The Other Island – Best of British Reggae and Ska 1964 – 2019

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The music of Jamaica has been popular in Britain since the 1960s. British artists such as Georgie Fame and The Beatles showcased Jamaican influences in their music as early as 1964. The first British Ska and Rock Steady groups such as The Cimarons, The Bedrocks, and Symarip began appearing towards the end of the decade. The 1970s saw the development of the British sub-genres Two-tone Ska and Lovers Rock. Groups like The Specials, Madness, The Beat and Bad Manners brought Ska to a new generation. British-born artists such as Janet Kay, Carroll Thompson and Deborahe Glasgow  all found fame with Lovers Rock hits.  The 1970s and 1980s saw the rise of British Reggae bands including Steel Pulse, Aswad, Black Slate, and Matumbi. For better or worse, non-Reggae artists tried their hand at Reggae numbers throughout the 1970s and beyond. In Britain these included The Clash, The Police, Culture Club and The Rollings Stones. The best known example is Eric Clapton’s 1974 take on ‘I Shot The Sheriff’. Whether it’s Ska, Rock Steady, Lovers Rock, Dancehall or Dub, British artists have continued to be a part of the worldwide Reggae scene. Below is a list of  100 of the best examples of British Reggae and Ska.

  1. Humpty Dumpty – Georgie Fame And The Blue Flames (1964)
  2. Tom Hark Goes Blue Beat – Georgie Fame And The Blue Flames (1964)
  3. El Pussy Cat – Georgie Fame (1967)
  4. Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da – The Bedrocks (1968)
  5. Skinhead Moonstomp – Symarip (1969)
  6. Skinhead Girl – Symarip (1970)
  7. Black And White – Greyhound (1971)
  8. Love is Strange – Wings (1971)
  9. Big Six – Judge Dread (1972)
  10. C Moon – Wings (1973)
  11. I Shot The Sheriff – Eric Clapton (1974)
  12. I A Rebel Soul – Aswad (1976)
  13. After Tonight – Matumbi (1976)
  14. Cherry Oh Baby – The Rolling Stones (1976)
  15. Back To Africa – Aswad (1976)
  16. Silly Games – Janet Kay (1977)
  17. Watching The Detectives – Elvis Costello (1977)
  18. Police & Thieves – The Clash (1977)
  19. Up With The Cock – Judge Dread (1977)
  20. Prodigal Son – Steel Pulse (1978)
  21. I Do Love You – Janet Kay (1978)
  22. Empire Road – Matumbi (1978)
  23. Can’t Stand Losing You – The Police (1978)
  24. Walking On Sunshine – Eddy Grant (1978)
  25. Dreadlock Holiday – 10cc (1978)
  26. Emotion – 15 16 17 (1978)
  27. Ku Klux Klan – Steel Pulse (1978)
  28. Bluebeat And Ska – Matumbi (1978)
  29. Roxanne – The Police (1978)
  30. Living On The Frontline – Eddy Grant (1978)
  31. My Girl – Madness (1979)
  32. Rat Race – The Specials (1979)
  33. One Step Beyond – Madness (1979)
  34. Ranking Full Stop – The Beat (1979)
  35. A Message To You Rudy – The Specials (1979)
  36. On My Radio – The Selecter (1979)
  37. Night Boat To Cairo – Madness (1979)
  38. Fite Dem Back – Linton Kwesi Johnson (1979)
  39. Points of View (Squeeze A Little Lovin) – Matumbi (1979)
  40. Tears of a Clown – The Beat (1979)
  41. Too Much Too Young – The Specials (1979)
  42. Madness – Madness (1979)
  43. Walking On The Moon – The Police (1979)
  44. Arrow Through Me – Wings (1979)
  45. Forces of Viktry – Linton Kwesi Johnson (1979)
  46. Too Much Pressure – The Selecter (1980)
  47. Lip Up Fatty – Bad Manners (1980)
  48. I’m So Sorry – Caroll Thompson (1980)
  49. Inglan is a Bitch – Linton Kwesi Johnson (1980)
  50. Let’s Do Rock Steady – The Bodysnatchers (1980)
  51. Mirror In The Bathroom – The Beat (1980)
  52. Warrior Charge – Aswad (1980)
  53. Murder – The Selecter (1980)
  54. Food For Thought – UB40 (1980)
  55. Hands Off….She’s Mine – The Beat (1980)
  56. Amigo – Black Slate (1980)
  57. The Bed’s Too Big Without You – The Police (1980)
  58. Bankrobber – The Clash (1980)
  59. Burden of Shame – UB40 (1980)
  60. Can’t Get Used To Losing You – The Beat (1980)
  61. Too Experienced – The Bodysnatchers (1980)
  62. Special Brew – Bad Manners (1980)
  63. Three Minute Hero – The Selecter (1980)
  64. One In Ten – UB40 (1981)
  65. Walking In The Sunshine – Bad Manners (1981)
  66. Ghost Town – The Specials (1981)
  67. Pass The Dutchie – Musical Youth (1982)
  68. Do You Really Want To Hurt Me – Culture Club (1982)
  69. A Slice of English Toast – Ranking Ann (1982)
  70. The English Connection – Mad Professor (1982)
  71. Red Red Wine – UB40 (1983)
  72. Borrowed Time – John Lennon (1984)
  73. If It Happens Again – UB40 (1984)
  74. Mash Up The Telly – Pato Banton (1985)
  75. Cockney Translation – Smiley Culture (1985)
  76. Hello Darling – Tippa Irie (1986)
  77. Everything I Own – Boy George (1986)
  78. Wild World – Maxi Priest (1987)
  79. Don’t Turn Around – Aswad (1988)
  80. Give A Little Love – Aswad (1988)
  81. Champion Lover – Deborahe Glasgow (1989)
  82. Making Love – Barry Boom (1989)
  83. Slipping Away – Royal Blood (1990)
  84. Close To You – Maxi Priest (1990)
  85. Rastafari – Alpha & Omega (1992)
  86. Mad Them – General Levy (1993)
  87. Boom Shack-A-Lak – Apache Indian (1993)
  88. Champagne Body – General Levy (1993)
  89. Shine – Aswad (1994)
  90. Baby Come Back – Pato Banton (1994)
  91. That Girl – Maxi Priest feat. Shaggy (1996)
  92. Night Nurse – Simply Red (1998)
  93. Cupid – Amy Winehouse (2008)
  94. Fire – Gentleman’s Dub Club (2009)
  95. Heaven In Her Eyes – Gappy Ranks (2010)
  96. Call Mi A Yardie – Stylo G (2012)
  97. This Town – The Skints (2016)
  98. Amsterdam – Mungo’s Hi Fi (2017)
  99. Murder – Reggae Roast (2018)
  100. Over Tonight – Empress Imani (2019)
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Fame At Last – Speedy Acquaye 1931 – 1993

