Caribbean History and Culture Events – Summer 2019


A City & it’s Welcome, Three centuries of migrating to Leeds 

Free exhibition at Leeds City Museum, 12 July 2019 – 5 January 2020

A city and its welcome tells the stories and experiences of those who have made a home in Leeds over the past three centuries and how they have helped shape the city that we recognise today.

Cultural Arts Business Start Up Exhibition Event

Free event at Leeds Kirkgate indoor Market, 27 July, 10am-5.30pm

Promoting young BME academic & entrepreneurial business excellence citywide. Includes exhibitions (homemade jewellery, fine art, African crafts etc.), entertainment (community singers, steel band, mini pop up carnival) and Caribbean food.

Leeds West Indian Carnival: The Early Years

Free exhibition at Local & Family History Library, Leeds Central Library, 1-31 August

Find out more about the nation’s longest-running West Indian Carnival. On display will be items and books from the Central Library and private collections.

The Eulogy Exhibition

Free exhibition at Room 700, Leeds Central Library, 2 August – 1 September

A poignant and uplifting tribute to the lives, journeys and stories of pioneering Jamaicans no longer with us who settled in Leeds during the 1940’s-60’s.

Leeds Black History Walk – Emancipation Special

Free history walk at Parkinson Building, University of Leeds, 3 August, 11am – 1pm

The emancipation special of the monthly Leeds Black History Walk is hosted by Joe Williams of Heritage Corner, Leeds. A family friendly walk exploring the black history and heritage of Leeds from Ancient times to the modern age. In this emancipation special we remember fallen martyrs who sacrificed and resisted over four centuries.  Free but donations welcome.

Wray & Nephew Roof Takeover with Don Letts

Free event at Belgrave Music Hall & Canteen, 3 August, 11am – late

Everyone’s favourite rum connoisseurs Wray & Nephew are taking over Belgrave Music Hall for one huge rooftop party including a DJ set from the one and only Rebel Dread, Don Letts through our huge soundsystem. Plus Rooftop BBQ and Wray and Nephew cocktail specials.

Leeds West Indian Carnival: The Early Years

Free talk at Chapeltown Library, Reginald Centre, 6 August 5.30 – 7pm

Discover the organisers, costume makers, designers, musicians and stories behind the formative years of Europe’s oldest West Indian Carnival. From its birth in 1967 to its development throughout the 1970s, Danny Friar explores the early years of the Leeds West Indian Carnival in this fun and interactive presentation.

Salute To Reggae

Live concert at Millennium Square, 8 August, 5.30pm

Second annual Salute To Reggae concert held in the heart of Leeds City Centre, celebrating UK Reggae past and present. Line-up includes Dawn Penn, Carrol Thompson, Stylo G, Kofi, Graft and more. Merchandise and authentic Caribbean food will be on sale. Tickets are £10, book online.

300 Years of Migrating to Leeds with curators Adam Jaffer and Ruth Martin

Free talk at Leeds City Museum, 9 August

Many people have come to Leeds to start a new life. This talk will tell the story of a selection of people, and look at how our collection shows the ways in which migration has shaped the city.

Leeds West Indian Carnival: The Early Years

Free talk at Sanderson Room, Leeds Central Library, 14 August, 6 – 7pm

Discover the organisers, costume makers, designers, musicians and stories behind the formative years of Europe’s oldest West Indian Carnival. From its birth in 1967 to its development throughout the 1970s, Danny Friar explores the early years of the Leeds West Indian Carnival in this fun and interactive presentation.

Children’s Black Heritage Walk

Heritage walk for children, Parkinson Building, University of Leeds, 16 August, 9.30am – 4pm

Join us on a fun filled day exploring the African influences around the Leeds University Site.
Over the day you will be introduced to African architecture in Nubia and Egypt that still exists today. You will learn about how African architecture has influenced the buildings on the Leeds University city site, you will see pyramids, obelisks and columns. There is at least 5000 years of Hidden History to be uncovered, in a two-hour walk. You will learn about Priest Nesyamum and so much more. Tickets are £3, book online.

Sing A Sankey

Free event at RJC Dance, Mandela Centre, 16 August, 6-9pm

Leeds poet Khadijah Ibrahiim brings old-time Jamaican funeral and remembrance traditions to life. A fascinating look at centuries-old rites and rituals from nine nights, set ups and wakes to the food and music during periods of loss.

Carnival Prince and Princess Show

Carnival show at Leeds West Indian Centre, 18 August, 3-8pm

Contestants compete to be crowned Leeds Carnival Prince and Princess 2019. Family fun filled show which will be jam packed with entertainment. Admission is £3, pay at the door.

Carnival King and Queen Show

Carnival show at New Dock, Armouries Drive, 23 August, 7.30pm – late

Be amazed by glamourous vibrant costumes by talented designers from across the UK, all competing for the prestigious title of Leeds Carnival King & Queen 2019. Your host for this year is renowned Richard Blackwood! Come prepared for Kane who will have you crying with laughter, the musical talents of our very own New World Steel Orchestra and much more. Join us for the after party at the Holiday Inn! Tickets are £16 – £30, book online.

Thanksgiving Service

Roscoe Church, Chapeltown Road, 25 August, 10.30am – 1pm

Carnival is a celebration of the emancipation of slavery, join us as we thank and remember our forefathers for what they went through and for what we have achieved today.

Black Music Festival

Free concert in Potternewton Park, 25 August, 11am – 8pm

Europe’s biggest free black music event celebrating black music, culture, cuisine and more. This year’s line-up is better than ever and is packed full of artists over three stages to represent the diverse range in genres and talent prolific in black music today.

Reggae Sunday

Outlaws Yacht Club, 25 August, 3 – 9pm

A day of authentic Caribbean food, 2-4-1 on bloody marys and a laid back selection of vintage Jamaican styles, from ska to rocksteady through to early reggae, roots, dub & early dancehall. Resident & guest DJs on rotation. Caribbean food served by Browns Delights.

Carnival Invasion

Live music event at Soca Village, 25 August, 12am – 2am

A party night of Dancehall, Hip Hop, Afro Beats, R&B, and Reggae delivering the grown up hype of the carnival weekend. Featuring Trudiva from Jamaica. Tickets are £10, book online.

J’ouvert Morning

Early Morning Carnival parade, Chapeltown, 26 August, 6am – 8.30 am

Start your carnival day on de road the traditional way jamming away to soca. Wake up the kids and bring them along to this mini parade. Wear your PJs, traditional costumes or rep a carnival troupe. It’s never too early to jam! Begins at Leeds West Indian Centre.

Leeds West Indian Carnival Parade

Free West Indian Carnival Parade, Chapeltown and Harehills, 26 August, 2pm – 5.30pm

See all the costumes in full glory parading the streets of Leeds with rhinestones, feathers and glitter to the sounds of soca and steel pan. This familu friendly day is filled with fun, on stage entertainment and delicious food from the Caribbean.

Last Lap

Live music at Soca Village, 26 August, 1pm – 12am

Soca Village presents Last Lap. The best Kizomba party held over the carnival weekend. Featuring DJs playing soca and reggae including DJ Dico, DJ Pux, Sensation, Godfather and more. Live soca by Kollision Band from St. Kitts & Nevis. Free until 8pm, tickets are £7 -10, book online or pay on the door.



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)



Roots – Carnival Traditions in St. Kitts And Nevis

A large majority of the people involved in the founding and development of the Leeds West Indian Carnival were migrants from the Caribbean islands of St. Kitts and Nevis. Others were from Trinidad and Tabago, Jamaica, and Barbados. Traditional West Indian Carnival has its origins in Trinidad and Tobago. From there, the idea of Carnival spread North across the Caribbean islands. Each island has its own traditions that predate the arrival of Trinidadian Carnival. This includes the Crop Over in Barbados, Junkanoo in Jamaica and Christmas Sports in St. Kitts and Nevis.

In St. Kitts and Nevis the tradition of Christmas Sports dates back to the days of slavery. People celebrated Christmas and New Year’s Day by taking to the streets dancing, singing, playing music, and performing. The Christmas Sports have their roots in the British tradition of the Mummers’ plays. Mummers’ plays are folk plays performed outside by amateurs, often at Christmas and other religious holidays. Mummers’ plays in England date back to the 13th Century and are still performed in some parts of the country today. The tradition came to St. Kitts and Nevis with the arrival of the English in the 17th Century. In St. Kitts and Nevis, enslaved Africans added African traditions to the Mummers’ plays and they became known as Christmas Sports.

A troupe performing David and Goliath, 1901.

