Rewind ‘n’ Come Again – 50 Years of Leeds Reggae

Setting The Scene

11 March 1967, The International Club, Francis Street, Chapeltown, Leeds.

A young American musician leaves the club; he’s just played to one of the toughest audiences of his career. Having a top 30 single in the charts at the time hadn’t helped to improve the resection. Outside the club a man approaches the shy musician. “Hendrix, you’re shit!” he shouts. Jimi Hendrix had perhaps been booked to play at the International Club in Chapeltown because the area was known for its black community. However, the West Indian community of Chapeltown were not Rock fans. In 1967, Ska and Rocksteady were the ruling sounds of Chapeltown. Even Calypso had lost favour with the Chapeltown youths; as local Calypso singer Lord Silkie discovered when he tried performing a few Lord Kitchener songs at the local youth club. The audience there only wanted to hear Rocksteady.

Bedrock Foundation

Providing Rocksteady for the local youths was The Bedrocks. Formed as The Bedrock Sunshine Band in 1966, the band played a mix of soul, ska and rocksteady at pubs and clubs across the country including gigs as far as London. The six piece band had a unique style, going from one song to another without stopping. They shortened their name to The Bedrocks in December 1967 and turned professional four months later. The band was spotted by Norman Smith of EMI at a concert at Barnsley Town Hall in the autumn of 1968. The song they had been playing when Norman Smith saw them was a cover of The Beatles’ newly-released album track ‘Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da’. Norman Smith invited the band to London to record the song at Abbey Road studios. After borrowing £25 to hire a van, the Bedrocks arrived in London, penniless, in December 1968. The band was signed to Columbia and recorded both sides of their debut single in a four-hour session on 4 December. The single was recorded, mixed, pressed and in the shops within two day, by which time the band had returned to Leeds. The single was a success and peaked at number 17 on the NME chart in January 1969.

Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da single by The Bedrocks, 1968.

The success meant the Bedrocks made several television appearances and even met The Beatles. A follow-up single, ‘The Lovedene Girls’ was released in February. A lack of radio play meant the single didn’t do as well as ‘Ob-la-di,Ob-la-da’ but the Bedrocks proved popular with live audiences and another three singles were released during 1969 and 1970. By their third single, ‘Wonderful World’, the band had evolved from Rocksteady to Reggae. The B-side to their fourth single, ‘Musical Clowns’ showcased an early example of toasting. The Bedrocks continued to perform live until their break-up in 1972. Their bass player, Owen Wisdom, went on to play with the funk band Rokotto who had chart success in the late 70s and early 80s. The Bedrocks’ success in the late 60s and early 70s would go on to inspire a number of Leeds-based Reggae groups. But first came the education of music, roots, culture, spirituality, and engineering that only the sound systems could provide.

Champion Sounds

In the 1970s, very few venues in the city centre would play Reggae music. One of the few exceptions was the Mecca Locarrno Ballroom, who, in 1972, employed Hunter Smith, a DJ known for playing Soul and Reggae. Hunter Smith ran a mobile disco and had established the record store Jumbo Records in September 1971 as a way to make some money on the side. Originally run from the back of another shop in the Queen’s Arcade, Jumbo Records was one of the few suppliers of Reggae records in the city centre. The store later moved to the Merrion Centre in 1974. In May 1974, Hunter Smith was sacked from the Mecca Ballroom who had now enforced a ‘pop music only’ policy. A number of venues in Chapeltown such as the International Club, Strega Blues Bar, Gaiety pub and Hayfield pub became known for playing Reggae music. House parties and Blues clubs were popular in the Chapeltown and Harehills areas, providing venues were Reggae could be enjoyed all night and into the next morning, long after clubs, bars, and pubs had closed. Blue spot radiograms were common place in West Indian homes and were used to play the latest Ska, Rocksteady and Reggae releases at house parties. Taking their name from the radiograms, these parties became known as Blues. By the end of the 1960s the blue spot radiogram had been replaced by larger and louder sound systems.

Skully Roots (Jeff Walwyn) of Mavrick Sound System, 1979.


Sound Systems in the 70s and 80s not only played at Blues but also played at venues across Chapeltown. Regular venues that featured sound systems included Studley Grange, Potternewton Park, Chapeltown Community Centre, the Mandela Centre, the West Indian Centre, Tower House, the International Club and Roscoe Church. Sound systems used large speaker boxes and turntables to create a heavy bass. The ‘selector’ (DJ) would play the records and a ‘toaster’ (MC) would toast (Rap) over the instrumental version found on the record’s B-side. The first generation of British-born West Indians brought sound systems to the forefront and out into the open. Popular Sound Systems during this era included Maverick, Jungle Warrior, Channel One, Ras Sparta, Genesis,

Poster for a Blues Dance featuring Mavrick and Emperor, 1984.

Blacka Spot, Magnum Force, Screaming Target, Sir Yanks, Dragon Hifi, and Emperor. These sound systems were operated by teams of ‘Sound Bwoys’ who required a number of skills including engineering. Speaker boxes were usually built from scratch, occasionally liberating materials from building sites and homes. The selector’s job involved knowing what to play and when. It was the selector’s job to ‘nice up the dance’ by playing the latest releases and premiering dubplates (test pressings) to ensure the sound system’s title of ‘Champion Sound’. Parties often had themes and different types of Reggae (Rockers, Dub, Lovers Rock, Rub-a-Dub, Roots and Culture) were played. Two or more sound systems would compete in a ‘sound clash’ and sound systems from Leeds battled it out with sound systems from near and far including the famous London sound system Saxon Studio International.

Live And Direct

Sound systems helped young British-born West Indians formed their own identity. Reggae not only gave an education in roots, culture and spirituality but it also acted as a link with the Caribbean. Reggae fans could also see some of the genre’s biggest names live and direct in Leeds. Desmond Dekker, Gregory Isaacs, Linton Kwesi Johnson and even Bob Marley performed in Leeds in the 1970s and early 1980s. Increasing pressure to include Reggae sound systems at Leeds West Indian Carnival led to the first sound systems appearing in Potternewton Park on Carnival day in 1980. Maverick provided sounds in the park that year and Mackie’s Disco became the first sound system at the Carnival Queen Show in 1982. The Rock Against Racism Carnival held at Potternewton Park in July 1981 was the first time a Reggae concert had been held in the park. Headlined by British bands Aswad, Misty In Roots and The Specials, the bill also included local band Black Steel. Free annual Reggae concerts began being held in Potternewton Park in August 1985, attracting international stars such as Burning Spear, Maxi Priest, Mighty Diamonds and Wayne Wonder in the first couple of years. The concerts also acted as a brilliant showcase for local talents including Supa Youth, Enuff Sed, Sister B, Clinton Ire, Stone Roots and Exiles Intact.

Desmond Dekka Ad 1973
Advert for Leeds International Club, 1973.

Following in the footsteps of The Bedrocks, the 1980s saw the rise of Leeds Reggae bands. Among the best-known were Stone Roots. Formed around 1980, the six-piece Roots Reggae band was managed by Derek Lawrence. As well as performing in their own right, the band was often used to back singers at the Reggae Concerts held in Potternewton Park. Stone Roots continue to perform today and guitarist Chris Campbell has played a key role in a number of other Reggae outfits including Mojah and The Ship-Tones.

Stone Roots, 1989.

Another well-known band, Exiles Intact was formed out of the band Malika in 1984. The band’s members included singing sisters Annette and Paulette Morris who had previously been in the band Black Steel. The band’s drummer was Carl Robinson who also drummed with Stone Roots. Managed by Winston Smith, the band quickly built up a fan base while touring the university circuit. An appearance on the TV show ‘3,2,1’ led to a contract on the Wonderful Musical World of Chris Dixon label and a single, ‘Who Is There’, was released in 1985. Exiles Intact performed at the first annual Reggae Concert in Potternewton Park in 1985 and performed at the concert every year until their break-up in 1989.

Exiles Intact on ‘on 3,2,1’, 1984

After Exiles Intact’s break-up, Annette and Paulette Morris formed the duo Royal Blood in 1989. They made their TV debut on ‘Ebony On The Road’ later in the year performing ‘Things I Would Do’ backed by Stone Roots. Royal Blood were signed to the Ariwa label and in 1990 they travelled to London to record with producer Mad Professor. They recorded their debut single ‘Slipping Away’ in one take. It was a hit on the Reggae chart and was followed by a second single ‘Conscious Love’. A third single ‘I Don’t Wanna Be The One’, released in 1997, was followed by a self-titled album in 1998.

Royal Blood album, 1998.