Neeomi (Sometimes spelt Nii Moi) ‘Speedy’ Acquaye was born in James Town, Accra, Gold Coast (now Ghana) on 7 June 1931. He began playing drums from an early age after his parents bought him a drum as a gift. He began attending Royal School in Accra at the age of 12. Despite encouragement from family and friends and a couple of teenage bands, Speedy showed no interest in a musical career at the time.
After a brief period in the armed forces as a company boy he travelled to England in 1947 at the age of 16. He settled in Leeds in West Yorkshire and undertook a factory job before beginning his career in showbiz. His first taste of show business came when he played the role of Man Friday in a pantomime in Nottingham. He then bought a pair of bongos but didn’t yet take up music full time. Instead, he joined a travelling circus as a dancer, fire-eater, and conga player.
During his time in Leeds, Speedy spent a lot of his time dancing in the local ballrooms. Most pubs in the city would close at 10pm and couldn’t compete with the excitement of the ballrooms. While some pubs had a ‘colour bar’ in place, ballrooms were more welcoming to African and West Indian punters. They were not, however, free from racism. Africans living in Leeds discovered that some of the best places to dance were Leeds Town Hall and Armley Baths, where wooden boards were places over an empty pool to create a dance floor. A highlight was Saturday nights at the Mecca Ballroom in

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David Oluwale, one of Speedy’s friends from Leeds.

the Country Arcade where Jimmy Savile was the general manager and DJ. Savile held no prejudices and African and West Indian men found a warm welcome at the Mecca. The ballroom had two floors. The downstairs room had a ‘strictly ballroom’ pre-war polite atmosphere and Ross McManus’s band would play there. (McManus would father Elvis Costello in 1954.) The upstairs room allowed jiving and became popular with the black community in Leeds and visiting African American GIs. Speedy became known for his dance moves and wild antics. He would delight the girls by pulling up his trousers and setting fire to his legs. Speedy also made a lot of male friends at the ballrooms including Nigerian David Oluwale.

 

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Speedy in Soho.

Speedy left Leeds around 1953 and moved to London to begin a career in music. A regular at Soho clubs, Speedy became friends with African and local Jazz players. He first played with Tubby Hayes Group and made his recording debut with the group on the 1961 album ‘Equation In Rhythm’. Speedy then joined Kenny Graham’s Afro-Cubists who blended British Jazz with African sounds. He later played with Ronnie Scott’s group for a time before meeting Georgie Fame in 1962.
Speedy met Georgie Fame at the Roaring Twenties club in Carnaby Street and the pair became instant friends. Speedy joined Georgie Fame’s group The Blue Flames in May 1962. The group had originally been Billy Fury’s backing band until they were sacked in 1961. The Blue Flames continued on without Billy and Georgie Fame took over on vocals. Speedy played with the Blue Flames at the Flamingo Club during the group’s three-year residency at the club, showcasing a new wave of appreciation for African musicians. Speedy was a pioneer in introducing African instruments into Western Pop music. The Beatles and The Rolling Stones would soon follow suit. Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames’ debut album ‘Rhythm And Blues At The Flamingo’ was released in September 1963 but didn’t feature Speedy on percussion. Speedy had  recently been busted by the police and was in prison on a drug offence during the time of recording. He was briefly replaced by Tommy Thomas. The album and the follow up singles failed to chart. During his time with The Blue Flames, Speedy played alongside drummer Jimmie Nicol for a time before the drummer left to replace Ringo Starr for 13 days during The Beatles’ 1964 Australia tour. The group’s first chart success came in October 1964 with the album ‘Fame At Last’ which went to number 15 in the UK.  ‘Fame At Last’ was Speedy’s recording debut with The Blue Flames. The group had a number one single in January 1965 with their version of ‘Yeh Yeh’ and a couple of notable TV appearances followed including ‘Ready, Steady, Go’ and ‘Top of The Pops’. The Blue Flames even made an appearance on the American TV show ‘Hullabaloo’ in 1965 where they were introduced by Beatles’ manager Brian Epstein.

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Speedy (far left) with Georgie Fame And The Blue Flames.

Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames achieved a large Mod following and helped introduce Ska music to the subculture. Speedy plays on the 1964 EP ‘Rhythm And Blue Beat’ as well as a number of other Ska songs by the group. Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames also recorded a version of Lord Kitchener’s Calypso classic ‘Dr. Kitch’. While Speedy enjoyed some elements of Mod culture (he was known to take Purple Hearts) he refused to give in to Mod fashion and often wore traditional Ghanaian dress on stage and especially when appearing on television. Speedy ensured that he became part of group’s stage act and would sometimes step in front of his instrument to perform African dances. Georgie Fame and The Blue Flames toured across the UK and were part of the popular Tamla-Motown UK Tour of 1965. The tour came to Leeds on 31 March. Georgie Frame and The Blue Flames would return to Leeds the following year, playing at the Odeon on both occasions.

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1965 Leeds poster for the Tamla-Motown tour.

The Blue Flames underwent several line-up changes throughout the group’s time together. In December 1965 Mitch Mitchell became the group’s drummer. Georgie Fame disbanded the Blue Flames in October 1966 to pursue a solo career and Mitch Mitchell joined the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Speedy went on to join Herbie Goins and the Night Timers. He appeared on their 1966 EP ‘The Incredible Miss Brown’ and their 1967 album ‘Number 1 In Your Heart’. Herbie Goins and the Night Timers made an appearance on French TV in 1968 performing ‘The Same Old Song’. During the same period Speedy also recorded with The Small Faces after building up a friendship with Ronnie Lane. Speedy appears on their self-titled 1967 album. Speedy left the Night Timers around 1969 and began working as a session musician, playing with Poet and the One Man Band on their debut self-titled Psychedelic Rock album. Around this time he joined Alexis Korner’s live band, bringing him to the attention of a new generation of musicians including Denny Laine, Rod Stewart and Ginger Baker.

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Speedy (far left) with Herbie Goins and The Night Timers, 1968.