During the Christmas period, troupes of performers would don costumes and travel from village to village, performing.  The Christmas Sports include Bible stories such as David and Goliath as well performances based on religious literature such as the Giant Despair from The Pilgrim’s Progress. Shakespeare Lesson used speeches from Shakespeare plays including Richard III and Julius Caesar. Other performances were based on the Mummers’ plays known as Mummies. The Mummies have a cast of 13 characters including saints, knights, kings, dragons and giants. There were also performances based on local stories and histories such as the Bull and The Mongoose Play. Others took their inspiration from American culture such as the cakewalking Millionaires and Cowboys and Indians. Neaga Business mocked the white elite. Some Christmas Sports such as the stilt walking Moko Jumbies have their roots in Africa while others like the Clowns and Masquerade are a mix of African and European traditions. Other types of Christmas Sports included Sagwa, Actors, and Soldiers. These performances would be accompanied by music. Several types of music were popular at the Christmas Sports. They included String Bands, Big Drum and Fife Bands, Quadrille music, and Iron Bands. Alan Lomax’s field recordings made in June 1962 (and available on CD) gives the listener an idea of what the Christmas Sports sounded like during the period when Leeds West Indian Carnival pioneers were migrating from the islands to England. Iron Bands first began forming in St. Kitts and Nevis in the 1940s. These bands were similar to the early steel pan bands formed in Trinidad around the same time. They used makeshift percussion instruments such as car rims, oil drums, and spoon and grater. String bands also included makeshift instruments including the Baha, a long metal pipe that is blown, and the Shack-Shack, a milk tin containing beads.Each neighborhood had its own big drum and fife band,  each one with it’s own name. There was revivary between the bands, the same way there was revivary between the steel pan bands in Trinidad. The revivary between the bands could become violet and clashes would occur.

The Alan Lomax recordings also include examples of Calypso music which had originated in Trinidad and had become popular across the Caribbean in the 1950s. Calypso music could be heard on imported records but was more commonly heard on radio or jukeboxes. While Trinidadian calypsonians like Lord Kitchener and The Mighty Sparrow were popular on the islands there was local calypsonians too. The 1950s saw the rise of stars such as Mighty Kush, Lord Mike, Lord Harmony, and Mighty Saint. The popularity of calypso on the islands was down to, in part, the similarities it shared with the pre-existing folk music written and performed by musicians knowns as troubadours. As their name suggests their origins lay in the troubadours of Europe, a type of musician whose influence can be seen across the Caribbean. (In Haiti they called Twoubadou in Haitian Creole). The troubadours of St. Kitts and Nevis were solo performers who, for a price, could be hired to perform their latest tunes in your home. They performed self-penned topical songs, sometimes with serious lyrics and other times with comical but always clever and entertaining.

String Band in St. Kitts, 1964.

Steel pan bands were introduced to St. Kitts and Nevis in the 1950s by Education Officer Lloyd Matheson. The island’s first steel pan band was the Wilberforce Steel Pan Band led by Roy Martin. Other pioneers of steel pan music in St. Kitts and Nevis include Cecil ‘Moonlight’ Roberts who brought steel pans from Antigua in 1952, which increased interest in the instrument. Steel pan bands in St. Kitts and Nevis during this period included The Invaders, The Boston Tigers, The Eagle Squadron, and Casablanca.

Trinidadian-style carnival was introduced to St. Kitts and Nevis by Basil Henderson in 1957. He formed the first carnival committee whose members included Agnes Skerritt and Doris Wall. Cromwell Bowry, Cyril Frederick, and Chief of Police Major Leonard Alphonso also made significant contributions to the carnival during its early beginnings. St. Kitts and Nevis also adopted The Calypso King contest from Trinidad Carnival. The first Calypso King of St. Kitts was Mighty Kush. The 1960s saw the introduction of Brass Bands to the carnival, however, string bands, steel pan bands, and calypso music remained a popular part of the proceedings.

Carnival in St. Kitts, 1957.

Memories of the Christmas Sports and carnival in St. Kitts and Nevis acted as the foundation on which the Leeds West Indian Carnival was built. Many people who were later involved in the Leeds West Indian Carnival were involved in or witness to the Christmas Sports and carnival in St. Kitts and Nevis. For some, involvement in the Christmas Sports went back generations.  Reginald Challenger’s father was a member of a troupe of Masqueraders in St. Kitts.  St. Clair Morris’ grandfather had been a drummer with a troupe of Masqueraders in St. Kitts. In Nevis, Mitch Wallace’s father had played the Big Drum and his grandfather had played fife. Mitch Wallace was a member of a troupe in Nevis from as early as the age of eight. He recalls performing in David and Goliath and reciting lines from the Bible in-between dance performances. Mitch’s cousin, Felina Hughes would help with costume preparation but was too shy to take part herself. She enjoyed watching Mitch perform but admits being afraid of the Mocko Jumbies. Hughbon Condor, on the other hand, was fascinated by the Mocko Jumbies and attempted, unsuccessfully, to build his own stilts. Arthur France also recalls being wary of the Christmas Sports as a child but later enjoyed watching David and Goliath. His parents allowed him to watch the Christmas Sports but refused to allow him to take part. He developed a lifelong passion for steel pan music. Artie Davies was too young to take part in the Christmas Sports but grew up enjoying the music of St. Kitts and particularly enjoyed calypso. Under the name Lord Kingston, he performed calypso music on street corners with a cuatro.  Rex Watley played with a steel band in St. Kitts and Henry Freeman and Albert Henry learnt to play Big drum and Kettle drum (respectively) in Nevis. Reginald Challenger has memories of homemade instruments. Calvin Beach was a member of the Eagle Squadron Clown Troupe. He remembers the troubadours in Nevis and the revivary between the big drum and fife bands. He also recalls a Christmas Sport called Sagwa. In 1957 he took part in the first carnival held in St. Kitts as part of the Arabian Nights troupe.

Leeds carnival pioneers came from other parts of the Caribbean too. Their memories and experiences were vital to the founding of the West Indian Carnival in Leeds. In Trinidad, Ian Charles had been a member of a Sailor Band since the age of 16, although his dream was to be a Midnight Robber. He recalls witnessing the violent rivalry between steel bands that was common in Trinidad at the time.

St. Kitts 1957 (Calvin Beach collection)
Calvin Beach in St. Kitts Carnival, 1957.

Mass migration, first to other Caribbean islands and later to England, was one of the main factors behind the disappearance of some of the Christmas Sports during the 1950s and 1960s. Among those lost was David and Goliath and Millionaires. The introduction of Trinidadian Carnival, large steel bands and recorded Soca music also contributed to the Christmas Sports’ downfall. Despite this Christmas Sports have survived in St.Kitts and Nevis and their influence can still be seen at Leeds West Indian Carnival, especially in the performance of the Masquerade which are a common sight at Leeds Carnival. (Often performed by a group from Montserrat). Over the years The Bull, Moko Jumbies, Neaga Business and even David and Goliath have been performed during the carnival celebrations in Leeds. 

Masquerade at Leeds Carnival, 2017

Roots – Carnival Traditions in The Caribbean

The wearing of masks dates back to the Stone Age with the earliest known example of a mask dating to 7,000 BC. Traditions of wearing masks and costumes while dancing to music during a procession can be found in many Ancient cultures. The earlies European carnivals were celebrated by the Ancient Greeks who borrowed the idea from Ancient Egyptian traditions. The Ancient Egyptians also practised traditional stick-fighting which was performed to music, similar to the Calinda tradition found in the Caribbean. The Ancient Romans continued the carnival tradition which became a Christian festival in Medieval Europe and spread across the Christian world where it became associated with the Christian month of Lent.  One theory says the word ‘Carnival’ comes from the Late Latin expression ‘carne levare’ which means ‘remove meat’. Another says it comes from ‘carne vale’ which means ‘farewell to meat’. In either case, the word signifies the approaching fast of Lent.

Carnival in Rome circa 1650. 

When Europeans arrived in the Caribbean they brought their traditions with them. This included masquerade balls, Christmas carolling and carnival parades.  Originally, these traditions in the Caribbean were strictly for the white elite and African slaves were forbidden to take part, except as a form of entertainment for the white plantation owners. During these celebrations, the white elite would dress up as black men and women and portrait them in a negative light. The enslaved Africans developed their own celebrations and traditions. In Trinidad, a harvest festival called Canboulay included drumming, singing, dancing and chanting. The tradition of J’ouvert, an early morning street party, also originates from this period. After the emancipation of slaves in 1834 the free Africans took to the streets to celebrate in what is considered to be the first Caribbean Carnival. 

Trinidad Carnival 1888.

Caribbean carnivals have their roots in the West African traditions brought to the Caribbean islands by enslaved people between the 16th and 19th centuries. Similarities to Caribbean carnivals can still be found in West African today. These include the Egungun masquerade, Owi masquerade and the Yoruba Gelede of Nigeria, the Dogon stilt walkers of Mali and the Bwa masquerade of Burkina Faso. Ritual and ceremonial masks are an essential feature of many African cultures and traditional masks are used in many West African countries including Senegal, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Benin.

In the Caribbean, these African traditions were mixed with the traditions brought over by the European plantation owners. In Trinidad the Lent carnival parades and masquerade balls were given an African twist by the Afro-Caribbean population. In St. Kitts and Nevis the tradition of Christmas carolling and Mummers’ plays were adapted in an African style and in Montserrat St. Patrick’s Day celebrations were given an African makeover while in Barbados the harvest festival celebrations were Africanised. Elements of May Day celebrations, Morris Dancers and Hobby Horses can also be found, with African makeovers, in Caribbean traditions.

Morris Dancers and a Hobby Horse in London circa 1620. 