Reggae’s influence on Leeds artists is clear. Even non-Reggae artists have been influenced by the genre. Leeds born singer-songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae references Bob Marley’s 1977 song ‘Three Little Birds’ in her 2006 single ‘Put Your Records On’. Corinne Bailey Rae also displays her love of Reggae in her live shows with her Reggae cover version of the song ‘I Only Have Eyes For You’. Kaiser Chiefs frontman Ricky Wilson performed guest lead vocals with the Leeds Reggae-Indie band The Ship-Tones on their 2015 cover of the Kaiser Chiefs’ 2011 song ‘Little Shocks’ (Given a Reggae makeover, The Ship-Tones’ version was title ‘Ickle Shocks’). Formed in 2014, the Ship-Tones’ 2015 debut album ‘Indie Reggae Revolution’ was number one on the Reggae New Releases chart. The band’s members included Lara Rose, Chris Campbell and Paulette Morris. Chris Campbell is also a member of the Reggae band Mojah who have been the resident band at the Sela Bar since 2012. Playing covers of Jimmy Cliff, Toots and the Maytals, Jackie Mitoo, and Bob Marley, the five-piece band’s lead singer is Paulette Morris who is occasionally joined by her sister Annette.

Royal Blood continue to perform today and have toured with Boyzone, Peter Andre, Finley Quaye, and Martha Reeves. Their second album ‘The Journey Pt.1’ was released in 2015. They were one of the acts to perform at the Salute To Reggae concert at Millennium Square, Leeds in 2018. The Salute to Reggae concert was the first outdoor Reggae concert to be held in Leeds City Centre. The concert’s opening act was Empress Imani.

Empress Imani, 2018.

Award-winning Empress Imani is the latest Reggae star to come out of Leeds. She began her recording career in Spain in 2013 when she laid down the track ‘Rasta Love’ in a three-hour-long session. She began performing around the UK and releasing tracks on Soundcloud. Her 2015 single ‘Conscious King’ was produced by the Royal Sounds and released on iTunes. It was featured on BBC Radio 1xtra and became an underground hit. In August 2015 she appeared at the annual Reggae Concert in Potternewton Park which was celebrating its 30 anniversary with a new name – The Black Music Festival. Empress Imani went on to make several appearances on radio including ‘Women in Music’, ‘Journey Through Reggae’ and ‘Live Lounge’. Her 2016 single ‘Falling’ has gained over 45,000 plays on soundcloud. In 2016 she performed at the Legends of Reggae concert in Brixton, sharing the stage with Marcia Griffiths, Freddy McGregor and Junior Reid. She also appeared on the UK Reggae Culturefest Tour in 2016 and in 2017 she performed at the Wembley Arena in London. More singles followed in 2016 including ‘Rocky Road’ and ‘Pull Up Dat Reggae Tune’ which received support from BBC Radio Yorkshire and charted on the Hottest Singles Chart. Her 2017 single ‘What’s Good For The Goose’ has proven to be a crowd favourite and the 2018 music video, shot in Leeds, has had over 15,000 views since its release in July.

In Dub

Sound systems have remained popular in Leeds and the city is considered by many to have some of the best sound systems in the UK. The Iration Steppas Sound System was founded in Leeds in 1990. Founded by Mark Iration, the sound system took a different direction from the traditional style of Leeds’ other sound systems. Iration Steppas played exclusive unreleased dub mixes. The sound system also used minidiscs and CDs, giving them a wider range of material to pick from. Mark Iration began making his own Dub music in 1993 and Iration Steppas’ debut single ‘Scud Missile’ was released in 1994. A number of singles were released in the following years and their debut album ‘Original Dub D.A.T’ was released in 1996. With unique dubs, Iration Steppas were able to grow extremely popular and have played across Europe, the USA and Japan. They have supported such acts as Burning Spear, Lee ‘Screatch’ Perry, Scientist and Mad Professor. Iration Steppas have also appeared on stage as a live dub outfit at festivals world-wide.

Flyer for Iration Steppas, 1998.

Another live dub band from Leeds is the Gentleman’s Dub Club. Formed in 2006, the band is made up of nine members. They have played to crowds at festivals across Europe including Glastonbury, Bestival, V Festival and Ostroda Reggae Festival. They have made several appearances on BBC Radio and have supported a number of artists such as The Streets, The Wailers, Busy Singnal and U-Roy. Their debut album ‘FOURtyFOUR’ was released in 2013 on the Ranking Records label. Since then the band has released three more albums and a handful of singles.

From Royal Blood and Empress Imani to Iration Steppas and Gentleman’s Dub Club, the Leeds Reggae scene is alive and well in 2018 and has been for the last 50 years. With new artists constantly emerging and bringing fresh ideas and styles with them, there is no doubt that Leeds Reggae will last another 50.

With special thanks to Reggie Challenger, Max Farrar, Hashim Equiano, Claude ‘Hoppa’ Henderickson and Annette Morris.


Leeds West Indian Carnival Archive


In the Leeds West Indian Carnival Archive you will find newspaper articles, photographs, videos and much more relating to Leeds West Indian Carnival. The archive is an on-going project and will be added to on a regular basis so please continue to return to check for updates.

Yorkshire Post And Yorkshire Evening Post Articles:  (Click the date to open the file, zoom in and out or print)

3 September 1968

28 August 1970

31 August 1971

28 August 1972

28 August 1973 (YP)

28 August 1973 (YEP)

3 September 1976

29 August 1977

30 August 1977

29 August 1978

24 August 1979

25 August 1979

28 August 1979

21 August 1980

26 August 1980

31 August 1981

1 September 1981

31 August 1982

Chapeltown News, Come-Unity News & Community Highlights: (Click the date to open the file, zoom in and out or print)

Chapeltown News Issue 10 (August-1973)

Chapeltown News Issue 11 (September 1973)

Chapeltown News Issue 17 (June 1974)

Chapeltown News Issue 19 (August 1974)

Chapeltown News Issue 28 (August 1975)

Chapeltown News Issue 29 (October 1975)

Chapeltown News Issue 36 (July 1976)

Chapeltown News (Sept-Oct 1977)

Come-Unity News Issue 4 (September 1981)

Come-Unity News Issue 5 (October 1981)

Community Highlights Issue 3 (June 1996)

Community Highlights Issue 6 (May 1997)

Community Highlights (August 2000)

Community Highlights (August 2015)

Community Highlights (August 2017)

Leeds Other Paper: (Click the date to open the file, zoom in and out or print)

September 1974

4 September 1976 (Front Page)

4 September 1976 (Back Page)

2 – 16 September 1977

5 September 1980

4 September 1981 (Front Page)

4 September 1981 (Page 11)

3 September 1982

2 September 1983

31 August 1984 (Front Page)

31 August 1984 (Pages 10 + 11)

30 August 1985

North Leeds Life Magazine: (Click the date to open the file, zoom in and out or print)

August 2010

August 2011

August 2015

August 2016

August 2017

 Miscellaneous Magazines and Newspapers: (Click the date to open the file, zoom in and out or print)

Yorkshire Life (October 1970)

Caribbean Carnival Magazine (1994)

Voice Carnival Feature (2015)

Caribbean Beat Issue 140 (July/August 2016)

Yorkshire Reporter (August 2016)

Yorkshire Reporter (August 2017)

Soca News Magazine (August 2017)

 Brochures, Flyers and Programmes: (Click the date to open the file, zoom in and out or print)

1973 Brochure

1987 Programme

1989 Programme

1992 Programme

1995 Last Lap Dance Flyer

1996 Last Lap Dance Flyer

1997 Flyer

2000 Programme

2017 Programme

2017 Tetley Exhibition Booklet

Official Carnival Magazines: (Click the date to open the file, zoom in and out or print)

1987 Magazine Page 1-7

1987 Magazine Pages 8-20

1987 Magazine Pages 21-26

1988 Magazine Pages 1 -7

1988 Magazine Pages 8 – 16

1988 Magazine Pages 17 – 25

1988 Magazine Pages 26 – 38

Photo Books: (Click the date to open the file, zoom in and out or print)

Still Jamming At Fifty (2017)

Carnival At 50 (2017)

Miscellaneous Documents: (Click the date to open the file, zoom in and out or print)

1974 Letter to Lord Boyle

1974 Letter to Max Farrar

Advert For 1975 Queen Show

2018 Advert for Celebrate (From Soca News)

Carnival Against Racism – Leeds West Indian Carnival 1981

The growth of white nationalist groups such as the National Front led to an increase in racial conflict across the UK in the second half of the 1970s. Raids on Blues Clubs and homes, and a recently enforced ‘stop and search’ police policy unfairly targeted young black men causing distrust of the police and authority in black communities across Britain. A Riot broke out in Chapeltown in Leeds on Bonfire Night (5 November) 1975 after a large number of police turned up at a bonfire night celebration being held in the area. A number of arrests were made including the local steel pan player Sinclair Morris who was driving through the area with his wife and friend at the time. Twelve other people, aged 14 to 26, were also arrested. Among them was 26-year-old photographer Max Farrar who was arrested after taking a photo of a overturned police car. Notting Hill Carnival ended in riots two years in a row in 1976 and 1977. As the National Front rose in popularity, their supporters included Rock musician Eric Clapton, who, at a concert in 1976, made racist remarks on the stage and repeatedly declared his support for the National Front and former Conservative minister Enoch Powell. As a result of Eric Clapton’s comments, the Rock Against Racism movement was formed in London. Beginning in 1976, Rock Against Racism organised demonstrations around London and later, concerts and marches across the country, the first of which was held in London in 1978 followed by a second march and concert in Manchester. Known as Rock Against Racism Carnivals, the marches often featured music by steel bands as well as Rock and Reggae groups.