Speedy joined Ginger Baker’s Airforce in September 1970 and appears on the group’s second and final album ‘Ginger Baker’s Air Force 2’. The group were popular in Germany were they were given their own television special on the series ‘Beat-Club’. Airforce also toured the UK throughout 1970, playing at Leeds Town Hall on 20 November. After the band’s breakup in 1971, Speedy went on to form the group Akido. Akido were managed by Ronnie Lane and performed regularly at Ronnie Scott’s club in London. Going back to his days with the travelling circus, Speedy would perform fire-eating on stage during the band’s gigs. Akido worked the college circuit and in 1972 they released their self-titled album.

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Speedy as a member of Airforce, 1970.

Speedy continued to work as a session musician throughout the 1970s and became the go-to-guy when it came to African drumming. He made recordings with Third World War (1971), Rod Stewart (1972), Faces (1973) and John Martyn (1973). He is also reported to have recorded with The Animals and The Rolling Stones but details are lacking. Speedy’s session work often saw him working alongside friends and in 1979 he began working with Georgie Fame again. He played on Georgie Fame’s albums ‘That’s What Friends Are For’ and ‘Right Now’. He also worked with Denny Laine again who he had previously played with when both men were members of Airforce. Denny Laine went on to join Wings and Speedy features on their 1979 album ‘Back To The Egg’ as a member of the Rockestra. In December 1979 he performed at the Concerts For The People of  Kampuchea as part of the Rockestra and appears on the 1981 album of the concerts.

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A selection of albums Speedy played on during his career.

In the mid-1980s Speedy began working with Adzido. Formed by George Ozikunaj in 1984, Adzido was Europe’s leading traditional African dance company. Speedy later returned to Ghana and worked with the Ghanaian band Dade Krama. Speedy took ill in 1990 during a visit to Ghana and had to return to Britain to seek medical attention but wasn’t diagnosed with liver cancer until shortly before his death. Speedy died in London on 15 September 1993 aged 62. Georgie Fame, who had been working with him shortly before his death, helped pay for his body to be flown back to Accra where he was buried following a wake at the Africa Centre in Covent Garden, London.

Full Album Discography

Equation In Rhythm – Costanzo Plus Tubbs (1961)
Fame At Last – Georgie Fame And The Blue Flames (1964)
Sweet Things – Georgie Fame And The Blue Flames (1966)
Number 1 In Your Heart – Herbie Goins And The Night Timers (1967)
Small Faces – Small Faces (1967)
Poet And The One Man Band – Poet And The One Man Band (1969)
Aireforce 2 – Ginger Baker’s Airforce (1970)
Third World War – Third World War (1971)
Never A Dull Moment – Rod Stewart (1972)
Akido – Akido (1972)
Solid Air – John Martyn (1973)
Ooh La La – Faces (1973)
That’s What Friends Are For – Georgie Fame (1979)
Right Now – Georgie Fame (1979)
Back To The Egg – Wings (1979)
Concerts For The People of Kampuchea – Various artists (1981) (Recorded 1979)
Home From Home – Heads, Hands & Feet (1995) (Recorded in 1968)

St. Christopher Steel Band, 1964 – 1977

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John Rawlins, circa 1959.

Formed in Birmingham in 1964, the St. Christopher Steel Band was made up of seven members who were all originally from St. Kitts. The group’s Guitar pan player and vocalist John Rawlins was born in St.Kitts in 1940. He began singing with a steel band in St. Kitts at the age of 14 but hadn’t yet learnt to play the instrument. He soon learnt to play the pans and took up Guitar pan. John, known as Tim, came to England at the age of 19 in August 1959.  He saw the move as an opportunity to work and help his family in St. Kitts financially. He first lived in Wednesbury in Sandwell where his cousin had secured him a job at Patent Shaft Steel Works. He arrived on Sunday and began working as a labourer on Monday. As well as working as a labourer he trained as a Spare Man. He later worked at GKN Steel Works and Sertec Steel Works in Birmingham. John joined the St. Christopher Steel Band in 1964. The other members were:

  • Leroy Matthew (Tenor pan, bandleader, arranger)
  • Franklyn Norford (Guitar pan)
  • Wendell ‘Pat’ Boone (Double second pan)
  • Melvyn Edwards (Cello pan, vocals)
  • Rudolph ‘Midge’ Davies (Drums, vocals)
  • Peter Edwards (Bass, vocals)

The band performed locally and built up a fan base. Their repertoire included ‘Elizabethan Serenade’, ‘In The Mood’, ‘Island In The Sun’ and ‘Yellow Bird’. The band also composed their own music but were best known for their covers. They took part in the first Leeds West Indian Carnival in 1967 and entered the steel pan competition, the first of its kind, and took first place with their version of ‘Elizabethan Serenade’. St. Christopher Steel Band performed at other carnivals across the country in the 1970s including Nottingham Carnival in 1970 and 1971. The band became well-known in their home city of Birmingham and played throughout the city including an appearance at the 1970 May Ball held at the University of Aston where they shared the stage with Chris Barber and The Fourmost.

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Flyer for the May Ball, 1970.

St. Christopher Steel Band’s big break came in 1974 when they made an appearance on the TV talent show ‘New Faces’. They were the first steel band to appear on the show, predating 20th Century Steel Band’s winning appearance in 1975. St. Christopher Steel Band came fourth on the show but were spotted by a Mr. Franklin, a travel agent.  Mr. Franklin offered them a two week gig at a hotel in Spain. The band went on to play in clubs, pubs and hotels around the world. They played concerts in England, Scotland, Wales, Spain, Germany, India and the UAE. During a residency in Dubai the band were not allowed to drink alcohol in the city but could buy alcohol outside of Dubai. The band members would travel outside of Dubai and smuggle alcohol back to their hotel room, risking a prison sentence. Once the hotel manager found out, the band were certain they would be arrested. To their delight the manager understood that musicians enjoyed a drink and told them that they could purchase alcohol from him as long as they only drank it in their hotel room.

Back in England, St. Christopher Steel Band made an appearance on the BBC Radio programme ‘Caribbean Corner’ and in 1977 they recorded the album ‘Island In The Sun’. The album was recorded at Grosvenor Recording Studios in Birmingham and was released on the local label Hollik & Taylor. The album contained twelve tracks that were “their fans’ requested favourites”. St. Christopher Steel Band disbanded around 1977/1978. John Rawlins went on to join the Tropical Islanders Steel Band who made an appearance on the TV show ‘Alright Now’ in December 1980 and later appeared on ‘Tiswas’. He then joined the Sunjest Steel Band who recorded a number of CDs and was later a member of the Caribbean Harmonics Steel Band who made a DVD of their performances.