The roots of some traditional carnival characters such as the Moko Jumbie, the Shaggy Bear, Pitchy Patchy, the Gombey and the Cow Band, can be traced back to Africa. Others such as Burrokeet and Clowns are more European in origin. The Pierrot Grenade displays a mix of African and European influences. While similar to masquerade costumes wore by the Dogon and the Bwa of West Africa, the Pierrot Grenade also has similarities to the Border Morris dancers found in West England. The Jab Jab (not to be confused with the Jab Molassie) is another example of this mix. While it shares some elements of the European Jester (a popular character in European carnivals), the Jab Jab also appears to a close relative of the Egungun masquerade of the Yoruba people.

Left: Bwa Dancer. Centre: Pierrot Grenade. Right: Border Morris Dancer. 

The mocking of white Europeans was a common element during Caribbean celebrations and over time new traditions and folklore characters, unique to the Caribbean, were introduced. These include the Baby Dolls, Dame Lorraine, and the Whitefaced Minstrels which all acted as a caricatured reflection of European society. The Jab Molassie dates back to slavery and uses the European’s fear of ‘the black devil’ against them. Other characters are more recent in comparison and take their inspiration from America (Fancy Indians and Sailor Mas) and Mexico (Midnight Robber).

Whitefaced Minstrels, a parody of the blackface Minstrels popular in America and Europe during the 19th Century. 

The music of these Caribbean celebrations is also diverse in its origins. Calypso was developed in Trinidad from traditional Nigerian call and response songs. Calypso was originally called ‘Kaiso’, a name that either comes from the phrase ‘Ka isu’ in the Efik language which means ‘go on!’ or ‘Kaa iso’ which translates from the Ibibio language as ‘continue, go on’.  The Big Drum and Fife music found in St. Kitts and Nevis and other parts of the Caribbean has its origins in the European military bands popular during the slavery period.  Quadrille dancing and the music that accompanies it originated in France in the mid-18th Century and was popular across Europe and its colonies by the 19th century. Tamboo Bamboo evolved after the banning of African-style drums. The banning of the Tamboo Bamboo led to the development of the steel pan drums in the 1940s. Limbo dancing originated in Trinidad in the late 1800s. Claims of its connection to the slave trade and the slave ships are dubious and first appeared in the 1950s after the dance became popular in America. The Conga line of Cuba is also believed to have African origins.

Other Caribbean carnival traditions come from Asia and arrived in the Caribbean along with the indentured servants of India and China, who arrived in the 19th century. They brought their own folk music traditions as well as cultural and religious traditions to the Caribbean. They also developed new traditions such as Hosay. Indian music would play a crucial role in the development of soca music in the late 1960s. Five unique cultures; African, European, Caribbean, American and Asian, are all fundamental in the development of the West Indian Carnival of Trinidad and Tobago, the Christmas Sports of St.Kitts and Nevis, the Crop Over of Barbados and the Junkanoo of Jamaica. Through the migration of Caribbean people to England, during the 1950s and 1960s, those traditions, in turn, became fundamental in the creation of the Leeds West Indian Carnival.

Politics And Pan – Leeds West Indian Carnival, 1987

1987 Carnival logo.

The 1987 general elections held in June saw the election of the first Afro-Caribbean members of Parliament. They were Diane Abbott, Paul Boateng and Bernie Grant. The New World Steel Orchestra travelled from Leeds to London to perform at their inauguration.

Diane Abbott, 1987.

The second annual Seacroft Park Middle School Carnival took place on Saturday 20 June 1987 in the Seacroft area of Leeds. The carnival, organised by teachers and parents of the school, had begun in 1986 as an attempt to foster community spirit. 1987’s parade included students in fancy dress costumes, Tetley shire horses, decorated school minibuses, drummers from South Seacroft Youths and the Foxwood High School Steel Band. Foxwood Steel Band had been formed in 1981 after headmaster Bob Spooner bought a set of steel pans with funds provided by a government initiative designed to promote multiculturalism. The head of Music and Expressive Arts, Victoria Jaquiss became the band’s leader and the students were taught by St Clair Morris.  They made their performance debut in 1982.

Seacroft Carnival 1987.

Preparations for the 20th Leeds West Indian Carnival were well underway by June with well-established costume designers like Hughbon Condor and Arthur France already at work on their Carnival Queen creations. Hughbon Condor had been working on his costume since Christmas. In August he told the Yorkshire Evening Post “Every night for the past three months six friends and I have been working hard to finish it”. For 1987 Hughbon had a secret weapon. He had discovered fiberglass, which allowed him to build larger but lighter costumes. His 1987 Queen costume, ‘The Peacock’, with its large tail feathers took advantage of this new discovery and would be considered by Hughbon as a turning point in his career as a costume designer.

Meanwhile, riots broke out in the Chapeltown area of Leeds. Conditions for black residents of Chapeltown had improved very little since the 1981 riots or indeed the 1975 riot. Institutional racism had led to an increase in unemployment among black youths by the mid-1980s which in turn led to an increase in local crime, particularly involving drugs and prostitution.   Racism was still present within the police force and police harassment and brutality towards black youths was still common.  Riots around the Chapeltown Road area began on the night of Sunday 21 June after the arrest and rumoured assault of a 17-year-old boy. Vehicles were attacked with bottles and stones by a gang of around 70 teenagers on Chapeltown Road beginning around 8pm. The disturbance ended but started up again around 11.30pm. Around 60 police officers, protected by shields, were sent to the scene and were attacked by bottles and stones. Three local shops were reported to have suffered minimal damaged and around 2.30am a taxi driver dropping off a passenger was threatened and fled the scene. His car was later found burnt out on Cowper Street. Stone throwing on Chapeltown Road continued with around 100 youths on Monday night beginning around 10.30pm. Monday night saw an increase in violence with the inclusion of petrol bombs. During the early hours of Tuesday morning shops were looted, a local sex shop was set ablaze and at least one car was set on fire.  Tuesday’s Yorkshire Evening Post reported that community leaders and black elders were working with police to try and bring peace to the neighbourhood. A number of unnamed black elders and community leaders were reported to have been on Chapeltown Road on Monday night attempting to bring an end to the chaos. Meetings held at the West Indian Centre between local residents, local business owners, council members, and the police brought an end to the riots by Wednesday 24 June.

Despite the disturbances, the Leeds West Indian Carnival went ahead as planned. A blue carnival t-shirt featuring the new carnival logo was made for 1987. A special ‘Leeds Westindian CARNIVAL ‘87’ magazine was published by the committee. Its cover featured last year’s winning Carnival Queen Lisa Condor in all her glory. The 24-page magazine was sponsored and produced by Caribbean Times and was priced at 50p. It included a ‘Chairman’s Message’ in which Arthur France wrote “It is our greatest pleasure to welcome one and all, no matter what colour, creed or race to celebrate with us as we look back with pride and joy at our achievements”. Arthur went on to write “We can have a good laugh at our successes and how many people we’ve made happy and brought together”. He then went on to share some of the “many happy memories” from past carnivals.  The magazine printed messages of good will (dated to June) which came from Alex Pascall, the chairman of the Carnival Arts Committee, West Yorkshire Police, Commonwealth Institute, Technorth, City of Leeds College of Music, and Leeds Polytechnic among others. Colin Sampson, the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police wrote:

Over the years the event has developed into a first class, multi-cultural, fun day for thousands of the citizens of Leeds and this reflects great credit on the Carnival Committee and indeed on the public of Chapeltown.

87 m
1987 Carnival magazine. 

The magazine gave readers an account of how the Leeds West Indian Carnival started – the first written account of the 1967 carnival. The magazine also profiled the Leeds Carnival Committee members, gave a parade route map, a programme of events and a list of prizes to be won at the various contests. Also included was a profile on Melvin Zakers, The Paradise Steel Orchestra, The New World Steel Orchestra and Dudley Nesbit. Fourteen black and white photos of past carnival were also included in the magazine.

A message from the Carnival Committee informed the reader that they were looking “forward to seeing you once again, at the 1987 Carnival when we hope to stage our most spectacular and enjoyable event.” The magazine gives the names of 14 committee members with the Chairman Arthur France being the only member not mentioned in the three-page feature on the committee.

1987 Leeds West Indian Carnival Committee Members:
Arthur France (Chairman)
Jeannie Stoute (Secretary)
Stuart Bailey
Mavis Bell
Ian Charles
Hughbon Condor
Yala Fredricks
Lennie Jeffers
Alec McLeish
St. Clair Morris
Leroy Norford
Gloria Pemberton
Susan Pitter
Ken Wenham
Melvin Zakers

New for the 1987 Carnival was the Prince and Princess Show held at the West Indian Centre on Sunday 23 August. Leeds Other Paper informed their readers that “boys and girls between 8 & 14 can take part”. Gail Claxton, who had been a member of Arthur France’s troupe since 1978, tried her hand at costume making for the first time. She designed and made the costume for Princess contestant Samantha Gatewood who came second. This year’s show included the ‘Baby in a Pushchair’ competition for the first and last time. First prize was given to 11 month old Helen Victoria Jeffers who was in a costume titled ‘Queen Bee’ which turned her pushchair into a giant flower. It had been designed and made by her mother Joan Jeffers. Another baby’s pushchair was turned into a giant bumblebee. Helen, or perhaps her parents, won a prize of £10. Prizes of £20 each were given to the best Princess and best Prince.  Sherry Pemberton (11) won the Carnival Princess and Wayne Bailey (8) took the first Carnival Prince title. According to Leeds Other Paper an ‘Open Dance’ competition was also held. The “full support show” included a steel band, dancers, disco and “other acts”.  In their 21 August issue, Leeds Other Paper mentions Roscoe Methodist Church Steel Band and The Leopold Street Dancers being among the entertainment. Admission was free and the show ran from 3pm until 7pm.