Northern Carnival Against Racism poster.

The Northern Carnival Against Racism took place in Leeds on Saturday 4 July 1981. A march began at Woodhouse Moor, where thousands of people gathered, hundreds of which had arrived from other cities across the North and Midland via coaches and buses hired especially for the event. The march then made its way to Potternewton Park via the city centre. The Yorkshire Evening Post reported that 17,000 people took part in the two-hour long march that travelled along a five mile route. Those on the march carried placards and banners with Rock Against Racism and Anti-Nazi League logos on. The two groups had organised the event. While the majority of people walked, several flatbed lorries were taken advantage of. However, the main purpose of the lorries was to carry bands from Woodhouse Moor to Potternewton Park. Among the bands pervading music for the demonstrators was the local band Household Name.  At Potternewton Park a stage had been set up with a large banner that read ‘CARNIVAL AGAINST RACISM’. Performing on the stage was post-punk band The Au Pairs, reggae groups Aswad and Misty In Roots and 2 Tone ska group The Specials who played their latest single ‘Ghost Town’. They were joined by local acts that included Gang of Four, The Deviant, The Mekons, and Black Steel. Meanwhile, the National Front staged a march through the city centre.  600 people from Birmingham, Nottingham and London travelled to Leeds to take part in the 40 minute march that ended at the City Square with a speech by Martin Webster.

Carnival Against Racism concert.

The Northern Carnival Against Racism took place in Leeds during a period of increasing racial tension, poor housing, low employment and alienation of black youths across Britain.  A raid on a Caribbean café in the St Pauls area of Bristol in April 1980 resulted in a riot injuring 25 people. More riots took place the following year. A riot in Brixton that lasted several days in April 1981 left 364 people injured, 115 vehicles damaged or destroyed and 145 premises damaged, looted or set ablaze. It was the first in a series of riots that took place across Britain in 1981. An act of police brutality during the arrest of a black man in the Toxeth area of Liverpool on 3 July led to a riot that lasted nine days and spread to the Dingle and Stockbridge areas of Liverpool. During those nine days, more riots took place across England. In the Moss Side area of Manchester, a crowd of over a thousand youths besieged the local police station on 8 July, destroying twelve police vehicles. The riot spread across Moss Side and into the Rusholme area and lasted two days. Police raids in the Handsworth area of Birmingham resulted in three days of rioting that began on 10 July. Riots in the Chapeltown area of Leeds began on 11 July and quickly spread to the Harehills area with Chapeltown Road and Roundhay Road being the most affected. On 13 July, the Yorkshire Evening Post reported “In Roundhay Road hardly a shop window over a 200-yard stretch remained intact”.43 police officers were injured and two million pounds worth of damage was caused to shops in Chapeltown and Harehills over several nights of rioting. Other cities to experience riots to some degree during July 1981 included Leicester, Preston, Blackburn, Sheffield, Newcastle, Luton, Wolverhampton, Stockport, Chester, Nottingham, Reading, and Derby. A second riot took place in Toxeth during the night of 27 July, lasting until the early hours of the next day.

Chapeltown Road, the morning of 12 July 1981.

The riots in Chapeltown took place just weeks before the Leeds West Indian Carnival was due to take place and preparations for that year’s carnival were already well under way. Hughbon Condor had begun designing his Queen costume, ‘Queen of Insects’ in 1980 and had been making it since June. “The materials alone cost £80” he told the Yorkshire Evening Post in August. The costume’s use of Christmas tinsel shows that Christmas decorations were still being used by costume designers into the eighties. Hughbon was filmed for later use in a television documentary, possible by ITV, details are sparse.  He was shown with Theresa Thompson who was trying on her Queen costume for the first time. In 1988 she told the official Leeds West Indian Carnival magazine “when I first wore it (the costume) for a TV documentary it was so big and I was so small that I thought it would be impossible to wear”. Hughbon later adjusted the costume, making it a perfect fit before the Queen Show.  Hughbon Condor was still working on the costume on Friday 28 August when he was visited at his home by the community newspaper ‘Come-Unity News’. His photo was taken by the newspaper and appeared on the front page of their September issue. That night’s Carnival Queen Show was again held at Primrose Hill High School and Abdul Ali returned once again to act as the compere of the evening. Five different Queen costumes were made for this year’s Queen Show. Hughbon’s Queen of Insects costume was worn by 24-year-old Theresa Thompson. Other contestants taking part in the completion that night included Helen Richards, Sheila Wilkes and Beverley Hutchinson. The September issue of Come-Unity reported that the Carnival Queen “is crowned not for her physical beauty but the originality of the costume displayed, poise, audience impression & the personal evaluation of the judges”. Queen of Insects gave Hughbon his second Carnival Queen win. Max Farrar from Come-Unity News was present at the Queen Show and a photograph of Theresa Thompson in her costume was included in their September issue. The Yorkshire Evening Post reported on the Queen Show on Monday 31 August. The newspaper included a photo of Theresa Thompson in her costume on page 5 under the headline ‘Hats off to a Butterfly Beauty’. Theresa told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “I have never won anything like this before and I still haven’t got over it yet. But I knew I would win with such a beautiful costume.” In 1988 Theresa told the official Leeds West Indian Carnival magazine “it was great being a Queen”. “I was crying, and I didn’t know why” she added. As well as receiving a trophy, Theresa also won a £50 prize.  Entertainment on the night included an Old Mas performance that was a satire of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer who had married at St Paul’s Cathedral in July. Music was provided by a string band that included 8 members.

Hughbon Condor working on his Queen of Insects costume with Theresa Thompson (left) and unknown troupe member. (Photo: Max Farrar)

The carnival parade was held on Monday 31 August and was attended by 30,000 people. Lead by Theresa Thompson, the parade left Potternewton Park around 2pm.  Steel bands and troupes had come from Nottingham and Manchester to take part in the parade which was, according to the Yorkshire Evening Post, “the biggest West Indian Carnival in the North”.On the road in 1981 were the Sustain Dancers from Leeds, a troupe of young girls organised by Gloria Pemberton, in white and red love heart outfits. The troupe’s members included eight-year-olds Dahlia Manners and Sherrena Frederick. Five Steel Bands took part in the parade in 1981. Among them were Huddersfield’s North Stars who won best Steel Band and the Wilberforce Steel Band from Leeds whose members included Rex, Joe, Alf, Let, Amos, Tuddy Richards, Skip and Wilton. The parade this year also included a troupe of Masqueraders and a troupe in black and white masks whose members included Doris Blackman. Another troupe that year was Benjy’s Masqueraders dressed as ‘Bushmen’ carrying tennis rackets. Their members included Reginald Challenger and Ruth Bundey. They would become a regular feature of Leeds West Indian Carnival over the next four years. In 1981 Reginald Challenger and Ruth Bundey were photographed by Max Farrar. A photographer from Leeds Other Paper also photographed the troupe in Potternewton Park. A photograph of four members of the troupe wearing masks was printed on the front page of the 4 September issue of Leeds Other Paper. Another photo of members of the troupe holding tennis rackets was printed on page 11. Other photos in Leeds Other Paper show a carnival queen and Arthur France.

Arthur France as ‘African King’.

Arthur France was in high carnival spirits and had brought along a water gun to splash the crowds with. Dressed as ‘African King’, Arthur’s photograph appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Post the following day, showing off his enormous headdress. The September issue of Come-Unity News described the parade: “On the day of the carnival the troupes, with their queens leading, set off on the route. The steelbands are ponging, the procession jamming & wining. The colour vivid, the atmosphere wild”.  Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post, Theresa Thompson said “It was very tiring but enjoyable”. The parade returned to Potternewton Park around 5pm and awards were given on the stage. Hughbon Condor’s troupe took the prize for Best Troupe and Arthur France won Best Individual. Despite riots in Chapeltown in July, the Carnival was a peaceful day once again and continued its track record of zero arrests made. A police spokesman spoke to the Yorkshire Evening Post and praised the large crowd’s good behaviour. Abdul Ali also spoke to the newspaper, telling them “it was a highly successful day and we are already looking forward to 1982.” He went on to say “We were delighted that so many people came out on the streets to take part or watch. We were particularly pleased to see so many of the English community joining in”. The Last Lap Dance that night took place at Primrose Hill High School.