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Island In The Sun album, 1977

Soca Goes Back To Basics For 2019

While carnival season in the UK doesn’t begin until June, carnival in Trinidad (and other parts of the Caribbean) takes place two days  before the Christian month of Lent, which this year begins on Wednesday 6 March. For music lovers, a highlight of Trinidad Carnival is the Road March competition in which Soca artists battle it out for the much-sought-after title. Artists have been releasing new material with the Road March in mind since November, giving the listeners plenty of time to grow familiar with the tunes. By the end of January, there’s already hundreds of new Soca songs to pick from with some artists having released as many as 16 new titles.

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Machel Montano.

The competition has been officially held in Trinidad since 1932 but it’s roots go back almost a hundred years before then. Until the 1970s it was Calypso all the way with Lord Kitchener, Roaring Lion, and Mighty Shadow being regular winners. Then Soca took over with Calypso Rose’s 1978 number ‘Come Leh We Jam’ being the first official Soca song to win the Road March in Trinidad. Calypso Rose had become the first female to take the title the previous year. Other Caribbean islands have Road March competitions too, most of which date back to the 70s. The United Kingdom even held a competition for four consecutive years beginning in 2010, making it the only country outside the Caribbean to do so. The Carnival Road March moves with the times and listening to the winning Road Marches in chronological order not only gives you one hell of a party playlist but gives you an understanding of how Calypso and Soca has developed over the past century or so. Listen to the winning Road Marches from 1967 to 1978 and you’ll witness the birth of Soca in 12 songs. Skip forward to last year’s Road March, ‘Soca Kingdom’ by Machel Montano and Superblue and you can begin to understand why some feel that the older traditions are being lost, it’s almost a different genre.

However, if some of the latest Soca releases are anything to go by, traditions are still important and are far from lost. Adapted yes but not lost. While songs like Superblue’s ‘Rag Storm’, Machel Montano’s ‘Dr. Mashup’ and Iwer George’s ‘Road March Bacchanal 2’ bring nostalgic vibes to the fete, Aaron Duncan sings about going ‘Back To Basics’ mentioning Lord Kitchener and Mighty Sparrow, in ‘Iron Love’ Nailah Blackman sings  about her love of the iron bands, a predecessor of the steel band and Superblue gives us a history lesson in ‘Rag Storm’. “Oh my gosh” he sings “since de 18th century  de first carnival was in T and T”.

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Superblue.

There’s another tradition that can be heard in recent Soca releases that many listeners may not be familiar with. Calypsonians have been battling it out lyrically since the very early days of the genre. Long before Rap Battles and Diss Tracks, Calypso singers would write ‘Calypso Wars’ about their revels and would ‘battle’ one and other live on stage. The art form seems to have made a come back with the ongoing drama between Iwer George and Machel Montano. As Iwer George’s song ‘Road March Bacchanal 2’ explains the drama began  in 2018 when Machel Montano’s ‘Soca Kingdom’ won the Road March over Iwer George’s ‘Savannah’. In ‘Road March Bacchanal 2’ Iwer also sings about how Machel ‘blocked’ comedian Sunny Bling from performing on stage with him. Machel’s reply came in the form of ‘Dr. Mashup’ to which Iwer replied to by adding a new verse to ‘Road March Bacchanal 2’. The back and forth continued when Machel released ‘Dr.Mashup 2’, giving us a four song battle with a possible third round on its way.

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Aaron Duncan

With so many great tunes competing for this year’s Road March title it’s going to be extremely difficult to pick just one.  Could Machel Montano take the title again, giving him his tenth win? Or will Superblue beat all competition for the eleven time? Could Nailah Blackman or Destra become the first female  winner in ten years? Rising star Aaron Duncan stands a good chance too. Below is our list of the top ten Soca  tunes of 2019 (so far).

  1. Rag Storm – Superblue feat. 3 Canal
  2. Hookin’ Meh – Farmer Nappy
  3. Dr. Mashup – Machel Montano
  4. Doh Study People – Destra
  5. Famalay – Skinny Fabulous, Machel Montano, Bunji Garlin
  6. Games – Nailah Blackman
  7. So Long – Nadia Batson
  8. Back To Basics – Aaron Duncan
  9. Road March Bacchanal 2 – Iwer George
  10. Iron Love – Nailah Blackman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carnival of Peace – Leeds West Indian Carnival 2018 – Part 2

Prince And Princess Show, 19 August
Three Princes and five Princesses took part in the 2018 Prince And Princess Show. The show was held at the outdoor marquee at the West Indian Center on Sunday 19 August. Guests were entertained by poetry readings, a dance routine by young dancer Ruby Rose and live music by ‘Leeds Lives Not Knives’ and The New World Steel Orchestra. Soca DJ Godfather provided tunes for the contestants to dance to. The first place Prince prize was taken by Makai Jeremiah, The Prince of Goodwill. His costume was designed by 11-year-old Lina Mir, one of Arthur France’s granddaughters who has been designing costumes since 2015. Aria Nisbett as Aquariah Princess of The Undersea Fairies won the prize for the 2018 Carnival Princess. Her costume was designed by Malachi Blair.

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Winning Prince Makai Jeremiah (Photo: Danny Friar)

Leeds West Indian Carnival Graffiti Mural, August
American graffiti artist George ‘SEN-One’ Morillo teamed up with two Leeds street artists, ‘Hyro’ and ‘King Monk’, to create a graffiti mural in Potternewton Park for the 2018 Leeds West Indian Carnival. The project took two days to complete. SEN-One spoke to the Yorkshire Evening Post on 21 August saying “We all did stuff that was outside of our safe zones – it’s not just straight graffiti, but contemporary art”. SEN-One also reported that local youths helped with the mural saying “There was a real buzz down in the park, the kids would come down and want to have a go with the cans”. SEN-One gave a talk at the Outlaws Yacht Club as part of a fundraiser for the youth music charity MAP on 22 August.