Baby in a Pushchair contestants with their mothers. 

The Roscoe Methodist Church Steel Band that performed at the Prince and Princess Show was the second incarnation of the band first formed in 1984. The band had been reformed earlier in the year and now included both adult and child members including Elbert Moving, Myrna Tyrell and Sheila Forbes. The band’s tutor was carnival committee member and leader of Paradise Steel Band, St. Clair Morris.

A four-page printed programme was put together for the 1987 Queen Show. Inside it listed the six Queens competing in the competition. They were

  • Amaire Claxton in a costume titled ‘The Peacock’ designed and made by Hughbon Condor, sponsored by Yorkshire Arts Association.
  • Heather Thompson in a costume designed and sponsored by Apex Trust.
  • Sharon Lewis in a costume designed and made by Tyrone Ambrose, sponsored by Mecca Leisure.
  • Venetta Bussue and Julia Lewis in a costume designed and sponsored by St. Martin’s Church Group.
  • Icylma Richards in a costume designed and sponsored by the Palace Youth Project.
  • Gaye Gooding in a costume designed and made by Arthur France, sponsored by New World Steel Orchestra.

The Queen Show was held inside the marquee erected outside the West Indian Centre on Friday 28 August. Tickets were priced at £2.50 and the show began at 9pm and lasted until 2am the following morning. On the front page of that evening’s Yorkshire Evening Post a small article under the headline ‘A Caribbean dream on offer’ gave details of what was on offer for the winner of the contest. “Tonight one of six girls will be casting aside the thoughts of drizzly Britain for the sun-drenched beaches of the Caribbean” they began before going on to explain “For that is the prize awaiting the lucky girl chosen to be this year’s Leeds West Indian Carnival Queen”.  The newspaper reported that the trip wasn’t the only prize, explaining that the winning Queen “will lead the Carnival Parade of steel bands, dancing troupes and floats from Potternewton Park” during Monday’s parade.

The compere for the evening was again Susan Pitter who officially opened the show at 10pm after an hour of music provided by Berisford Sound. After a performance by ‘Contemporary Dancers’ that included Flora Wilkes, the winning Prince and Princess danced on the stage for fifteen minutes. 1987’s “Ole Mas” sketch involved Arthur France dressed as Diane Abbott, the country’s first female black MP. Dressed in a black wig, makeup, and a red dress complete with white handbag, Arthur was photographed by Max Farrar. The photo shows Arthur holding a placard that reads “MP DIANE ABBOTT ON THE POLL TAX!!!”Comedian The Mighty Zipper returned for 1987 and was photographed by Max Farrar mid-show, wearing large novelty ears, his trousers around his ankles and his decency covered by a colourful apron. The joke, long forgotten, was enjoyed by members of the New World Steel Orchestra, seen cheering and laughing in the background. At 11.10pm guests were entertained by Dudley Nesbit who performed a solo on the steel pans. Dudley Nesbit had arrived from Trinidad earlier in the year to take up a teaching post with Leeds City Council, teaching steel pan music and pan tuning. He also became the tutor for the New World Steel Orchestra, improving and expanding their repertoire.  Entertainment later in the night included the La Caramba Limbo dancers which featured Janet Halliday and the New World Steel Orchestra. The full programme was as follows:

9:00 – Berisford Sounds
10:00 – Opening of Show with Susan Pitter
10:05 – Contemporary Dancers
10:15 – Prince and Princess
10:30 – “Ole Mas”
10:45 – The Mighty Zipper
10:55 – Contemporary Dance Group
11:10 – Dudley Nesbit Steel Pan Solo
11:25 – Carnival Queen Contest
12:15 – Limbo Dancers
12:30 – Results
12:45 – Berisford Sounds
1:30 – New World Steel Orchestra

Arthur France as Diane Abbott. (Photo: Max Farrar) 

The West Yorkshire Archives holds around three minutes of colour footage that shows all six Queens dancing for the judges while accompanied by the New World Steel Orchestra. First out was Sharon Lewis in a costume designed by new-comer Tyrone Ambrose. She was followed by Heather Thompson and then Susie Abbott who had replaced Gaye Gooding as the Queen chosen to wear Arthur France’s costume. Her costume shows that, 20 years on, Christmas tinsel was still being used in some designs. Icylma Richards followed in a spider and web costume designed and made by the team at the Palace Youth Project. Fabulous as these Queens were, they could not compete with the next Queen, the likes of which had never been seen at the Leeds West Indian Carnival before or since. St. Martin’s Church Group’s costume entered the performance area closed up and slowly opened up, receiving a huge cheer from the crowd. The performer on the programme was listed as Venetta Bussue but once the costume had fully opened up, after being helped along by Arthur France, it revealed not one but two performers. The second of which was Julia Lewis.  The crowd, taken aback, erupted with cheers. Last out was Hughbon Condor’s fiberglass wonder ‘The Peacock’ worn by Amaire Claxton, which also received a great deal of appreciation from the crowd, especially when the tail feathers rose into the air. The judges for 1987 were Brian Braimah, Dr. Loss, Brenda Muskett, Leroy Wenham and Sheila Wilkes.

The Carnival Queen contest was followed by La Caramba Limbo dancers who were given a helping hand by Susan Pitter who held the limbo pole steady as the two women limboed under it. Around 15 seconds of colour footage of the performance is kept in the West Yorkshire Archives. After the fifteen minute limbo show, the results for the Queen contest were given.  17-year-old Amaire Claxton won the first prize. Her prize was a ticket to the West Indies donated by BWIA. “but” reported the Yorkshire Evening Post “first she must choose which island she would like to visit”.

Hughbon Condor was awarded £150 plus a trophy. The second placed Queen won £80 plus a trophy with the designer winning the same. The third place prize for both the Queen and designer was £60 each plus a trophy. The remaining three Queens and designers were awarded a consolation prize of £30 and a trophy. Amaire Claxton’s photograph was taken by the Yorkshire Evening Post who featured her on the front page the following day alongside a short report on the Queen Show. The newspaper estimated that the show was attended by “more than 600” people.

Venetta Bussue and Julia Lewis on the stage at Potternewton Park. 

Reggae and Ska legends Toots And The Maytals performed live at The Phoenix Club on Francis Street on the night of Saturday 29 August. Tickets could be bought from Jumbo Records at £4 each. The second annual Reggae Concert was held in Potternewton Park on Sunday 30 August. Headlining the free concert was British reggae group Aswad, whose latest single was ‘Hooked On You’.  They attracted a large crowd and performed songs including ‘Roots Rocking’ and ‘African Children’. Both songs had been recorded live when Aswad performed at the Notting Hill Carnival in 1983. They were later released on the album ‘Live And Direct’. Also on the bill was Macka B and Sister Sonie.  Local acts performing included Creation Roots, Exile Intact, P.L.U Band and Rydim Squad. Leeds Other Paper reported on the concert in their 4 September issue. “The weather could not have been any better for this massive reggae show” they reported. Under the headline ‘Potternewton Park Festival’ they reported that “Exile Intact were the most impressive of the local acts, playing a cool blend of roots reggae and lovers rock, sweet melodies and finely balanced instrumentations shimmering like reflected sunlight over the crucial rhythms.”

Crowds at the Reggae Concert held in Potternewton Park.

Monday’s carnival parade began at Potternewton Park at 2pm and was officially opened by the Lord Mayor of Leeds Doreen Wood. Yorkshire Evening Post photographer Steve Riding took her photo alongside Amaire Claxton and Hughbon Condor prior to the parade. Captain Wenham’s Big Drum and Fife band were joined by The Leeds West Indian Masquerade Dancers, a troupe made up of children and adults in traditional costumes. The Leeds West Indian Masquerade Dancers led the parade which “whooped, whistled, danced, sang and cavorted” its way from Potternewton Park to Roundhay Road. PC Billy Gilmore was photographed by Bruce Greer of the Yorkshire Post as he danced along with The Leeds West Indian Masquerade Dancers. In their 21 August issue, Leeds Other Paper reported that troupes from Leeds, Manchester, Huddersfield and Bradford took part in the parade. Among them was the peacock inspired ‘Birds of a Feather’ troupe organised by Hughbon Condor. Among its members were the young Stephbon Condor, Rose Farrar and Michelle Condor.  Children from the Harehills Lane Baptist Church Sunday School formed a troupe with the theme of Noah’s Ark. Among its members were Louise Hibbit (8) and Charlotte Bandawe (9) who were both dressed as zebras. Their photos appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Post the next day. Another troupe of children were dressed as sailors. Also on the road for 1987 was former Lord Mayor of Leeds Councillor Christine Thomas dressed in a star costume. In her role as the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Christine Thomas had officially opened the carnival in 1979. The Yorkshire Post described the parade as “a kaleidoscopic conga” that “whirled, jived and jigged its way through the streets of Leeds”.