Theresa Thompson.

The Yorkshire Evening Post reported on the parade the following day under the headline ‘Carnival Of Fun’. Three black and white photos were printed on page 9. The September issue of Come-Unity News included six black and white photos of carnivals past and present and included a quote from Arthur France who told the newspaper “children born here are very responsive to the cultural aspects of the carnival”. Arthur went on to tell the newspaper “we should not forget the emancipation of our people and our culture. It is important we pass these on to our children.” The following issue of Come-Unity News included five black and white photos of the 1981 carnival and Queen Show that included photos of Reginald Challenger, Doris Blackman, and Theresa Thompson.

Sound Clash Carnival – Leeds West Indian Carnival, 1980

The Leeds West Indian Carnival Committee added a new member to their team in 1980. ‘Jeanie’ Stoute joined the committee as the Assistant Secretary. Preparations for the 1980 Leeds West Indian Carnival began as early as July with costume designers beginning work on that year’s troupe and Queen costumes. A total of eight Queen costumes were made for the 1980 Carnival parade. They included costumes made by Edris Browne and Hughbon Condor. This year, Edris Browne had designed and made her costume with the help of her 15-year-old daughter Cavelle. Together they worked on their ‘Eve In The Garden of Eden’ costume for six weeks. Hughbon Condor had spent less time on his ‘Tropical Flower’ costume. “I designed the basic construction about four weeks ago but I only actually started decorating it two weeks ago” Hughbon told Calendar News in an interview recorded on 22 August. “I spent my whole two weeks annual holidays working on it” Hughbon added. Not wanting to copy nature or be restricted in his design, Hughbon’s costume was not based on any real flower but was, as he described it, “a figment of the imagination” adding that it could perhaps be found “somewhere in Africa”. Hughbon, who had won first place at the Queen show the previous year, was confident that he could win again in 1980. He told Petrina Rance of Calendar News: “there’s no reason why it shouldn’t (win), I’ve put the effort in and as you can see, the goods are there”.

Pat Powell and Edris Browne before the Queen Show.

The Queen Show that year took place at Primrose Hill High School on Friday 22 August and Abdul Ali returned as the compere. Tickets were priced at £1.50. Before the show began, Abdul Ali took some time to speak to Calendar News reporter Petrina Rance outside Primrose Hill High School. “It’s all about fun, vitality, colour, everything that’s exciting” Abdul explained. The Queen Show began at 8pm and entertainment on the night included a steel band and a troupe of dancers in matching grey and red outfits. There was also Old Mas, a mix of satire and amateur theatre, which Come~Unity News (September 1981) later reported portrayed ‘the racial implications of the Nationality Bill’. On Thursday 21 August the Yorkshire Evening Post reported that the show would feature “limbo dancing, comedy and calypso singing” along with music provided by Paradise Steel Band. Among that year’s contestants was 21-year-old Sharon Hall in a costume titled ‘The Queen of the Universe’. Her costume represented a galaxy of stars and the moon. Edris Browne’s costume, ‘Eve In The Garden of Eden’, was worn by Pat Powell. Earlier in the day Edris explained to Petrina Rance: “Of course, you can only be a Queen contestant once, and I myself had been a Queen contestant and after that I went into designing and making costumes. I have been very successful at it. I’ve done four costumes and I’ve got two firsts, one second and one didn’t place. So, that’s quite a good track record.” Edris added another win to her “good track record” in 1980 when Pat Powell was crowned as the Carnival Queen.

Sharon Hall
Sharon Hall as ‘The Queen of the Universe’ in Potternewton Park.

ITV’s Calendar News’ five and a half minute long special report on the Leeds West Indian Carnival was aired that night. It featured interviews with Abdul Ali and Hughbon Condor outside Primrose Hill High School and Edris Browne outside her home. Abdul gave a brief history of the carnival up to this point. “Carnival actually began in Leeds about thirteen years ago when a chap called Arthur France from Leeds decided ‘let’s have carnival’” Abdul explained before going on to discuss carnival in the West Indies, explaining that each island has its own traditions. “If you want the real thing, you’ve got to go to Trinidad” Abdul told Petrina Rance. Speaking about the carnival, Hughbon Condor said “all in all, it brings people together, not just West Indians but the whole spectrum of people who are living here. I see it as an extension of our culture from the West Indies and it’s just beautiful”. The report ends with a shot of the dancers, joined by Abdul Ali, dancing in a conga line outside the school to music played by a steel band.

Abdul Ali being interviewed for Calendar News.

The Leeds West Indian Carnival parade took place on Monday 25 August. Ten troupes and eight Queens took place in 1980’s Carnival parade. The proceedings began at Potternewton Park and the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councilor Eric Atkinson was present to launch the event. The parade left the park around 2pm.  An estimated 700 people took part in the parade that year. The Yorkshire Evening Post reported the following day that “the assembled musicians, dancers and carnival queens brought the noise and razzamataz of the West Indies to complement the sunshine”. Among them was the Star Crusaders troupe, dressed in golden hooded overalls and robot masks. They were led by Sharon Hall dressed as ‘The Queen of the Universe’. Sharon Hall’s photo appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Post the following day. Another troupe wore pointed hats with streamers and carried flags. Also on the road was Hughbon Condor’s troupe of butterflies that included 80 members. For the troupe, Hughbon had made 80 pairs of butterfly wings and 80 antenna headpieces. His wife Gloria and a team of friends had made 80 dresses. “I feel these butterflies must be attracted by such a flower” Hughbon told Calendar News. Hughbon’s troupe wasn’t the only troupe on the road that year inspired by butterflies. The African Butterflies troupe took the prize for best troupe that year. The parade took the same route as 1979 which included Chapeltown Road, Regent Street, Skinner Lane, and North Street. Large crowds gathered on Chapeltown Road and a group of young men climbed on a bus shelter to get a better view of the parade. Warsaw Stores at 151 Chapeltown Road did good business selling refreshments to spectators. The Polish delicatessen sold large amounts of salami, crisps, ice cream and cold beers.

chapeltown rd
Crowds watch the parade on Chapeltown Road.

Seven steel pan bands performed on the road to an estimated 10,000 spectators. (The Yorkshire Evening Post reported 20,000 people attended this year’s parade). They included Huddersfield’s North Stars, Manchester’s Star Quality, Leeds’ Paradise Steel Band and The Groovers Steel Band. Another form of musical entertainment was present for the first time this year. People had been asking for Reggae sound systems at Leeds West Indian Carnival since 1975 but the Carnival Committee would not allow sound systems on the road and by-laws forbid loud speakers in Potternewton Park. Towards the end of the seventies, sound systems began appearing along the carnival route in Chapeltown but it wasn’t until 1980 that the first sound systems appeared in Potternewton Park on Carnival day. The Maverick sound system from Leeds was photographed in the park by Max Farrar. The importance of steel bands at Leeds West Indian Carnival had not been forgotten and Abdul Ali commented “there’s no carnival without steel bands”. Also present in Potternewton Park for the first time this year was the performer’s arena – a section of the park in front of the stage separated from the crowd by waist-high railings. The stage in the park was also larger than previous years and included a ramp (rather than steps) for the first time. Once the procession returned to Potternewton Park, awards were given for best troupe, best individual and best steel band.

A member of North Stars playing in Potternewton Park.

The Last Lap Dance was again held at Primrose Hill High School. Beginning at 8pm, guests were entertained by five steel bands from Manchester, Huddersfield, Nottingham, and Leeds until the early hours of the next morning. Tickets were priced at £1.25.  Tuesday’s Yorkshire Evening Post included five black and white photographs on page 5 under the headline ‘Sunshine Smiles For Caribbean Carnival Time’. The photos included one of 15-month-old Tammie Norfolk enjoying a ice cream. 3-year-old Clare Simms was also enjoying a ice cream when she was photographed with Hebrew Rawlins in Potternewton Park. Other photos showed the parade on the road, Sharon Hall as ‘The Queen of the Universe’ and Paradise Steel Band performing in the park. The band’s members included 13-year old Julian Willcocks. The newspaper reported that “Carnival was king in the streets of Chapeltown, Leeds, when the West Indian community went to town.”  Abdul Ali spoke to the Yorkshire Evening Post about his hopes for the future. He said he hoped to add 5,000 people to the procession in 1981 and according to the newspaper, wanted to “persuade the English to dress up in West Indian Costume”. “It’s such a happy occasion we want everybody in the community to enjoy it” Abdul Ali was quoted as saying.