King And Queen Show, 24 August
Due to refurbishments taking place at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, 2018’s King And Queen Show was held at the New Dock Hall, opposite the Royal Armories in Leeds. The event was held on Friday 24 August from 7:30pm and was due to finish at 10:30pm but ran over until 11pm. Guests, who paid £15 for a ticket, were entertained by an almost all-female version of The New World Steel Orchestra who played two numbers before the main show began. After a special dance performance by RJC Dance’s adult group, the 2018 Carnival Prince and Princess entered the stage to perform in their costumes. Arthur France was next invited on to the stage to give a speech which was followed by the King contestants. The five judges judged the costumes on quality, creativity, craftsmanship, theme and portrayal of the theme, and impact.
Six Kings competed in this year’s contest including the RJC Dance Carnival King Qumar Frederick who was wearing the costume ‘Rhythm Warrior’ which was designed and made by Rhian Kempadoo Millar, Tracey Pinder, Shamce Hussan, Marina Poppa & Creative Seed. RJC Dance were celebrating their 25th anniversary and Qumar Frederick was their first ever Carnival King. Omari Swanson Jeffers wore a costume titled ‘Legacy’ which was designed and made by Tashi Brown of Team Creative. Part of the costume had been left behind resulting in some last-minute body painting onto Omari’s torso to replace the missing piece. Sephbon Condor took the first prize in the costume ‘King Beast’ designed by the High Esteem team.
After all six Kings had been on stage, guests were treated to a special preview of the dance piece Dancival created by De-Napoli Clarke.

Six different Queens took part in the 2018 show. Among them was first-time Queen Elaine York in a costume titled ‘Lines of Communication’ designed and made by Jason King of Derby West Indian Carnival Association. Elaine, who was in her 50s, had won the Derby Carnival Queen contest in July. Maya Rey performed in the costume ‘Lozen Warrior Queen’ designed by Lorina Gumbs and The AnonyMas Team. The costume included a cloud that lit up and changed colour. Pareesha Valentina’s costume was titled ‘Unity In Diversity’ and was designed and made by Valentina’s Collective. Singer Lara Rose represented the AAA Team in her costume ‘Winnie Mandela, Mother of the Nation’ designed and made by Arthur France. Arthur France also designed the King costume ‘Nelson Mandela, Father of the Nation’. Holly Southwell from Leicester took the first prize in a costume titled Brazilian Fantasy de Sao Paulo. Her costume was designed and made by Lincoln and Athan Da Silva. Holly Southwell celebrated her third win of the 2018 Carnival season. She had won the Queen contest in Leicester and Nottingham before competing at Leeds.

After an interval, the second half of the show began with a performance by H.U.M Gospel Choir. The choir was followed by stand-up comedian Cain Green and Calypso music from last year’s Soca Monarch Lady Sonia. Before the results were announced, guests were entertained by Calypsonian Sylvester ‘Socrates’ Hodge.

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Winning Queen Holly Southwell and winning King Sephbon Condor. (Photo: Danny Friar)

2018 Kings And Queens
Kings:
· Sephbon Condor in a costume titled ‘King Beast’ designed and made by Sephbon Condor and The High Esteem Team (1st Place)
· Solomon Hunter in a costume titled ‘God of Fire’ designed and made by Solomon Hunter and Inspire Yourself (2nd Place)
· Michael Herbert is a costume titled ‘Nelson Mandela, Father of the Nation’ designed and made by Arthur France
· Omari Swanson Jeffers in a costume titled ‘Legacy’ designed and made by Tashi Brown
· Stanley Carey in a costume titled ‘Ancestral King’
· Qumar Frederick in a costume titled ‘Rhythm Warrior’ designed and made by Rhian Kempadoo-Millar and the RJC Dance team
Queens:
· Holly Southwell in a costume titled ‘Brazilian Fantasy de Sao Paulo’ designed and made by Lincoln and Athan Da Silva (1st Place)
· Pareesha Valentina in a costume titled ‘Unity In Diversity’ designed and made by Valentina Carnival Arts (2nd Place)
· Lara Rose in a costume titled ‘Winnie Mandela, Mother of The Nation’ designed and made by Arthur France
· Maya Olivia Rey in a costume titled ‘Lozen Warrior Queen’ designed and made by Lorina Gumbs and the AnonyMas Team
· Chancelynne Mabowala in a costume titled ‘Reigne De La Tablas’ designed and made by Charis Betts
· Elaine York in a costume titled ‘Lines of Communication’ designed and made by Jason King of Derby West Indian Carnival Association

Soca Monarch Show, 26 August
The 2018 Soca Monarch Show was held at the West Indian Centre on Sunday 26 August. The Soca Monarch Show took place after the Black Music Festival that had taken place in near-by Potternewton Park during the day. The free concert, headlined by Anthony B, saw poor attendance due to heavy rain throughout the day. The Soca Monarch Show included performances by Soca B and Lord Silkie among others.

J’ouvert Morning, 27 August
Leeds West Indian Carnival began at 6am on Monday 27 August with the traditional J’ouvert Morning parade and pyjama jammin’. Early morning revellers began gathering outside the West Indian Centre in time for the 6am start with more people joining in along the way. Led by Soca DJ Godfather’s truck, the parade which was made up of people in homemade costumes and nightwear, took a short route that included Chapeltown Road, Harehills Avenue and Spencer Place before returning to the West Indian Centre in time for breakfast.

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Masqueraders on the road (Photo: Duncan Friar)

Leeds West Indian Carnival, 27 August
The rain held off for the 51st Leeds West Indian Carnival parade which took place on Monday 27 August. Local people and businesses began preparing for the big day as early as Friday. Streets and gardens were cleaned, grass was cut and bushes and hedges were trimmed, and stalls and stages were erected along Chapeltown Road and Harehills Avenue and barriers were placed along the carnival route. Dance steps were rehearsed and finishing touches were added to costumes as late as Monday morning. A stage was erected at The Carnival Village on Chapeltown Road and among the entertainment on the day was Foxwood Steel Band.