Amaire Claxton during the parade. 

Five steel bands took part in the parade. They were the New World Steel Orchestra, the Metro Steel Band and the Caribbeans from Leeds, Star Quality from Manchester and Silver Stars from Birmingham. The Caribbeans Steel Band were sponsored by the Caribbean Times and all the members sported ‘CT Caribbean Times’ t-shirts. The Yorkshire Evening Post reported that 30,000 “revellers jived and jigged their way through the streets of Chapeltown”.  The Yorkshire Post added that they “added their own accompaniment with whistles and hooters.”

David Marsh for the Yorkshire Evening Post wrote that “the weather added to the carnival atmosphere as early grey clouds gave way to warm sunshine”. It was reported in the Yorkshire Post that the heat “took its toll” on Amarie Claxton who had to temporarily remove her costume and take a breather.

Icylma Richards and members of the Palace Youth Project troupe. 

Back at Potternewton Park, entertainment on the stage was provided by Eastern Vibrations soca band and the Esso Steel Band. Among the sound systems playing in the park were Maverick International Sound and Collin & Kid Sound.  The Yorkshire Evening Post reported that “stalls, sideshows, games and displays were being held” in the park.

Once the parade returned to the park “more than three hours” later, prizes were given on the stage, which now had a waterproof roof. Prizes were given for best carnival troupe (£100 plus trophy), largest troupe (trophy), best troupe display (trophy), best individual costume (£50 plus trophy), best steel band on the road (£100 plus trophy), and best steel band presentation (trophy).

The following day, the Yorkshire Evening Post reported that TV personality Jimmy Savile had been present at Potternewton Park “on a training run”.  He was quoted in the paper saying “It’s a marvellous event. I like the colour, the music and the beaming, smiling faces. With a bit of sunshine you have the recipe for a perfect day.”

The Yorkshire Evening Post ran a short report on the carnival on the front page of that evening’s paper.  Under the headline ‘All roads lead to carnival’ the newspaper reported that “Floats, dance troupes and steel bands from all over the North gathered in Leeds today for the West Indian Carnival – the city’s largest street festival.” The Yorkshire Evening Post gave a more detailed account of the carnival the next day. A black and white photo of Amaire Claxton was featured on the front page with eight more black and white photos appearing on page ten.  ‘Triumph of Chapeltown’ read the headline on the front page of the Tuesday 1 September issue and on page ten “Caribbean joy as crowds whoop it up”.

Louise Hibbit and Charlotte Bandaw, members of the the Harehills Lane Baptist Church Sunday School troupe. 

Leeds Other Paper included two black and white photos of the carnival on the front page of their 4 September issue with a third photo appearing on page 5 alongside a photo of Notting Hill Carnival.

The carnival was again crime free, marking two decades without a single arrest made at the Leeds West Indian Carnival.  The Yorkshire Post reported that the police “had little to do but redirect traffic”. Chief Superintendent Alan Stoneley spoke to the Yorkshire Evening Post, telling them “It was trouble-free and everyone had a good time. I would like to congratulate everyone involved with the carnival”. The story was much different at the Notting Hill Carnival however. Twenty-three-year-old Michael Galvin was murdered during the first day of the Notting Hill Carnival. The Yorkshire Evening Post reported on the story on Monday 31 August under the headline ‘Carnival death: Plea for calm’. Michael Galvin, a stall owner on Ledbury Road, was selling food and drinks during the carnival when he was stabbed to death after an argument broke out over the theft of a can of Coca-Cola. Alban Turner was sentenced with the murder in December 1988. The death of Michael Galvin wasn’t the only incidence of violence at the Notting Hill Carnival in 1987. A riot broke out on the streets of Notting Hill just hours after the carnival came to an end, during which at least one police officer was stabbed. Hundreds of arrests were made throughout the day and night. On Tuesday’s front page, the Yorkshire Evening Post reported “A tale of two carnivals – one of peace and joy in Leeds, the other of violence and hatred in London – was told today”.  They went on to say “The Leeds community has had its problems, but it is true to say that it  is now rewarding the city with a new dimension and character on the summer holiday weekend”.

Troupes on the road.

The future of the Leeds Gala, held in Roundhay Park on the same day as the carnival, was in question after a massive decrease in attendance.  The Yorkshire Evening Post reported that the 1987 Gala only attracted 17,000 people. Poor attendance at 1986’s Gala was put down to the poor weather conditions but now the Gala Committee blamed “other conflicting things”. Jack Pickles of the Gala Committee spoke to the Yorkshire Evening Post saying “With Leeds United at home and the West Indian Carnival and an event at Harewood, it’s obviously something we have to consider”. Jack Pickles went on to say “We do have to charge to put on the acts we do, while the West Indian Carnival is free”.

The Last Lap Dance was held at the West Indian Centre on Monday night from 8pm until 6am Tuesday morning. Tickets were priced at £3 for which quests would be entertained by the Trinidad Calypso King 1987 Black Stalin. He had won the title with two calypso numbers; ‘Mr Pan Maker’, a tribute to steel bands and ‘Bun ‘Em’ a song that called for St. Peter to cast the likes of Christopher Columbus, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher into Hell. He was joined at the West Indian Centre by Denyse Plummer backed by Roy Cape and the Calypso All Stars.  Music was provided by Colin & Kids Sounds plus the carnival procession steel bands.


Where Culture Waits on the Corner – Leeds West Indian Carnival 1986

On 1 April 1986 The Times newspaper published an article written by Alan Franks on the Chapeltown area of Leeds entitled ‘Where trouble waits on the corner’. The article unfairly portrayed Chapeltown as a ‘no go area’ with a high crime rate. Local residents responded with a petition that requested that the Press Council investigated the article. The petition, which received hundreds of signatures in the first week, read “it is our belief that such biased material, overtly racist in content, has done damage to our community”.  Leeds Other Paper rebuffed the article in their 18 April issue by pointing out that Chapeltown had less reported crime than other areas of Leeds. The Chapeltown community itself rebuffed the article by having one of the most cultured, family-friendly and trouble-free summers in the area’s recent history.

By 1986 Leeds had its very own soca band. Formed around August 1984, The Macassars were fronted by Bajan Lou Prinze who had been singing since the late 60s. Lou Prinze had been the lead singer with the rocksteady group The Bedrocks and, using the stage name ‘Lord Prinze’, had entered the Leeds Calypso King contest before it ended in 1972. Since then he had performed soul, reggae, funk, jazz and pop. By 1985 The Macassars had grown to be an eight piece band. Apart from their lead singer, Lou Prinze (who now went by the name Lionel), the rest of the group were white and hailed from various parts of Britain. The band members were brothers Rich (trumpet) and Geoff (percussion) from Croydon, brothers Davy (drums) and Stevie (bass) from Northern Ireland, Chas (trumpet) a Welshman from Worcester, Tony (guitar) from the south of England and Pete (trombone) from Leeds. The Macassars performed self-composed up-tempo soca, highlife and reggae music alongside covers of Bob Marley songs. The band’s self-penned numbers included ‘Run From Me’, ‘Lace Up’, ‘Soweto Ballad’, ‘The Loud Cry’ and ‘Fighting All The Time’. The band turned professional in 1985 after taking on Tony Burton from Leeds as their manager.  They made several public appearances during 1985 and 1986 including Leeds Aid for Ethiopia, People’s Festival, the International Peace Festival and World of Music, Arts And Dance Festival.   In 1986 The Macassars released a 12” EP on their own Bullfrog label which was produced by Mad Professor. The EP was followed by a European tour that included stops in Holland and Denmark.

Residents of Chapeltown enjoyed the sounds and sights of carnival early in 1986 when young students of Leopold Street Primary School took to the streets with their very own carnival parade. The carnival parade took place on Saturday 12 July and included hundreds of children aged 4 to 9 in self-made colourful costumes blowing whistles. They were joined by their own steel band which sported the slogan ‘Black and white unit’. The parade began at Leopold Street Primary School and made its way around the local neighbourhood before returning to the school. Once the parade returned to the school the children enjoyed stalls, games and refreshments.

Children at the Leopold Street Primary School Carnival, 1986.

A three day ‘People’s Festival’ took place in Chapeltown from Friday 18 until Sunday 20 July. The festival, which was free during the day, was held across three venues in Chapeltown: Leeds Trade Club (Savile Mount), Mandela Centre (Chapeltown Road) and The West Indian Centre (Laycock Place). Mavrick and Jungle Warrior Sound Systems joined the Ariwa Posse at the Mandela Centre for a reggae all-nighter on the night of Friday 18 July. Tickets were priced at £3.75 or £3 for UB40 holders and the concert began at 10pm and ended at 6am Saturday morning.