Leeds Other Paper reported on the harmony of the carnival. In issue 138 (5 – 19 September) of the now fortnightly newspaper (it had previously been monthly), under a black and white photo of the parade, they wrote “the faces at the Leeds Chapeltown Carnival this year said it all. Wouldn’t life be so much better if it was like this every day?” Four more black and white photos were included in Leeds Other Paper on pages 12 and 13 under the headline ‘Roundhay War Games – Chapeltown Fun’. The headline was a reference to the fact that the Armed Forces recruitment team had been present at the Roundhay Gala at Roundhay Park, something the newspaper disagreed with. “It was different in Chapeltown” they reported. “Steel bands and colourful displays – dancing through the streets of the neighbourhood. Here were the drumbeats of happiness and noisy, but peaceable, fun”. Two of the photos printed in Leeds Other Paper showed steel bands, another showed the Star Crusaders troupe and the fourth photo was a side view of Hughbon Condor’s Tropical Flower costume.

Hebrew Rawlins and Clare Simms in Potternewton Park.

Designer Profile : Hughbon Condor and High Esteem

Hughbon Condor was born in Saint Kitts in 1953 and grew up with a fascination for the island’s traditional Christmas Sports and particularly liked the traditional mocko jumbie costumes that used stilts. At the age of 12, Hughbon decided he wanted to make his own mocko jumbie costume but couldn’t figure out how to make the stilts essential to the costume; the technique was guarded by the stilt walkers. Not wanting to be defeated Hughbon nailed two pieces of wood together. It’s fair to say Hughbon’s first costume attempts didn’t end too well. The homemade stilts collapsed, Hughbon fell to the ground and later received a scolding from his grandmother. Hughbon came to Leeds in England in November 1967 were he was reunited with his parents and siblings who were already settled in the city. He studied at Primrose Hill High School where he excelled in metal work. He went on to study Mechanical Engineering at Leeds Polytechnic and was working as an engineer in 1971 when a chance meeting with Arthur France led to him joining the Leeds West Indian Carnival Committee and becoming a costume designer and maker.

With the help of his friend James Brown, Hughbon made his first Queen costume in 1971. It was a butterfly design with moveable wings and Hughbon and his family were very proud of it but it failed to win that year’s contest. For the next couple of years, Hughbon and James continued to make Queen costumes in Hughbon’s parent’s garage but they struggled to win any prices. Hughbon and James’ costumes were always crowd favourites and their 1973 costume ‘The Goddess of Fertility’ worn by Edris Browne was featured in the Yorkshire Evening Post. Many of Hughbon’s future costumes, winners or not, went on to appear in newspapers and magazines. Hughbon made his first troupe costumes in 1973 and continued to make troupe costumes along with his Queen costumes for the next 45 years. 1974 saw Hughbon work alone for the first time. His Queen costume that year was titled ‘Goddess of The Wild’ and was worn by Joanne Hector. James Browne made a separate costume that year but neither man took that year’s first prize. That year’s winning Queen was Yvonne Ruddock in a costume designed by Edris Browne. For Hughbon, improving on his past designs was more important than winning. Even in year’s when the Queen Show was not held (1976 and 1978) Hughbon still made Queen and troupe costumes. His early costumes used shinny materials and Christmas decorations but as time went on, more materials became readily available. Hughbon’s costume designs continued to improve throughout the 1970s. For his 1977 costume, ‘Queen of Hearts’, Hughbon received help from James Brown and the costume came second in that year’s Carnival Queen Show. His first winning costume came a few years later in 1979 with a costume called ‘The Morning Glory’ worn by Maureen Williams. It was a double win for Hughbon that year. He also took the prize for the best troupe. Hughbon would later refer to the 1970s as his long apprenticeship.

Some 1970s costumes by Hughbon Condor (Clockwise : 1974, 1978, 1979. 1977, 1973).


Hughbon was confident that he could win the Queen Show again in 1980 when he was interviewed by ITV’s Calendar News. His Queen costume that year was titled ‘Tropical Flower’ but again Hughbon was beaten by a design by Edris Browne. Hughbon’s troupe that year included 80 members, all dressed as butterflies and his wife Gloria, as well as friends and other family members, stepped in to help make the 80 costumes. Hughbon’s wife Gloria has always been an important part of the behind the scenes team; helping to make costumes, proving advice and support, and always having a hot meal on the go. Hughbon was now making costumes at home and often spent his entire two weeks holiday from work making costumes. Hughbon’s second win came in 1981 with a costume titled ‘Queen of Insects’ worn by Theresa Thompson. A third win came in 1983 with ‘Eastern Delight’ worn by Cavell Browne. ‘ Hughbon was already getting a name for himself as a talented costume designer but it was perhaps his 1986 winning Queen costume, ‘Sea Anemone’, worn by Lisa Condor that guaranteed his place in carnival history. His iconic fourth winning costume brought all the grandeur of Trinidad Carnival to the streets of Leeds.  It was featured on the front of the 1987 Leeds West Indian Carnival magazine and is still fondly remembered today. Leeds West Indian Carnival was a family event for the Condors; Hughbon’s wife Gloria and sister Lisa were both active members of the winning team and Hughbon’s son Sephbon (born in 1977) was an active member of his father’s carnival troupes.

Hughbon and Gloria Condor, 1980.

Hughbon’s discovery of fibreglass opened up more design opportunities for him. He could now make bigger and grander costumes without having to worry about the weight of the costume on the performer.  His first use of fibreglass was in 1987 on his costume ‘Peacock’. The costume’s feathers raised over ten feet into the air. ‘Peacock’ was featured on the cover of the Carnival magazine the following year.  ‘Sea Anemone’ was the first in a hat-trick of wins for Hughbon Condor. Hughbon’s costume ‘Peacock’ worn by Anne Marie Claxton took the first prize in 1987 and ‘The Visitor’ worn by Michelle Adams not only won first place at Leeds but also took first place at Huddersfield Carnival too. And to top it off, Hughbon entered ‘The Visitor’ into the Huddersfield’s Junior Queen contest and took first prize in that contest too. On that occasion the costume was worn by Sherica Joseph.

It seemed that Hughbon was now unstoppable and the wins kept coming. While he didn’t win 1989’s Carnival Queen Show in Leeds, his costume ‘Carnival Fever’ worn by Lucy Charles took first place in Huddersfield. While the 1970s had only given Hughbon one Carnival Queen win, the 1980s were far more successful and saw Hughbon winning time and time again, not just in Leeds but in Huddersfield too. By 1989, Hughbon Condor had designed and made six winning Queen costumes for Leeds West Indian Carnival and two winning Queen costumes for Huddersfield Carnival. He had also won best troupe and Junior Queen. The trophies were piling up and showed no signs of slowing down in the 1990s.

Angela Parkes as ‘Jelly Fish’, 1993.

The 1990s saw Hughbon’s talents win him prizes across the country. His 1990 costume ‘Flower’ worn by Sharmane Lawrence gave Hughbon his third Huddersfield win in a row and his 1991 costume, ‘Golden Peacock’ worn by Pam Campbell took the first prize at Leicester and Nottingham. In 1992 Hughbon designed and made his transforming costume ‘Caterpillar/Butterfly’. The costume, worn by Denis Lazarus, entered the stage as a caterpillar before transforming into a butterfly. Not only did the costume win at Leeds but it took the first place prize at Huddersfield too. 1993 was a big year for Hughbon. While his Queen costume, ‘Jelly Fish’, didn’t win in Leeds, his Princess costume ‘Flight of Fancy’ worn by three-year-old Eleanor Claxton won first prize. His biggest success that year came in Leicester. His ‘Jelly Fish’ troupe won Best Children’s Troupe, his Queen costume worn by Angela Parkes won Best Queen, his costume worn by Gloria Williams won ‘Best Mama’ and his octopus costume worn by Jaudash Taylor won Best Prince.  In April 1994, with funding by East Midlands Arts, Hughbon began providing workshop experience at the Leicester Carnival offices for local young people. Hughbon was now working as a free-lance designer but it would be some years before he won the first place prize at the Leeds West Indian Carnival Queen Show.

Hughbon working on his ‘Passion Flower’ costume, 1994.


Pollinator Honey Bee, 2001.