The carnival began at Potternewton Park at 2pm when the event was officially opened by Deputy Lieutenant Stanley Mcllheron, who was representing the Queen by Royal appointment. The Deputy Lieutenant had also been present at the King and Queen show on 24 August.
The parade, which was made up of 18 troupes, left the park late at around 2.45pm. The Yorkshire Evening Post later reported that the parade had been delayed due to a car parked on Harehills Avenue. The car had to be towed away before the parade could take place. The parade was led by the New World Steel Orchestra which used the same line-up they had used at the Queen Show. Among their members was Brenda ‘Soca B’ Farara. Following them was the High Esteem troupe from Leeds who were led by 2018’s winning King Sephbon Condor. Among the other troupes on the road in 2018 were the Culture Roots Carnival troupe from Derby, the Pure Elegance Carnival troupe from Huddersfield and the Rampage Mas CIC troupe from Luton who were celebrating 31 years on the road. RJC from Leeds were celebrating 25 years on the road with their troupe ‘Dance Warrior’. The Harrison Bundey Mama Dread troupe, also from Leeds, was celebrating 20 years on the road. Their 2018 troupe was titled ‘Windrush Bacchanal’. Other Leeds troupes on the road in 2018 included the AAA Team, Team Creative and AnonyMas whose members included Khadijah Ibraham. Another Leeds troupe was Valentina’s Collective. Their troupe, which was made up of 36 members, was titled ‘Unity in Diversity’ and was led by Pareesha Valentina in a Queen costume of the same name.

The carnival parade took the usual route, returning to Potternewton Park around 5pm. After the parade, the winners of the Biggest Troupe, Best Adult Troupe, Best Youth Troupe and Best Visiting Troupe were announced on the stage. It was the first time a Best Youth Troupe had been chosen.

People who wanted a more relaxed vibe at 2018’s carnival could find it at Soca Village’s ‘World Music Stage’ event. Soca Village was open from 12pm to provided “an afternoon to sit, relax and sip on a rum-punch or two”. Soca Village provided carnival vibes without all the hustle and bustle of Potternewton Park and the carnival route. Caribbean lunch with rum punch or beer was served at 1pm and live acts performed on the stage. The theme for the afternoon was world music which included African Salsa, Soca, Reggae and Kizomba.

Despite violence and arrests at other UK Carnivals held in 2018, including a record-breaking 450 arrests made at Notting Hill Carnival, Leeds West Indian Carnival was again a carnival of peace with no violence and zero arrests made.

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Harrison Bundey Mama Dread troupe on the road (Photo: Duncan Friar).

Club Events, 24 – 27 August
A number of carnival themed club nights were held around Leeds during the August Bank Holiday weekend. The first of these took place on Friday night (24 August). Soca Village in Chapeltown held a ‘Island Vibes’ night which featured international Soca act Exodus HD from Anguilla. Among the supporting acts were local DJs Godfather, Daddy Rico and resident Soca Village DJ, DJ Sensation. On the same night, Kudeta VIP Lounge in Leeds held a ‘King of Carnival’ night which was billed as a pre-carnival event. On 25 August Soca Village held a ‘Back to Basics’ night which featured national and international acts. The headlining act was Street Vybez from St. Kitts. The ‘Leeds Carnival Official After-Party’ was held on 26 August, the night before the carnival parade. Held at the West Indian Centre, the night included music by DJ Trini, DJ Laundry, DJ Vybez, DJ Toro, Street Vybez and Hypa Crew. The event lasted until 6am the following morning so that revellers could take part in J’ouvert Morning which began outside the West Indian Centre. A ‘Leeds Carnival After Party’ was held at Rum & Reason in the city centre on the night of 27 August. Music was provided by six DJs on rotation from 10.30pm until 4am.

Leeds West Indian Carnival 50 Highlights Video, 7 September
A two-minute and 45 second video showing highlights from 2017’s Leeds West Indian Carnival made by Opal Video was uploaded onto the carnival Youtube channel, Facebook page and website on 7 September 2018. The video showed clips of the carnival launch, Pop Up Carnival, the ‘I’m Carnival Happy’ photo shoots, the Reveal show, the exhibition at the Tetley, the Carnival Chronicles play, the King and Queen show, troupes in Potternewton park and the carnival parade and Leeds Light Night as well as clips from the 2018 Pop Up Carnival in Masham.

Team Creative at Samba For Charity, 23 September
Members of the Team Creative troupe took part in the Samba For Charity event on 23 September. The charity event took place at Freedom Mills on Washington Street in Leeds between 3 – 9pm. Tickets were priced at £8 and as well as performances by Team Creative, the entertainment included music by DJ Fabio Bahia, Tempo Feliz Band and Leeds Samba Drummers and Dancers.

Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival, 18 – 25 September
The annual Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival took place in Port of Spain in Trinidad between 18 – 25 September. At the festival, the film and documentary Carnival Messiah won the People’s Choice Award for a narrative feature film.

Leeds West Indian Carnival YouTube Channel, 28 September
Another group of videos were uploaded onto the Leeds West Indian Carnival YouTube Channel on 28 September. These were seven clips of the 2017 play Carnival Chronicles. The clips, filmed by Opal Video at the Mandela Centre in October 2017, ranged from 54 seconds to over four minutes. The clips were included on the ‘Carnival Chronicles’ page of the Leeds Carnival’s website which also gave a detailed description of the play.

Carnival Messiah, film and documentary at Seven Arts, 30 September
The film version of Carnival Messiah along with the short documentary on Carnival Messiah was shown at Seven Arts on Harrogate Road in Leeds on Sunday 30 September. The performance of Carnival Messiah shown in the film was filmed at Harewood House in 2007 and the documentary was made in 2017. The screening began at 2pm and ended at 4.30pm. The screening was part of the World On Our Doorstep Festival and tickets were priced at £6.

Award Presentations, 7 & 20 October
Leeds West Indian Carnival held two award presentations in October. The first, the children’s presentation was held at the West Indian Centre on Sunday 7 October between 3 – 7pm. A trophy presentation was followed by a party with food, music, crafts and games. Each Prince and Princess contestant was awarded with a trophy after which the children were surprised with a foam party.

The adult’s award presentation was held at the West Indian Centre on Friday 20 October from 7pm. Guests enjoyed food provided by Maureen’s and music including a live performance of Amazing Grace. After everyone had eaten, awards were presented on the stage. Sephbon Condor gave a short speech during which he spoke about the difficulties of the year and his love for the carnival community. “For a lot of people this year, it’s been personally challenging for us. People have had loses of family and friends. People have gone through illnesses. And to see the amount of love in the Queen show makes me feel proud to be a part of this room and everyone in it” Sephbon said. After the presentation, historian Joe Williams gave a talk about carnival traditions and carnival’s African and European roots. Joe Williams’ talk was followed by a performance of the traditional Christmas sport David and Goliath. The evening ended with music and dancing.