The Ariwa Posse was made up of artists signed to the London-based Ariwa label and its members were:
Sandra Cross
Ranking Ann
Sister Au Rey
Black Steel
Slim Linton
Glen Browne
Lorna Gee

The festival was officially opened on Saturday with the release of hundreds of red balloons and music by the Chapeltown Youth Steel Band. Among the many acts performing at the festival was soca band Macassars and Brandford reggae and ska group Spectre. Jamaican poet Jean Breeze also performed at the festival. To close the festival Ras Sparta and Jungle Warrior sound systems played at the West Indian Centre on Sunday 20 July from 8pm until midnight. Tickets were priced at £1.

Advert for ‘People’s Festival ’86’ .

In July local youths in Chapeltown organised an event that they called ‘the greatest ever dance hall session’ to be held at the Phoenix Club. With no big-money backers, the organisers needed to sell the £5 tickets in advance to help cover the costs. Local solicitor Ruth Bundey was brought on board and in July she spoke to Leeds Other Paper saying “I’ve drawn up a contract so that if anything should go wrong, people will definitely get their money back”. The event took place on Monday 21 July and Jamaican singer Sugar Minott had been booked as the star attraction but didn’t turn up on the night. Other performers included Major Stich, Blacka T, Yammy Boler and Colour Man. Music was also provided by Freedom Sound System who claimed to be the loudest in the UK. Despite the absence of Sugar Minott, the event ran smoothly and a review was given in Leeds Other Paper in their 1 August issue.

As part of the Caribbean Focus 86 Initiative, a special steel orchestra concert was held in Leeds on Friday 25 July. The concert, which took place at St Aidan’s Church on Roundhay Road from 7.30pm starred the Catelli Trinidad All Stars Steel Orchestra. The 41 piece steel orchestra was founded in Trinidad in the 1940s and were touring the UK at the time. Their repertoire included classical pieces by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Sullivan and Verdi along with calypso and pop classics. Leeds sound system Mavrick Internash were the support act for reggae artist Macka B when he performed at the Gaiety Pub in Chapeltown on Monday 11 August. Macka B was one of the Ariwa label artists who had not performed at the People’s Festival in July. Tickets were priced at £3 and the show began at 9pm and lasted until 2am the next morning.

Poster for Mack B and Mavrick Internash, 1986.

A ‘Reggae Expo Carnival’ was due to take place in Roundhay Park on Sunday 22 June. According to an advertisement placed in the Guardian newspaper in early June the acts due to play included Aswad, Bad Manners, Mighty Diamonds, Black Uhuru, and Sly Dunbar. The concert was to be one of three national concerts organised by ‘Caribbean Focus 86’ however the concert was cancelled just weeks before it was due to take place. After the cancellation of the concert in the first week of June, the City Council’s Leisure Service Department set about organising a similar event to take place in August. In August it was announced that a free reggae concert would be held in Potternewton Park on Sunday 24 August – one day before the Leeds West Indian Carnival parade. Although not a part of the carnival, the reggae concert held in 1986 was to become the first annual concert held in Potternewton Park the day before the carnival parade that would become strongly associated with the carnival. The concert began at 1pm and was due to finish at 7.30pm. Artists appearing included Nitty Gritty, Anthony Johnson, The Instigator Band, Leeds bands Exiles Intact, P.L.U Band and Matamba, Chapeltown’s own Clifton Irie, Papa Levi, Mikey General, Troublesome, Sugar Merchant, Bonito Star, and Cruiser plus MCs KD Rankor, Pabio D and Mikey Dread. A red, gold and green programme was produced and was sold at a minimum price of 20p with proceeds going to African famine relief.  Local band P.L.U Band opened the show to “a scattering of people”. The October issue of Chapeltown And Harehills What’s On noted that P.L.U had been together since February and played a set of self-penned songs. They were followed by another local band Matamba. Next up were Exiles Intact, another local band who now had a large following, had made a TV appearance and had released a successful single ‘Who Is There’ in late 1985. They were the only local act on the bill that had recorded and their single was still selling at the time. The audience had now grown to “a thousand people” with “more streaming down the hill”. The Instigators played in white suits and later backed Anthony Johnson. Papa Levi performed his 1984 single ‘Mi God Mi King’. Jamaican star Nitty Gritty closed the show. The Yorkshire Evening Post and Yorkshire Post didn’t report on the concert but Leeds Other Paper did and included a photo of Anthony Johnson on the front cover of their 29 August issue with two more photos on page 5. The paper’s review of the concert appeared on page 13 under the headline ‘Reggae on the rates’. The newspaper gave a positive review overall but suggested the concert could have been improved by “putting an African band on or one like Zinica from Nicaragua”. Later that night, beginning at 11pm ‘A Dance Session’ was held at the Phoenix Club which featured Kenny Knott, Jean Adebambo, Ranking Miss P and The Ras Sparta Showcase until 5am the next morning. A dance was also held at the West Indian Centre.

Anthony Johnson in Potternewton Park, 1986.

Build-up to the nineteenth Leeds West Indian Carnival began in May when it was announced that St. Paul’s Gallery at Stowe House on Bishopgate Street would be putting on a special exhibition in celebration of the carnival and in recognition of the carnival’s importance to Leeds. It was also announced that St. Paul’s Gallery would be funding an ‘artist-in-residence’ to capture the spirit and excitement of the carnival through paintings, photographs or sculpture. Artists living in West Yorkshire, who were interesting in the position, were invited to apply at the gallery. Of the huge number of artists that applied for the position, Leeds artist Jennifer Comrie was selected at the end of July to paint the Leeds West Indian Carnival. Her brief was to respond to and interpret the preparation, sights, sounds and scenes of the carnival. A representative from St. Paul’s Gallery spoke to Leeds Other Paper in August and said “We feel confident that her results will be as exciting and colourful as the day itself”. Born in Leeds, Jennifer had attended a one year foundation course at Jacob Kramer College and had just finished the final year of her degree course in London. Jennifer began work on her painting on 28 July. The exhibition was opened on Saturday 16 August and ran until 13 September. The art on display was changed during the course of the exhibition with Jennifer’s pre-carnival painting being replaced with new work. A special open day was held on 29 August with the winning Carnival Queen costume being displayed at the gallery and New World Steel Orchestra performing at Leeds City Station Concourse, opposite the gallery, from 3pm until 5pm.

In 1986 Lennie Jeffers joined the Carnival Committee. Born in Nevis, Lennie had lived in Cleckheaton in West Yorkshire since the age of six. He moved to London in 1978 to pursuit higher education but came to Leeds the following year and became involved with the Leeds West Indian Carnival. He began volunteering with the Probation Service in Leeds in 1982 and began working as a qualified Probation Officer in 1986. With an interest in art, one of his first tasks as a Carnival Committee member was to design a new logo for the Leeds West Indian Carnival. In 1986 the carnival managed to gain sponsorship from the weekly newspaper Caribbean Times, edited by Arif Ali.

Lennie Jeffers.

Five Queen costumes were made for the 1986 Leeds West Indian Carnival. They included a costume titled ‘Sea Anemone’ designed and made by Hughbon Condor. Hughbon had been inspired to design the costume after a visit to Tropical World at Roundhay Park, Leeds.  Open in 1983, Tropical World is a series of temperature-controlled glasshouses that hold a large collection of tropical pants and small animals and insects including butterflies, birds and reptiles. Tropical World also has an aquarium which is home to a variety of fish and sea anemones. On entering the aquarium, Hughbon had not noticed the sea anemone which was closed up. He noticed it on the way out after the sea anemone had opened up. In the August 2017 Community Highlights magazine Hughbon explained “When I was walking in I didn’t notice it but as I was walking out I saw its beautiful tentacles so I came home and made one like it.” Hughbon’s design allowed the costume to open up on the stage the way the real sea anemone had when he had seen it at Tropical World. With its 3D design that measured eight foot in diameter , Sea Anemone was Hughbon’s largest costume to date and was worn by his 18-year-old sister Lisa Condor. Ex-committee member Violet Hendrickson had teamed up with members of St. Martin’s Church in Potternewton to create a costume titled ‘The Caribbean Seas’.

Julia Lewis as ‘The Caribbean Seas’.

The 1986 Carnival Queen Show took place in the marquee erected outside the West Indian Centre on Laycock Place and was compered by Susan Pitter. As well as being on the Carnival Committee Susan was now serving on the Caribbean Focus ’86 Committee as the secretary.

The five Queens taking part were:

  • Julia Lewis in a costume titled ‘The Caribbean Seas’ designed and made by Violet Hendrickson and St. Martin’s Church.
  • Lisa Condor in a costume titled ‘Sea Anemone’ designed and made by Hughbon Condor.
  • Sarah Beckles in a costume designed and made by Leroy Norford.
  • Sheila Howarth in a costume designed and made by Mr and Mrs Howarth.
  • Sonia Mitchum in a costume designed and made by Alec McLeish.
Lisa Condor at the Carnival Queen Show.

Entertainment at the Queen Show was provided by local comedian The Mighty Zipper and music was provided by Beresford Sound. The winning Queen was Lisa Condor as ‘Sea Anemone’, giving Hughbon Condor his first win since 1983 and his fourth win at Leeds overall. A Carnival Princess was also chosen for the first time in 1986. At least three contestants took part, all in costumes designed by Alan Julien. The crown was taken by Rhonda Ward.