Hughbon won his fifteenth (8 from Leeds, 4 from Huddersfield, 2 from Leicester and 1 from Nottingham) Carnival Queen contest in 2001 when his costume ‘Pollinator Honey Bee’ worn by Stacey Robinson was placed first at Leeds West Indian Carnival.  Hughbon had designed the costume so that the performer, dressed as a bee, could detach herself from the structure, climb up it, and pollinate the flowers. It marked the beginning of a new era for Hughbon in which performance and storytelling became essential elements in his costume designs. Hughbon became known for his costumes that allowed the performer to interact with the structure, costumes with moving parts and costumes that transformed on the stage. ‘Pollinator Honey Bee’ was Hughbon’s return to winning the Leeds Carnival Queen Show. His costume the following year was titled ‘The Ship’ and was worn by Sharon Clement. It too took the first place prize in Leeds.  With giant sails that rose over ten feet into the air, ‘The Ship’ was one of Hughbon’s grandest costumes. When the performer danced in the costume, the waves moved giving the impression of a ship on the ocean. Working from home with a team of supporting family members, Hughbon was able to build and test his costumes in his garden. Hughbon’s 2003 Queen costume, ‘Pink Butterfly’ worn by Helena Hamlet gave Hughbon another hat-trick of wins in Leeds. ‘Pink Butterfly’ marked Hughbon’s tenth costume to win first prize at Leeds West Indian Carnival. The costume, sponsored by Huddersfield Grenadian Association, also took first place in Huddersfield. Hughbon’s 2005 flying saucer costume opened up on the stage and closed again at the end of the performance. His 2006 winning custom, ‘The Bush Warrior’ worn by Sarah Bryant, was followed by perhaps his best remembered costume, ‘Man On Hos Back’ which was worn by Charlene Smith. It was placed first at Leeds Carnival, giving Hughbon his twentieth Queen win in total. The costume, made up of a giant white horse rode by an overseer with moving parts, was designed to tell a story. When the costume entered the stage the performer, dressed as a slave woman, was seen being pulled along by the horse. She then acted out the cutting of sugarcanes before pulling the overseer from the horse and mounting the horse herself in an act of liberation. ‘Man On Hos Back’ was later displayed at the Hidden History of The Dales exhibition at the Dales Countryside Museum alongside his 2006 ‘The Bush Warrior’ costume.

Man on Hos Back.

Hughbon’s son Sephbon Condor began designing his own carnival costumes in 2006. Taking a different approach to his father’s ‘pretty mas’ and influenced by Japanese anime, Sephbon’s first costume design was a group of devils and among his troupe was his ten-year-old son Andre.  The following year saw Sephbon design his first Carnival King costume, a dragon, but the costume proved difficult to dance in. With this in mind, Sephbon’s 2008 lion costumes were designed to be more flexible and easier to dance in. Sephbon returned to his dragon design in 2010, improving upon it and entering it into the Leeds Carnival King contest. No other King contestants entered the contest that year and as Sephbon had made four different dragon costumes for the carnival parade, he was asked to enter all four costumes and won his first Carnival King prize. His second Carnival King win came the following year with a costume worn by his father Hughbon. Hughbon had now been making carnival costumes for 40 years and despite his friendly rivalry with his son, he was extremely proud that his son was following in his footstep as an award winning costume designer. Sephbon’s ‘Praying Mantis’ King costume, worn by himself, gave him his third win but as a costume designer, Sephbon still had some important lessons to learn.  He had used paint on his costume for the first time but had not used paint sealer. When it rained on the carnival parade day, the paint began to run! Hughbon’s costume that year, ‘Salute’, celebrated the Queen’s diamond jubilee and featured the Queen’s coat of arms and Union Jack Flag. While the costume failed to take the first place in Leeds, it won the first prize in Huddersfield. In October, Sephbon took part in a Black History Month event at Leeds City Museum performing in his ‘Praying Mantis’ costume. Hughbon also gave a talk at the event.

Andre Condor at work in the High Esteem workshop, 2016.

For the most part, prior to 2013, Hughbon and Sephbon had worked on separate costumes. In 2013 High Esteem Carnival Designs was formed and father and son began working together. High Esteem was founded in July 2013 after receiving a £500 grant from Leeds Inspired Funding. The troupe made their debut at Huddersfield Carnival in their ‘Birds of a Feather Flock Together’ costumes. Both a King and Queen costume was made by High Esteem that year along with their troupe costumes. The troupe’s first King costume was performed by Sephbon’s son Andre Condor. The following year, Andre followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps and tried his hand at costume designing. With help from his father, Andre designed the King costume ‘Dragon Mash-up’ which was a runner-up at that year’s King Show. Earlier in the year, Hughbon had designed costumes for the first ‘Pop-Up Carnival’ which took place at Tour de France Grand Depart in Leeds and was featured on the BBC TV programme ‘Songs of Praise’. A second Pop-Up Carnival took place on Scarborough beach. High Esteem won their first Carnival King show in 2015 with their ‘Flight of Fantasy’ costume worn by Elroy Condor (Hughbon’s nephew). Sephbon Condor’s 2008 lion costumes were the inspiration for his 2016 ‘Tigers At Play’ costumes. Sephbon often returns to old designs and ideas and attempts to improve upon them. Hughbon and Sephbon have kept a lot of their past costumes and they also design with transport and storage in mind. The costumes can be then taken out of storage and worn and displayed at special events. Occasionally, updates are made to the costumes. Updates were made to several costumes in 2016 when High Esteem took part in the 40th anniversary of Luton Carnival. Costumes made by the Condors have also made appearances at Morley’s St. George’s Day Parade (2016), Big Disco (2016), Rio Heroes Homecoming Parade (2016), and Leeds Light Night Parade (2017). As well as appearing at special events, High Esteem also take part in carnivals across the country including Manchester, Luton, and Preston.

Hughbon at work, 2014.

2017 marked the 50th anniversary of Leeds West Indian Carnival and was a busy year for Hughbon Condor and the High Esteem team. Hughbon was one of four designers chosen to design special headdresses for the ‘I’m Carnival Happy’ project. Hughbon also recreated the 1967 ‘Sun Goddess’ costume that was displayed at the ’50 Years of Leeds West Indian Carnival’ exhibition at The Tetley. His 2007 costume ‘Man On Hos Back’ was also displayed at the exhibition. As well as working on the High Esteem costumes, which included a King, Queen and troupe, he also helped the Harrison Bundey Mama Dread troupe with their ‘King David Oluwale’ costume. Hughbon’s Queen costume ‘Hell Fire-Heaven Reign’ worn by Eleanor Claxton won first prize at the Queen Show. The following year, Sephbon Condor’s King costume ‘King of The Beasts’ was placed first at the Leeds carnival, giving the Condor family a total of 27 Queen or King wins, 18 of which were won in their home city. Serial costumes by Hughbon and Sephbon Condor were displayed at St. Martin’s Church in Leeds in 2018. They included Pink Butterfly (2003), Salute (2012) and King of The Beasts (2018).

Pink Butterfly, 2003

Hughbon Condor Winning Queens:
1979 – Leeds
1981 – Leeds
1983 – Leeds
1986 – Leeds
1987 – Leeds
1988 – Leeds, Huddersfield
1989 – Huddersfield
1990 – Huddersfield
1991 – Leicester, Nottingham
1992 – Leeds, Huddersfield
1993 – Leicester
2001 – Leeds
2002 – Leeds
2003 – Leeds, Huddersfield
2006 – Leeds
2007 – Leeds
2012 – Huddersfield

Sephbon Condor Winning Kings:

Hell Fire-Heaven Reign, 2017

2010 – Leeds
2011 – Leeds
2012 – Leeds

High Esteem Winning Kings and Queen:
2015 – Leeds (King)
2017 – Leeds (Queen)
2018 – Leeds (King)

Royal Blood From Paradise

St Clair Morris.

St. Clair Morris was born in Ottley’s Village in St. Kitts on 28 June 1938. Music had always played an important role in his life. His grandfather had been a drummer with a troupe of Masqueraders in St.Kitts and his father had a passion for music too. St. Clair began playing Steel Pans and singing at the age of 14. He began his own family in St.Kitts in the early 1960s. His wife, Gloria, also came from a musical background and had a beautiful singing voice. She would sing in the church choir and still sings in a choir today. Her aunty had wanted to take her to America and start her singing career but Gloria decided to stay in St.Kitts and marry the love of her life, St. Clair Morris.

St. Clair travelled to England alone in 1961, leaving his family behind in the Caribbean. He first lived in Birmingham but the racist atmosphere of 1960s Britain made life difficult. Work and homes were hard to find for a black man living in Britain. Most Landlords wouldn’t rent rooms to black people and when he applied for work he was told the jobs were already gone. St. Clair moved to Leeds after hearing there was a community of people from St. Kitts and Nevis living there. In Leeds, the West Indian community helped each other out, they helped each other find jobs and buy homes. Once he was settled in England, St. Clair sent for his wife and daughter who joined him in Leeds in the winter of 1963. Gloria and her young daughter arrived in England a day earlier than planned and St. Clair wasn’t there to meet them. Mother and child had to make their own way from London to Leeds, giving St. Clair a pleasant surprise when they arrived.

