West Indians who live in Britain” she told the magazine.

Also on the road in 1988 was Captain Wenham’s Masqueraders who were joined by a big drum and fife band whose members included Kenneth Browne, Prince Elliot and Henry Freeman. Max Farrar took a number of photos of them as they performed. One of the members of the troupe was again wearing the gorilla mask last seen at the 1987 carnival. Their photo appeared in Leeds Other Paper in their 2 September issue. Perhaps for the first time, Hebrew Rawlins, dressed as a Dame Lorraine, was playing mas on the road in 1988, beginning a long tradition that would last over 30 years.

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Masked member of the Masqueraders troupe.

Among the troupes taking part in the parade was a troupe of Native Americans lead by Gloria Pemberton who had been in a similar troupe 21 years ago. Both the Yorkshire Evening Post and the Yorkshire Post gave accounts of how she gave birth to her son Adrian before taking part in the 1967 carnival parade. (The newspaper makes a mistake here, Adrian Pemberton was in fact born in August 1968). Gloria Pemberton spoke to the Yorkshire Evening Post telling them “I think the atmosphere and the carnival itself is very much the same as it was all those years ago but I think more people are at this one. It is always a very happy occasion”. Despite the troupe having 150 members, the Yorkshire Post described the Palace Youth Project troupe, in traditional African dress, as being “the loudest and most boisterous troupe”. They were joined by whistle-blowing friends. Max Farrar took their photo on Roundhay Road. The photo includes Marina Active, Velma Wyatt, Melvin Wyatt, Alicia Price, Suzette Price, Cheryl James, Prim James, Jackie James, Cynthia Hughes, Carol Williams, Wendy Williams, Norma Cannonier, Fiona Abbott, and Joy Bent.

‘Free Africa’ Queen and troupe.

The Yorkshire Evening Post reported that pubs emptied as the parade went passed. This would have included the Fforde Grene on one end of Roundhay Road and the Gaiety on the other end of Roundhay Road. Back in Potternewton Park revellers were entertained by The Invaders Steel Band who played on the stage. One stall in the park cashed in on the Michael Jackson concert taking place at Roundhay Park the same day by selling counterfeit Michael Jackson t-shirts. Another stall sold copies of two booklets about Malcolm X published by Pathdfinder Press. ‘Malcolm X – The Man and His Ideas’ and ‘Malcolm X Talks to Young People’ were both priced at 60p each.

Police officers were in high spirits and were happy to pose for photos with members of the public and even enjoyed some on-duty drinking. The carnival was again trouble-free and the Yorkshire Post reported that, in comparison to the Notting Hill Carnival, policing was low. Superintendent Gerald ‘Gerry’ Ingham spoke to the Yorkshire Post saying “The approach we take here is low key using officers who are known to the local community”. The Yorkshire Evening Post reported that “The Carnival’s only known casualty was a girl spectator whose foot was injured in a collision with a float”. The unidentified girl was taken to St. James’ Hospital by ambulance to receive treatment.

The Phoenix Club held a ‘Carnival Monday Special’. An advertisement printed in Leeds Other Paper informed the public that the club, “just 4 streets down from Potternewton Park”, was open “all day and all night at no extra cost”.

Soca sensation Arrow was the headlining act at the Last Lap Dance held at the West Indian Centre on Monday night. His 1983 single ‘Hot, Hot, Hot’ had been in the top 100 singles chart in the UK but had more recently been a hit for Buster Poindexter – a white American rock singer. Arrow’s follow-up single ‘Long Time’ was a bigger success, reaching number 30 in the UK in 1984. Tickets for the Last Lap were priced at £3.00. Arrow preformed on stage with a 14 piece band. Guests were also entertained by a steel band and Mitch and Kid Sounds. The Official 1988 Carnival magazine told readers to “come and enjoy yourself”.

Full page advert for Arrow, 1988.

The Michael Jackson concert at Roundhay Park on Monday 29 August received a lot of attention from local press. Only Leeds Other Paper didn’t include the King of Pop’s photograph on the front page. Their 2 September issue included a black and white photo of the Palace Youth Project troupe led by Brenda Norfolk in her ‘Free Africa’ Queen costume. Fans of Michael Jackson had to turn to page 13 where the sell-out concert was given the same amount of space as any other concert review. Which, in comparison to the Yorkshire Evening Post’s pages of coverage, was very little.