The Leeds West Indian Carnival parade took place on Monday 25 August. A total of 16 troupes took part in the parade which included groups from Leeds, Bradford, Manchester, Huddersfield and Leicester.  Thousands of people gathered along the parade route and the following day the Yorkshire Evening Post reported that “thousands turned out to join the carnival parade through Chapeltown, or watch it pass from every available vantage point”.Max Farrar was again present with his camera and took a number of colour photos, some of which would later appear in the 1987 Leeds West Indian Carnival magazine, in black and white. Confusingly the magazine also included at least one photo from 1984. One of Max’s photos shows Julia Lewis as ‘The Caribbean Seas’ leading the St. Martin’s Church troupe whose members included Rose Farrar, Michelle Condor and Claudia Hobson.

Crowd on the carnival parade route.

Also on the road were Lord Silkie and The Tetley Crew, a troupe of Red Indians and a troupe of traditional masqueraders. Benjy’s Masqueraders were again on the road in 1986 and this year they were dressed as Pierrot Clowns. Their members again included Ruth Bundey.  It’s likely that this was the year that The Tetley Crew wore homemade costumes made out of newspapers. As the rain came down towards the end of the parade and the suits began to fall apart, the crew kept going. By the time The Tetley Crew had reached Potternewton Park Mitch Wallace and other members of the crew were soaked to the bone. Mitch would later recall being stood in the park wearing nothing but underwear and sheets of soaking wet newspaper.

Troupe of Pierrot clowns.

9-year-old Debra Phillips was photographed by the Yorkshire Evening Post in her costume and Milli Harewood from Birmingham was photographed dancing with P.C Billy Gilmore. Milli, who had attended the carnival every year, spoke to the Yorkshire Evening Post telling them “We have a carnival in Handsworth and then there’s the one at Notting Hill but I think Leeds is the best”.  “The atmosphere is better and everyone is friendlier – even the police” she went on to explain. A total of five steel bands took part in the parade. Among them was the the popular North Stars Steel Band from Huddersfield whose members included Crunch, Doc, Kevin, Skinhead, Warren and Marks. The New World Steel Orchestra, now sporting their new blue and white uniforms, attracted a large crowd, some of whom may have been undead. In the 1987 Leeds West Indian Carnival magazine, Arthur France wrote about the presence of two ghosts at the parade. “Check this, hear a man tell his friend that he see 2 jumby (ghost) jumping up in front of New World Steel Orchestra” he wrote. The remaining steel bands were Paradise Steel Bad and The Caribbeans Steel Band from Leeds and The Groovers Steel Band from London.  The Yorkshire Post reported “Hundreds of whistles and drums accompanied the dancers and steel bands as they jived and calypsoed their way along a three-mile route”. The newspaper went on to report “A secondary rhythm was created by the opening of cans of Jamaican Red Stripe lager”. The parade lasted around three hours and travelled along Harehills Avenue, Harehills Lane, Roundhay Road, Barrack Road and Chapeltown Road.

New World Steel Orchestra on the road, 1986.

Grey clouds marked the beginning of the carnival but the rain mainly held off until the parade returned to the park. With Hurricane Charley hitting the UK during the Bank Holiday weekend, the 1986 carnival was perhaps the wettest carnival day since 1974. Despite the heavy rain, thousands (The Yorkshire Post estimated 30,000) of people gathered in Potternewton Park to be entertained by Tropical Heatwave, a soca band from Manchester and Ras Sparta and Jungle Warrior sound systems from Leeds. Trophies were presented on the stage with the Checkpoint Chameleons troupe from the Checkpoint Centre in Bradford winning biggest troupe and the Fantasy Bees by Arthur France and Alan Herbert of Leeds taking the prize for best troupe. Once again, the carnival was reported to be trouble free and no arrests were made. In the 1987 Leeds West Indian Carnival magazine, the carnival committee thanked “both participants and members of the public, who braved the adverse weather conditions to help make the 1986 Carnival a great success.”

Paradise Steel Band on the road, 1986.

Tuesday’s Yorkshire Evening Post included five black and white photos of the carnival which showed troupes in costume and Carnival Queen Lisa Condor. Lisa Condor also appeared on the front page of the Yorkshire Post above a story on Bank Holiday Weekend events that had suffered from the poor weather conditions caused by Hurricane Charley. The article, which continued on page 3, gave four paragraphs to the Leeds West Indian Carnival which was just one of the events to take place over the Bank Holiday weekend.   The Leeds Gala, which took place at Roundhay Park the same day received greater coverage, which was the norm for both the Yorkshire Post and Yorkshire Evening Post. The latter had included a special ‘Guide To The Leeds Gala’ pull-out the previous week. Leeds Other Paper reported on the carnival in their 29 August issue that included a black and white photo of Lisa Condor on the front page. Four more black and white photos appeared on pages 4 and 5 alongside photos from Sunday’s reggae concert in Potternewton Park. The October issue of ‘Chapeltown And Harehills What’s On’ featured a black and white photo of Lisa Condor on their front page but didn’t include any report of the carnival inside. They did, however, report on the the reggae concert and Caribbean In Focus.

Lisa and Hughbon Condor in Potternewton Park.

Community Carnival – Leeds West Indian Carnival 1985

In May 1985 a carnival was held in the Hyde Park area of Leeds to celebrate the official opening of the improved and extended Brudenell Centre on Welton Road. The carnival took place on Saturday 25 May at the community education centre. A procession took place around the local area and a variety of stalls were set up at the centre. Entertainment was provided by local musicians including Paradise Steel Band led by St. Clair Morris. Leeds Other Paper reported on the carnival the following week in their 31 May issue that included a photo of Paradise Steel Band on page 4. While the Paradise Steel Band continued to achieve success locally and nationally, the Roscoe Methodist Church Youth Steel Band were struggling despite archiving local success in their first year. Due to the inappropriate behaviour of some young members and the  fact that the band’s tutor Raymond Joseph had difficulty travelling to and from Huddersfield, band rehearsals became less frequent in the first half of 1985. These factors, along with a shortage of financial support meant the band folded by the summer of 1985. 

In Birmingham the second Handsworth Carnival was held in Handsworth Park. A short procession included a troupe in costumes designed and made by Arlton Browne. Also known as Professor Black, Alrton Browne had attended last year’s carnival but hadn’t made costumes for the parade until 1985. Born in St. Kitts, Alrton had trained to become a tailor before coming to England in 1961. He formed a steel band and began performing self-taught magic. His party trick was to pick up a table with his teeth. He made several appearances on TV during the 1970s and 1980s including episodes of Opportunity Knocks and New Faces. Entertainment in Handsworth Park for the 1985 carnival included Wassifa Showcase and Observer sound systems.

Professor Black 1985
Alrton Browne, 1985.

In Huddersfield, the Huddersfield Carnival Committee was founded to develop the Caribbean Parade, which had been part of the Festival of Racial Friendship, into a separate event. A group of people involved with the Leeds West Indian Carnival including Arthur France and ex-committee member Felina Hughes attended meetings to help organise the carnival. The town was already home to the well-known North Stars steel band and award-winning costume designer Allan Julien and the roots of the Huddersfield Carnival can be traced back to 1968. 1985 marked the first official Huddersfield Carnival, held in July. The influence of the Leeds West Indian Carnival can been seen in the programme of events. Celebrations began on 22 June with a Carnival Queen Show held at the Silver Stands nightclub on Venn Street. Among the four judges was Arthur France and Reginald Challenger from the Leeds West Indian Carnival. Dianne Francis was chosen as the winning Queen and her photograph appeared in the Daily Examiner. The carnival parade took place on 6 July and travelled from Beck Road, through the town center and ended at Greenhead Park. A Carnival Dance was held that night at the Hudawi Centre on Great Northern Street.

Dianne Francis first ever Carnival Queen 1985,
Huddersfield Carnival Queen, Dianne Francis.

In Leicester, Elvy Morton along with a small committee of Caribbean people organised and self-founded the first West Indian Carnival in Leicester. Among the committee was Joe ‘Boyd’ Caines and Wellington ‘Duke’ Thomas from St. Kitts. Joe Caines founded the Leicester Clowns, one of Leicester first carnival troupes. Another member of the committee was Walton ‘Funnyman’ George who,  in the 1994 Leicester Caribbean Carnival magazine, was credited with ‘initiated’ the idea of Leicester Carnival. Elvy Morton was born in Nevis in 1935 and arrived in England in 1959. She worked as a nurse in Birmingham before moving to Leicester when she got married in 1961. August 1984 marked the 150th anniversary of emancipation of slaves in the West Indies. Disappointed that no events were held in Leicester to commemorate the anniversary, Elvy set about organising an annual West Indian Carnival to celebrate the anniversary of emancipation in the West Indies. The first carnival was held on Saturday 3 August 1985 in Victoria Park and included troupes in costumes and steel pan bands on flatbed lorries. The first carnival queen was Felicity McCarthy. Looking back in 1994 she said “Being the very first Carnival Queen was a great thrill”. A Calypso King contest was also held and first prize was taken by Walton ‘Funnyman’ George. A Leicester Caribbean Carnival magazine was published in 1985 and every other year since.