St. Clair Morris took on a number of jobs over the years including bus driver, builder and DJ. His passion for music meant St. Clair Morris owned a large record collection that included folk, soul, calypso, and reggae records. His love of music shaped all six of his children, five of whom took on music as careers. St. Clair worked as a band roadie, transporting steel pan bands such as Esso Steel Band and Desperadoes Steel Band to gigs in his van. A friend suggested that he formed his own steel band, after all he already had the van and so St. Clair Morris formed Paradise Steel Band in September 1973. The band’s first line-up consisted of six players. (One tenor pan, two sets of double seconds, two sets of double guitars, one set of four bass, and one set of drums). St. Clair built and tuned steel pans in his basement. He taught drums, bass and steel pan in his home on Gathorne Terrace and encouraged his children to be musical. He bought his daughter Annette a bass guitar when she was eight years old and the family would often jam together with daughter Paulette sitting behind the drums. Some of his children even joined Paradise Steel Band and performed at the Leeds West Indian Carnival. Young Annette found the bass guitar to be too heavy and gave it up, preferring to sing. Her mother Gloria taught her to harmonize. While driving home from a gig on 5 November 1975 St.Clair Morris and his wife Gloria were witness to riots taking place in the Chapeltown area of Leeds. Without explanation, St. Clair was arrested and held at the local police station. St. Clair had not taken part in the riots and was simply trying to go home after work. Gloria Morris was kicked out the Chapeltown Police Station when she asked how to contact a solicitor. She was then taken to hospital.

st clair
St Clair Morris with The Paradise Steel Band playing at Leeds West Indian Carnival, 1984.

St. Clair worked as a preacher for a time, travelling the country at weekends and giving sermons. His family would travel with him and after the sermon St. Clair would play guitar and his family would sing hymns. Paradise Steel Band would play gigs around Chapeltown and further afield and St. Clair’s daughters Paulette and Annette were fascinated by the live music and would follow the band around. They were often kicked out of the venue by their father but would listen in from outside. The two girls shared their father’s love of music and during the hot summer of 1976 they spent the whole summer playing records into the street on their father’s double turntable record player. Their music tastes varied from George Benson and Roberta Flack to ABBA and Gary Glitter but it was reggae music that gave the teenage girls a sense of identity and belonging. Artists like Bob Marley and Burning Spear delivered a message to a new generation of British born West Indians and their music acted as a link to the Caribbean. It was around this time that, at the age of 13, Annette grew dreadlocks and became a Rasta.  Artists like Third World, Steel Pulse, Aswad, Jimmy Cliff, Dennis Brown, The Royal Rasses and The Twinkle Brothers were big influences on the sisters along with the music education they received from their parents.

Sounds of Yorkshire.

St. Clair Morris became a Steel Pan teacher in 1976, travelling to schools across Yorkshire to teach steel pans to children when schools were allocated money to help combat racism and promote arts from other cultures. It is now believed that St. Clair was the first Steel Pan teacher in Europe. St. Clair Morris planned lessons, chose the repertoire, managed classes and even transported the instruments from one school to the next in his own van. Children from the school would help St. Clair unload and re-pack the van. The steel pans had been bought by the Leeds Music Support Service. Because he was their father, Annette and Paulette were not allowed to sit in on the lessons. Over the years St. Clair taught some of Leeds’s best players who have gone on to teach and run their own steel bands. These include Melvin Zaker (teaches pan and runs New World Steel Orchestra), Wanda Thorpe (runs Oulton Steel Band), Charlotte Emery (runs South Steel), Bex Ainge (runs East Steel), Eileen Butterworth (runs St. John Fisher Band in Dewsbury), Victoria Jaquiss (runs Foxwood Steel and Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows) and Pauline Williams (runs Pantazia in London).

St Clair and Wanda Leopold School 1987
St. Clair Morris (far left) and Wanda Thorpe with the Leopold Primary School Steel Band, 1987.

Paradise Steel Band’s line-up changed over the years but St. Clair remained with the band for 44 years. Paradise Steel Band made an appearance on the TV show 3,2,1 in 1982. More TV show appearances followed including Emmerdale Farm, Songs of Praise, Look North, and Calendar News. The band also made appearances on radio including Radio Leeds and Radio Aire. In 1985 they were featured on the album ‘Sounds of Yorkshire’ performing the song ‘Breeze In’. St. Clair Morris made several other recordings as the Paradise Steel Band.  The band travelled across the UK and even Europe to make appearances. They made several trips to Germany and performed at the Battle of the Flowers in Jersey.

Paradise Steel Band and limbo dancers on 3,2,1 in 1982.

Inspired by performances by the Great Despers and the Catelli All Stars, St. Clair Morris added more players to his band and formed the Paradise Steel Orchestra in 1984. Among the orchestra’s players was St. Clair’s 11-year-old son David Morris who, taught by his father, had become a very talented drummer. By 1986 David was teaching the orchestra himself. Their repertoire included ‘Zampa Overture’, ‘Pan In A Minor’, and ‘The Hammer’.  The Paradise Steel Orchestra made their debut at the National Steelband Festival in Warwickshire in June 1984. As the Paradise Steel Orchestra, the band’s popularity grew during the second half of the 1980s. In the first six months of their career alone they made performed at Police Day at Roundhay Park, the Grand Theatre in Leeds, Leeds West Indian Carnival, and the Labour Party Conference. They also made appearances on Calendar, Look North and Radio Aire. 1984 also saw the forming of the New World Steel Orchestra in Leeds. All of the orchestra’s original members had been students of St. Clair Morris. The Paradise Steel Orchestra returned to the National Steelband Festival in 1987. They were then invited to take part in the Panorama contest in London, becoming the first steel pan band from the North of England to enter the contest and the first Northern Steel Band to perform at the Notting Hill Carnival.

Annette and Paulette Morris joined their first band in 1980 while still in their teens. The reggae band Black Steel already had two singers but wanted something fresh and different and Annette and Paulette were asked to join the group. Annette was in the hospital ill at the time but agreed to join Black Steel after her sister turned up to the hospital excited about the proposal. Annette was still ill when their first gig came around but was determined that the show went on. They were one of the local bands to perform at the Rock Against Racism concert held in Potternewton Park in July 1981, sharing the stage with The Specials, Misty In Roots and Aswad. The sisters later joined the band Malika who later became Exiles Intact. The band played gigs across the country, toured the university circuit and built up a fan base. Under the management of a local man named Winston Smith, Exiles Intact made an appearance on the ITV game show 3,2,1 in 1984. The same show Paradise Steel Band had appeared on two years earlier. Making an appearance on television was a great achievement, especially for a group of black youths from the north of England. Before the show, Annette and Paulette were taken shopping by a woman from the wardrobe department to buy new outfits while the other band member’s outfits were picked out by their manager who wanted to ensure the band looked fabulous while making their TV debut. Exiles Intact performed a song Paulette Morris had written called ‘Lazy Day’.

Exiles Intact on 3,2,1 in 1984.
Who Is There?

The TV appearance led to a record contract on the Wonderful Musical World Of Chris Dixon label. From there, everything happened very quickly for the band.  They recorded a single at Woodlands Studios, located in a bedroom in Chapeltown. The A-side, ‘Who Is There’, was written by the Morris sister and the B-side was a cover of The Drifters’ song ‘On Broadway’. Both sides were produced by Neil Ferguson. The band was then taken on a photoshoot and in August 1985 they were one of the acts at the very first Reggae Concerts (then called the Black Heroes Concert and now called the Black Music Festival) in Potternewton Park. Annette and Paulette continued to perform with Exiles Intact in venues around Leeds for the next couple of years and the group were returning headliners at the annual reggae concerts held in Potternewton Park. The band went through a number of line-up changes, with members leaving and being replaced and in 1989 the sisters were offered a record deal and left the band. Exiles Intact split up not long afterwards.

Royal Blood.

Annette and Paulette Morris formed Royal Blood in 1989. Backed by Stone Roots they made a TV appearance on Ebony On The Road later in the year preforming ‘Things I Would Do’.  The segment was recorded at The West Indian Centre in Leeds and St. Clair Morris was at the front of the stage to support his daughters. Royal Blood were signed to the Ariwa label and in 1990 they travelled to London to record with producer Mad Professor. They recorded the vocals for their debut single, ‘Slipping Away’, in one take and it was released with ‘Twin Gate Dub’ on the B-side. ‘Slipping Away’ was a hit on the Reggae Charts and was included on the Pure Lovers Volume 1 compilation released by Charm in 1990. It was followed by a second single, ‘Conscious Love’.  In 1992 Royal Blood featured on the Black Story single ‘Will We Stay’, a song they had written.  In 1997 they recorded the single ‘I Don’t Wanna Be The One’ which was produced by Barry Boom and released on the Real Ting label. It was also included on Charm’s Pure Lovers Volume 10 compilation. The duo later signed to Phase One Records and in 1998 they returned to London to record an album. Their debut album, ‘Royal Blood’, contained ten tracks, eight

The Journey Pt. 1

of which had been written by Paulette. Three singles were released from the album (‘One Love’ (an original song not a cover of the Bob Marley song), ‘Reasons’, and ‘Waiting In The Park’) but none of them had the same success as ‘Slipping Away’. A chance meeting in the studio lead them to touring with Boyzone from May – July 1999 which was followed by a tour with Peter Andre. A tour with Finley Quaye took the duo across the UK, Europe and South America. In 2006 the sisters wrote ‘They Live In The Sky’ which was recorded by William Orbit for his album ‘Hello Waveforms’.  The sisters also provided backing vocals on the track. In 2014 Royal Blood toured with Motown Legend Martha Reeves.  In March 2015 the duo released their second album ‘The Journey Pt. 1’.  Annette and Paulette still perform as Royal Blood and in 2018 they were one of the acts at the Salute To Reggae concert at Millennium Square in Leeds.

royal blood
Royal Blood.
Esoteric Hydroponics.