Tuesday 30 August’s Yorkshire Post ran a ‘Picture Special’ on page 3 of the newspaper under the headline ‘Calypso Carnival Comes of Age’. Four black and white photos taken by Bruce Rollinson were included in the picture special. One photo shows Michelle Adams in her costume and another shows Brenda Norfolk in hers. The Yorkshire Evening Post included six black and white photos by Mel Hulme on page 7 of their Tuesday issue. Michelle Adams and Brenda Norfolk were both featured as were typical carnival photos including dancing policemen and children with ice creams. The headline read ‘Carnival’s happy 21st’.

The December issue of Chapeltown and Harehills What’s On reported that the Leeds West Indian Carnival Committee had donated £1,000 to the ‘Give For Life’ campaign organised by Leeds City Council. Money was being raised for “destitute children in Africa” and a 100K Club had been set up with the goal of raising £100,000. The Carnival Committee were the latest to make a donation and a photo of Ian Charles and Arthur France handing a cheque to council leader George Mudie was printed on the front page. Other contributors to the 100K Club included Jamaica Society, the Caribbean Cricket Club, Sri Guru Nanak Temple, Harehills Baptist Church, the Hindu Gurba Group, and the Leeds Islamic Centre. The appeal continued ito 1989.

Calypso Goes POP! Part Three


Since the 1940s, popular artists across the globe have tried their hand at calypso music and calypso’s influence has been heard in many genres over the decades, none more so than during the ‘Calypso Craze’ of the 1950s. From straight covers of calypso classics to calypso-influenced originals, calypso has turn up on comedy records, jazz albums and pop singles. Some even charted! With the ever growing need for more and more calypso, artists turned to other Caribbean islands for hit material. Jamaican folk songs and mento, rebranded as calypso, were popular and went on to have an influence on ska and reggae. Also popular was the Bahamian folk song ‘Sloop John B’ which was recorded several times before being picked up by The Beach Boys in 1966. The below playlist gives 40 examples of how calypso and other Caribbean music shaped the pop world, up to the arrival of cod ska and cod reggae in the mid-1960s, which is a different kettle of fish entirely.

  1. Chocolate Whiskey And Vanilla Gin – Edmundo Ros And His Orchestra (1949)
  2. Jamaica Rum – Ruth Wallis (1949)
  3. Deesapointment – Edmundo Ros And His Orchestra (1951)
  4. Jump In The Line – Woody Herman And His Third Herd (1952)
  5. Dipso – Calypso – Peter Sellers (1954)
  6. London Is The Place For Me – Edmundo Ros And His Orchestra (1955)
  7. Donkey City -Maya Angelou (1956)
  8. Trinidad E-O – Luis Amando (1956)
  9. Jamaica D.J – Bill Haley & His Comets (1956)
  10. Kitch – Tedd Browne (1957)
  11. De Gay Young Lad – Ruth Wallis (1957)
  12. Rum Jamaica Rum – Aaron Collins And The Cadets (1957)
  13. Sloop John B – Stan Wilson (1957)
  14. Boiled Bananas And Carrots – Peter Seller (1957)
  15. Calypsociety – Herb Jeffries (1957)
  16. Two Ladies In De Shade of De Banana Tree – Josephine Premice (1957)
  17. Pound Your Plaintain In The Mortar – Stan Wilson (1957)
  18. The Banana Boat Song – Shirley Bassey (1957)
  19. Hollywood Calypso – Josephine Premice (1957)
  20. Don’t Stop The Carnival – Stan Wilson (1957)
  21. Two Ladies In De Shade Of De Banana Tree – The Hi Lo’s (1957)
  22. Jamaica Farewell – Sam Cooke (1960)
  23. Judy Drownded – The Spinners (1961)
  24. The Wreck of The John B. – The Tokens (1961)
  25. Calypso Love Song – Dave ‘Baby’ Cortez (1961)
  26. Under The Mango Tree – Diana Coupland (1962)
  27. Matty Rag – The Spinners (1962)
  28. Kingston Calypso – Diana Coupland (1962)
  29. Linstead Market – The Galliards (1963)
  30. Jamaica Farewell – Hank Snow (1963)
  31. Calypso Medley – The Lennon Sisters (1963)
  32. Number One – Eric Morris (1964)
  33. Marianne – Ray Conniff And The Singers (1964)
  34. Island In The Sun – Joan Baez (1964)
  35. Sammy Dead – Byron Lee & The Dragonaires (1964)
  36. Linstead Market – The Spinners (1964)
  37. Penny Reel – Eric Morris (1964)
  38. Man Smart, Woman Smarter – Joan Baez (1964)
  39. Sloop John B – The Beach Boys (1966)
  40. Island In The Sun – The Righteous Brothers (1966)