Leicester carnival, 1985.

In Leeds the carnival committee added another new member, 40-year-old Brainard Braimah who originated from Ghana. Costume designing and making, as usual, began months in advance and 1985 saw two new designers trying their hand at carnival queen costumes for the first time.  Unemployed 17-year-old Alec McLeish used his spare time to practice his skills of art and crafts and made his first Carnival Queen costume for the 1985 carnival. 18-year-old Melvin Zakers ,with help from his fellow New World Steel Orchestra band members, also made a carnival queen costume in 1985. According to the Yorkshire Evening Post the costume only took “a few days to make”.

The front page of the August issue of Chapeltown And Harehills What’s On read “Don’t Miss The Fabulous Chapeltown Carnival” and gave details of the year’s events including the “street jump up” on August bank holiday Monday.  Due to complaints over late night noise this year’s Carnival Queen Show was moved to the newly opened West Indian Centre on Laycock Place. (The August issue of Chapeltown And Harehills What’s On mistakenly gives Primrose Hill High School as the venue for the Queen Show, which had been the venue for previous years.) The leader of the Leeds City Council George Mudie had arranged for the car park outside the centre to be tarmacked so that a marque could be erected. This move brought the carnival closer to the community. The Carnival Queen Show took place on Friday 23 August and Reggie Challenger and Susan Pitter were the comperes again.  The Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councilor Sydney Symmonds was the guest of honor. His photograph alongside Reggie Challenger and Susan Pitter appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Post the following day. Tickets for the show were sold at £2.50 each. Music at the Queen Show was provided by North Stars Steel Band from Huddersfield who performed as the Queens danced on the stage. A 15-second colour clip kept in the West Yorkshire Archive shows Debra Jeffers dancing in her Queen costume designed and made by Arthur France.  The winning Queen was 26-year-old Murilla Smithen in a costume titled ‘Fan Queen’ designed and made by Melvin Zakers.

Reggie Challenger, Sydney Symmonds and Susan Pitter.

In their Tuesday 27 August issue, the Yorkshire Evening Post gave some details on the winning queen. They reported that she had left school without an O-level but had gone on to do O and A-level law in Wolverhampton and was looking forward to beginning work with a firm of Leeds solicitors as an articled clerk.  “I have been having the summer off” Murilla told the newspaper. “I have usually done voluntary work at the law centre in Roundhay Road or on a playscheme for schoolchildren at the West Indian Centre” she added.

Murilla Smithen as ‘Fan Queen’.

New for 1985 was the ‘Children’s Day’ event held in the West Indian Centre marque on  Sunday afternoon from 3pm. Tickets were priced at 50p for adults, children and pensioners were free. This event would evolve into the Carnival Princess Show the following year, with a Carnival Prince being added later. The Sunday night before the carnival parade saw ‘Melvin and the Silver Stars Steel Band’ performing at the newly renamed Mandela Centre. This was no doubt a steel band led by Melvin Zakers. They were joined by three sound systems: The Vikings, Studio City and Mavrick Internash. Tickets were priced at £3 or £3.50 on the door. 

The Leeds West Indian Carnival parade took place on Monday 26 August. The Lord Mayor Sydney Symmonds was again present to officially open the carnival which began at Potternewton Park at 1.30pm. The Yorkshire Evening Post reported that troupes “struggled to get their floats out of the narrow gate at Potternewton Park”. The parade was led by the ‘Fan Queen’ Murilla Smithen whose photo appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Post, Yorkshire Post and Leeds Other Paper. The parade took the route introduced in 1983 and two days prior the Yorkshire Evening Post warned “traffic will be diverted along Roundhay Road, Grant Avenue, Roseville Road, Bayswater Road and Harehills Road to avoid the parade”. Returning again was Benjy’s Masqueraders whose members again included Ruth Bundey. This year they were dressed as Pallbearers in black suits and top hats with Ruth Bundey playing the part of the corpse. One unidentified member of the troupe wore a gorilla mask. Their photo was taken in Potternewton Park by Max Farrar. The next day the Yorkshire Evening Post reported on “the usual colourful collection of costumes” that included “angels, aliens and animals”. Among them was The Invaders Troupe which included many members of the Condor family including Hughbon Condor and his 8-year-old son Sephbon. Other members of the troupe included Elroy Condor, Joan Jeffers, Jermaine Jones, Anne Singer and Thea Ward. A total of six steel bands took part in the parade. They were Caribbeans Steel Band, New World Steel Orchestra and Paradise Steel Band from Leeds, North Stars Steel Band from Huddersfield, Star Quality Steel Band from Manchester and Silver Stars Steel Band from Birmingham.  The following day the Yorkshire Post described the atmosphere:  “Chapeltown throbbed to the exuberant rhythm of steel bands, syncopated by the persistent shrill of 1,000 whistles”. The newspaper went on to report “There was the usual rich variety in the revellers’ outfits, many of which combined the most outrageous hairstyles with the campest of garbs.” While it was reported that the weather wasn’t as warm as it had been the previous year, carnival revelers still danced in “bright sunshine”.

Carnival Queen Murilla Smithen on Roundhay Road.

Back at Potternewton Park a crowd of 10,000 had gathered around the stage and performers arena. Trophies for best troupe, best steel band, Carnival Queen and biggest troupe were given out on the wooden stage. Although food stalls had been present at previous carnivals since the 1970s, they had become more noticeable by 1985. Leeds Other Paper reported that stalls in the park were selling “sugar cane, salt fish, and other West Indian delicacies” alongside “burgers, ice-creams, and drinks at over-the-top prices”. One food stall was being run by Mrs Casement, Mary Sadler, Myrna Tyrell and Millicent Francis. There was also a stall raising funds for the Jamaica Society. The society had recently purchased a property on Chapeltown Road which desperately needed repairs.  “A heavy disco diet” in the park was provided by “some half dozen competing sound systems”. The carnival was again trouble-free and no arrests were made. At the Notting Hill Carnival in London, which had taken place the same day, a police officer had been stabbed in the back while attempting to make an arrest. In Notting Hill a total of 89 arrests were made during the day.

Police officers enjoying Leeds West Indian Carnival 1985.

The Last Lap Dance took place in the marquee erected outside the West Indian Centre. Tickets were priced at £2 and the dance began at 9pm and lasted until 4am Tuesday morning. Founded by Ian Charles, the Leeds West Indian Centre had opened on 13 April 1982 and was long overdue. There was still issues with the Community Center on Reginald Terrace which had no proper toilets or washing facilities and was now open on a part time basis. A purposely built community hall for the West Indian community had first been proposed in 1970 and was raised again in 1974. In March 1980 Come-Unity News reported that “Leeds is about the only major city in England without a centre catering for the needs of its West Indian community”.  The West Indian Centre was established the previous year and plans for the building of the centre were already underway by March 1980 when Come-Unity News reported “building is to commence next month”. However, £15,000 needed to be raised by the fund raising committee by July if the building was to be completed by October. The centre received full backing from 16 West Indian organisations in Leeds including the Leeds West Indian Carnival, Chapeltown Dance Theatre, Los Caribos Limbo Dance Group and Paradise Steel Band. Many community members paid £40 for life-time membership.

Leon Brown.

Tuesday’s Yorkshire Evening Post included five black and white photos of the carnival by photographer Tim Clayton. For the second year in a row, the newspaper showed a photo of a baby with ice cream around their mouth.  This year’s photo was of 19-months-old Leon Brown. Three-year-old Nathan James’s photograph was also published. The Yorkshire Post published a photo of Murila Smithen on their front page with a report on the carnival underneath and a report on Notting Hill Carnival on page 5. Leeds Other Paper included two black and white photos of the parade in their 30 August issue.

Poster for ‘A Night of East & Keep The Peace’ at Chapeltown Community Centre.

One of the best ‘sounds’ in Leeds, Mavrick International’ played at the Chapeltown Community Centre on the night on 30 August. The dance, which also included The Mighty Amagideon sound system from Huddersfield, began at 9pm and lasted until dawn and tickets were priced at £2.50. Leeds Big Drum and Fife players Prince Elliot and Henry Freeman were present at the annual Sheffield Caribbean Culture Fortnight on Friday 31 August. They were joined by a steel band and a group of Masqueraders.

Sheff 1985
Sheffield Caribbean Culture Fortnight, 31 August 1985.

Funded by Leeds City Council through its Further Education Provision, the Northern School of Contemporary Dance was founded in 1985 by dance teacher Nadine Senior. Nadine had taught dance at Harehills Middle School since 1972 and had founded the Harehills Youth Dance Theatre in 1979. Three of her students had founded Phoenix Dance Theatre in 1981. While not linked directly with the Leeds West Indian Carnival, the importance of local dance schools and dance companies in the Chapeltown and Harehills areas should not be downplayed. The Chapeltown and Harehills areas have a strong  tradition of contemporary dance groups dating back to the early 1970s. These groups provided the local communities with an education and understanding of contemporary dance which plays a key role in the carnival and in future decades would help develop the carnival further.