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Arthur France performing in David and Goliath (Photo: Danny Friar)

2018 Winners
· Carnival Queen – Holly Southwell
· Carnival King – Sephbon Condor
· Carnival Princess – Aria Nisbett
· Carnival Prince – Makai Jeremiah
· Biggest Troupe – AnonyMas
· Best Adult Troupe – Team Creative
· Best Youth Troupe – RJC Dance
· Best Visiting Troupe – Cultural Roots Carnival Troupe from Derby
· Best Individual – Khadija Ibrahiim

 

Moving Here Exhibition, 12 October – 31 December
The Moving Here Exhibition was held at the Leeds Museum from 12 October. The exhibition celebrated the Windrush Generation in Leeds. The exhibition was made up of photographs collated by Khadijah Ibrahiim and included photographs of Leeds West Indian Carnival courtesy of the Annette Liburd archive. The exhibition also included photographs of Leeds sound systems and the Paradise Steel Band. The free exhibition ran until the end of the year.
The museum also displayed two art pieces by Lara Rose. ‘Windrush Treasure Chest (2018)’ used found materials and mixed media assemblage that included carnival costumes and a Soca Village string bag. ‘Eyo Carnival Messiah (2018)’ used mixed media assemblage that included a carnival costume made by Arthur France.

Carnival Costumes Exhibition, 13 – 27 October
During the second half of October, St. Martin’s Church in Potternewton, Leeds held a special carnival costume exhibition within the church. Nine different costumes by Hughbon Condor and the High Esteem team were displayed at the exhibition along with photographs and press cuttings covering Hughbon Condor’s entire career. Among the costumes were 2003’s Pink Butterfly, 2012’s Salute, 2016’s Tiger At Play, and 2018’s King Beast. The free exhibition was opened by Councillor Sharon Hamilton on Saturday 13 October. During the special event, Hughbon, Sephbon and Andre Condor gave a talk about costume making and the history of High Esteem. Guests were entertained by steel pan music played by musician and ex-Wilberforce Steel Band member Cedric.
The exhibition was open for a limited time and the opening times were as follows:
Wednesday 9 – 11am and then 7-9pm
Saturday 4 – 6pm
Sunday 12-2pm
The church invited local residents who had been involved in Leeds West Indian Carnival in the past to attend a special Carnival Reminiscence Workshop held on Saturday 27 October. A costume from the 2017 “Age Is No Barrier” troupe was displayed at the church for the workshop. The workshop was an opportunity for people to share their carnival stories and reunite with old friends. Some of the memories were later shared on the church’s website.
The church also held a Caribbean Songs of Praise on Sunday 14 October led by Revd Jane from 2.30pm.

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Carnival Costumes Exhibition (Photo:Danny Friar)

Team Creative After Party at Rum & Reason, 19 October
Leeds troupe Team Creative held their carnival after party at Rum & Reason on New Briggate, Leeds on 19 October. The party was held from 10pm and tickets were priced at £5. Guests received a complimentary welcome drink and were offered a chance to join the 2019 troupe with a discounted ‘early bird’ price . Music was provided by DJ Krome late into the night

The Melanin Family Fun Day, 27 October
A family fun day was held at the Leeds Industrial Museum in Armley on 27 October. Among the many events taking place during the day was workshops and dance routines organised by the Anoymas troupe from Leeds. Carnival costumes by Anoymas were also on display at the museum. The free event took place between 10am and 4pm and was part of the Melanin Fest.

Roots, Respect And Still Rising Exhibition, 2 November
2018 marked the 25th anniversary of RJC Dance. Founded in 1993, RJC’s first carnival troupe, Fire Warriors, took to the road in 1998. To celebrate the landmark year, a special one-day-only exhibition was held at the RJC Dance Studio in the Mandela Centre on Chapeltown Road. The exhibition had originally been planned to take place in October. Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post in August, dance director Kathy Williams said “It’s amazing how time has just flown by and what’s more amazing is we’ve got generations of families coming through the youth development programme”.
The exhibition, Roots, Respect And Still Rising, took place on the night of Friday 2 November between 6.30pm – 8.30pm. Guests enjoyed refreshments before the exhibition was opened by Councillor Jane Dowson. The exhibition focused on RJC’s contribution to Leeds West Indian Carnival. On display at the exhibition were photographs, artwork of costume designs, books and several carnival costumes including several headdresses from 2018. Displays around the exhibition gave a detailed history of RJC’s Carnival troupes since 1998. A large screen showed video footage of the RJC troupe. Past trophies and photographs from 2018’s carnival parade were on display in a separate room. Guests to the exhibition were invited to leave comments and give feedback on the exhibition.

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Roots, Respect And Still Rising Exhibition (Photo: Danny Friar)

We Ah All Migrants Private Screenings, 19 November + 14 December
The short documentary film ‘We Ah All Migrants’ about David Oluwale and the Harrison Bundey Mama Dread troupe was given a private screening at the Leeds Beckett University building in Millennium Square in Leeds on Monday 19 November. The invited-only screening began at 2pm and the 20 minute long film was followed by a discussion on the film. During the discussion, the idea of a second larger private screening was put forward. A second screening of the film took place at the Inkwell on Potternewton Lane during the Harrison Bundey Mama Dread Christmas party. Guests enjoyed drinks and food before the film was shown at 5.30pm. The film was shown again at 6.15pm.

Compassionate City Awards, 22 November
RJC Dance were awarded the Cultural Project of the Year award at the second Compassionate City Awards. The award was collected by Kathy Williams and RJC Dance Youth Ambassador Kori Morton at the Leeds Civic Hall on Thursday 22 November. The award, which was sponsored by Leeds 2023, was presented by the Mayor of Leeds, Cllr Graham Latty and Cllr Pat Latty.

Celebration of Cultures Evening, 29 November
A Celebration of Cultures Evening was held at Ralph Thoresby School in Holt Park in Leeds on 29 November. During the evening, carnival headdresses and a carnival prince costume were displayed at the school. Other items, including a carnival 50th tote bag and programme were also displayed. Among the guests at the evening was Theresa Spellman who had attended the first Leeds West Indian Carnival in 1967 and had attended almost every one since then. She shared some of her memories with representatives from the carnival who were also present at the event.