All five of Annette’s children are musical and many of them have recorded albums. It’s no wonder Annette jokingly refers to her family as the Von Trapp Family of Chapeltown. Her eldest son, Ethan, is a rapper who goes by the names Dreadman and Big Cush.  His single ‘I’m Evil’ was released in 2015. He has released a number of albums on the Invizible label including Annesia Haze, Esoteric Hydroponics, and Percival Street. Another of her sons, Kyrann, also raps under the name K-One and in 2012 he released the album Natural Density. Annette’s youngest son, Hesh Rob, is also a rapper and has recorded with his two brothers.

Natural Density.

Annette’s twin daughters Tila and Tavelah Robinson have been singing together since the age of 3. Tila and Tavelah have appeared on stage in shows that include the Carnival Messiah and The Wiz. In 2012 they performed at the Olympic Torch Ceremony in Leeds. The twins, who were born in August 1995, appeared on the TV talent show The Voice in 2014. The girl’s father, Carl Robinson, was the drummer with Exiles Intact and has also drummed with Finley Quaye and Cee Lo Green. On their first appearance on The Voice, the twins performed

Tila and Tavelah on The Voice in 2014.

The Black Eyed Peas’ song ‘Just Can’t Get Enough’ during the Blind Audition round. Backstage Carl and Annette and other family members cheered them on. They were picked by judge Ricky Wilson and were sent through to the next round. Ricky Wilson coached the twins for the remainder of their time in the contest. Tila and Tavelah’s appearance on The Voice resulted in them receiving national media attention and they quickly became fan favourites.  Unfortunately, the twins didn’t make it to the third round of the contest.  In 2015 they won the ‘Rare Rising Stars’ award and in 2016, under the name TnT, they released the single ‘So Good’ featuring S.H.F.M.O. Tila and Tavelah Robinson continue to perform and recently they were headliners at the 2018 concert ‘A Taste of The Caribbean’ in Leeds.

Indie Reggae Revolution.

The twin’s aunty, Paulette Morris, has also worked closely with Ricky Wilson as a member of The Ship-Tones. Formed in 2014, the Ship-Tones blended Reggae and Indie on their 2015 album Indie Reggae Revolution which featured Ricky Wilson on the track ‘Ickle Shocks’. The album also featured Ryan Jarman & Gary Jarman (The Cribs), Justin Young (The Vaccines) and Edwyn Collins. The album was number one on the Reggae New Releases chart.

St. Clair Morris passed away in Leeds, England on 6 October 2017. His legacy lives on in his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and the hundreds of students he taught music to. His death made local and international news and he was posthumously honoured at the C50 awards on 22 October.  His funeral, which took place at St Aidan’s Church on 27 October, was featured on the local news programme Look North.  St. Clair Morris continued to play with Paradise Steel Band until the week of his death. The steel band continue to play at venues across the country, continuing St. Clair’s legacy. The Morris/Robinson family’s musical talents show no signs of slowing down. St. Clair’s five-year-old great-grandson has already shown a keen interest in playing the drums, making him the sixth generation of the family born with a passion for music.

Special Thanks to Annette Morris who provided a lot of the information in the above piece.

Leeds West Indian Carnival in the 60s and 70s – A Timeline


  • The first United Caribbean Association meeting is held at 15 Grange Avenue, Chapeltown. During the meeting Arthur France first puts forward the idea of holding a West Indian Carnival in Leeds but the idea is rejected.
  • The second United Caribbean Association meeting is held and again Arthur France puts forward the idea of a West Indian Carnival and a Carnival Committee is formed.
  • The first Carnival Committee meeting is held during which Arthur France sets the committee a number of tasks to complete before the next meeting.
  • The second Carnival Committee meeting is held during which Arthur France sacks the entire committee who had completed none of the tasks set at the previous meeting.


  • Students at the University of Leeds organise a Caribbean Carnival Fete at Kitson College. A carnival procession takes place between Woodhouse Lane and North Street.


  • Arthur France founds a new Carnival Committee. Its members include George Archibald, Calvin Beach, Ian Charles and Willie Robinson.
  • The Calypso King contest is held at the Jubilee Hall and is won by Lord Silkie (Artie Davis) with his song ‘St.Kitts Is My Borning Land’.
  • The Carnival Queen Show is held at the Jubilee Hall and is won by Vicky Cielto in a costume called ‘ The Sun Goddess’, designed by Irwin and Veronica Samlalsingh. The MC for the evening is Clyde Alleyne.
  • The first Leeds West Indian Carnival parade is held on the streets of Chapeltown and Leeds City Centre.
  • A Steel Band competition is held at Leeds Town Hall and is won by St. Christopher Steel Band playing the song ‘Elizabethan Serenade’.
  • A Last Lap Dance is held at Leeds Town Hall.


  • Gloria Simpson wins the Carnival Queen Show in a costume called ‘African Queen’ designed by Roy Powers.
  • Leeds West Indian Carnival is mentioned in the Yorkshire Evening Post for the first time.
  • A troupe from Leeds, led by Arthur France, takes part in the Notting Hill Festival.


  • Felina Hughes joins the Carnival Committee.
  • The Carnival Queen Show held at the Jubilee Hall is won by Janet France in a costume called ‘Out Of Space’ designed by Ian Gill.
  • Arthur France is made the president of the West Indian Student Union.


  • The Carnival Queen Show is held at the Mecca Ballroom in the Merrion Centre and is won by Jean Jeffers in a costume called ‘Caribbean Sky At Night’ designed by Calvin Beach and Cleve Watkins. The MC for the evening is Trevor McDonald.
  • Leeds West Indian Carnival appears on the front page of The Yorkshire Evening Post for the first time.


  • Hughbon Condor joins the Carnival Committee and with James Brown he makes his first Queen costume.
  • The Carnival Queen Show is held at the Mecca Ballroom. Trevor McDonald returns as the Master of Ceremonies. The winning Queen costume is designed by Allan Julien.


  • The Carnival Queen Show is held at the Mecca Ballroom and is won by Yolanda Figaro in a costume called ‘The Peacock’ designed by Vernon Baptiste and Cleve Watkins.
  • Leeds West Indian Carnival is filmed by the BBC for the first time, the footage is now lost.


  • The Carnival Queen Show is held at the Mecca Ballroom and is won by Mouva Pinnock in a costume designed by Roy Knowle.
  • The Leeds West Indian Carnival parade is filmed by the BBC and ITV.

carnival 19741974

  • Max Farrar photographs the Carnival Committee outside Cowper Street School.
  • The Carnival Queen Show is held at the Mecca Ballroom and is won by Yvonne Ruddock in a costume designed by Edris Browne. The compere for the evening is Abdul Ali.
  • The Last Lap Dance is held at Leeds Polytechnic Assembly Hall at Leeds University.


  • The Carnival Queen Show is held at the Chapeltown Community Centre and is won by Audrey Henry in a costume called ‘Goddess of The Sea’ designed by Roy Powers and Allan Julien.


  • No Queen Show is held this year but the Leeds West Indian Carnival parade still takes place.

1977 film1977

  • Leeds West Indian Carnival celebrates its 10th anniversary.
  • The Carnival Queen Show is held at Primrose Hill High School for the first time.
  • The winning queen is Patricia Wilkes in a costume called ‘Land of the Fairy Tales’ designed by Hebrew Rawlins.
  • The Carnival Queen Show and parade are filmed by the BBC.
  • The Last Lap Dance is held at the Leeds Polytechnic Assembly Hall.
  • Leeds West Indian Carnival is featured in ‘Countdown To The Festival’ on BBC One.


  • No Queen Show is held but the Leeds West Indian Carnival parade still takes place.
  • Sheila Howarth designs her first Queen costume.
  • BBC Two film part of the parade for later use.


  • Clips from last year’s carnival parade are used in the BBC Two documentary ‘Paradise Lost’.
  • The Carnival Queen Show is held at Primrose Hill High School. It is won by Maureen William in a costume called ‘The Morning Glory’ designed by Hughbon Condor.
  • Leroy Wenham founds the African Caribbean Fortnight in Sheffield.
  • Calvin Beach migrates to Canada.