Business of Carnival, 6-8 December + A Winter Warmer Artist Showcase, 12-15 December
A development programme for carnival artists titled ‘The Business of Carnival’ was held at the Tetley in Leeds between 6-12 December. Run by  Represent North founders Susan Pitter and  Dawn Cameron, the programme was aimed at Yorkshire based Caribbean Carnival artists and artists from related disciplines e.g. dance, music, producing and writing. The programme fee was £50 and included two sessions at the Tetley. The first, the Funder Panel session, was held on Thursday 6 December from 6pm and the second session, Making the Most of Social Media, was held on Saturday 8 December from 10am to 3pm. A Winter Warmer Artist Showcase and Networking Event was held at Union 105 on Chapeltown Road on Wednesday 12 December from 6 – 8pm. Carnival costumes, headdresses, jewellery and photographs were displayed at the Artist Showcase event. The event ran at Union 105 until 15 December. A new website, http://www.representnorth.com, showcasing carnival artists was launched on 11 December. Artists and groups featured on the website are:
· Anonymas Carnival Band
· Christella Litras (Musician)
· Ella Mesma (Dancer & Choreographer)
· Esta Suma (Broadcast journalist and presenter)
· Ferm & Ready Mas Costume troupe
· Glennis Fleming – Gem aFrique (Costume accessory and jewellery designer)
· Hughbon Condor (Costume designer)
· Melachi Blair (Costumes & bespoke accessories)
· Miriam Wilkes (Arts & events project manager)
· Pareesha (Valentina) Webster (Choreographer & Costume designer)
· Renata Gordon (Costume consultant)
· Sheila Howarth (Costume designer)
· Tashi Brown (Make up and costume artist)
· Zodwa Nyoni (Playwright and poet)

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Founders of Represent North, Susan Pitter and  Dawn Cameron.

The Christmas Carnival, 16 December
On Sunday 16 December, St. Martin’s Church in Leeds held a performance of ‘The Christmas Carnival’ as part of the parish Eucharist. Using music drama and bright and colourful carnival costumes, the children and adults of the Sunday Club brought to life the Nativity story.

Carnival of Peace – Leeds West Indian Carnival 2018 – Part 1

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Tim Smith speaking at the Celebrate! book launch (Photo: Danny Friar).

Celebrate! – 50 Years of Leeds West Indian Carnival Book Launch, 7 February
The photo book ‘Celebrate – 50 Years of Leeds West Indian Carnival’ had its official launch on 7 February. The book, which was published in September 2017, was launched at Broadcasting Place at Leeds Beckett University. A special launch event was held between 5.30pm – 7.30pm and guests included author Colin Grant. At the event guests enjoyed nibbles and wine.  After a welcome by Dr Emily Zobel Marshall, Dr Arthur France spoke about the early history of Leeds West Indian Carnival. Guy Farrar then spoke about the book and how it was put together. Next, photographer Tim Smith spoke about photographs of carnival and the Caribbean. Tim’s talk was followed by Max Farrar speaking about carnival as a topic for teaching.  Dr Emily Zobel Marshall then thanked people for coming and guests were invited to enjoy refreshments and take part in a discussion.

Early Preparations, March
Carnival artists and troupe reps began preparing for Leeds West Indian Carnival as early as March. A new generation of carnival costume designers were invited to a Heritage Character Writing and Costume Making Workshop held at The Tetley on 10 March. Children who attended the event were read stories by Trish Cooke, who read her book Mr. Pam Pam and the Hullabazoo. Trish Cooke then helped the children to create their own characters and with the help of Rhian Kempadoo-Millar, the children made their own carnival masks and costume accessories. All the children were gifted a copy of Trish Cooke’s book ‘Look Back’.

Several carnival artists and troupe reps took part in a workshop run by makeup artist Sasha Cross.  After a tutorial from Sasha Cross, the ladies created their own looks with Sasha’s expert guidance and top tips. Nick Singleton took ‘before and after’ photos which were posted on the Carnival Facebook page on 21 March. On 25 March, carnival artists travelled to London to attend a performance of The Lion King at the Lyceum Theatre. The group were treated to a behind the scenes tour.

A Taste of Carnival, April
A Taste of Carnival Family Workshop was held at Leeds West Indian Centre on Easter Monday between 10.30am – 4.30pm. The event held on 2 April had a registration fee of £5 and was open to children aged 6 to 15. Children that attended learnt soca dance moves with Pareesha Valentina, learnt stilt walking basics with Urban Angels and practiced ‘blinging skills’ with Renata Gordon. Attendees also enjoyed singing calypso songs with Caution Collective and were able to have their faces painted by Team Creative.

Members of the Harrison Bundey Mama Dread Masqueraders troupe including Simon Namsoo, Rose Farrar and Grace Hickson performed at the Accountability Assembly held at Leeds City Varieties. The free event was organised by Leeds Citizens and was held on 19 April between 6.30pm – 9pm.

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Leeds Steel Pan pioneers at Mandela Centre (Photo: Danny Friar).

A Brief History of Pan, 2 May
Organised by Susan Pitter and founded by the Arts Council England, Leeds West Indian Carnival held the event ‘A Brief History of Pan’ on 2 May. The free event was held at the RJC Dance Studio in the Mandela Centre on Chapeltown Road. Beginning at 7pm, guests were welcomed by Susan Pitter and were treated to Caribbean Canapés. At around 8pm guests were taken into the RJC Dance Studio and were entrained by a brief performance by New World Steel Orchestra. Susan Pitter then introduced the host for the evening, historian Joe Williams. Joe Williams interviewed special guests, the first of which was Pepe Francis MBE, the chairman of the British Association of Steel Bands and Ebony Steel Band Trust Director. He spoke about his early life in Trinidad, coming to England, and the early history of the steel pan in the UK. The next guest was solo panist Dudley Nesbitt who gave a performance on the pan. He then spoke about pan in education and the founding of New World Steel Orchestra. A video clip was shown of the The Caribbeans performing on Opportunity Knocks in 1965 and Joe Williams interviewed original members Wilfred Alexander and Irvin Stephens. They spoke about how the band formed and how Sonny Marks became their singer. One of Sonny’s daughters, Natalie, was in the audience.

Joe Williams then interviewed more Leeds pan pioneers Rex Watley, Alvin Romney (of Wilberforce Steelband) and Arthur France. The men reminisced about the Gay Carnival Steel Band and the role pan played in the early days of Leeds West Indian Carnival. Arthur France also shared memories of the founding of New World Steel Orchestra and buying second-hand pans from Pepe Francis. Joe was then joined by steel pan tutor and Self-proclaimed ‘Panjumbi’ Melvin Zackers. Melvin shared with the audience the story of how he became involved with pan and the New World Steel Orchestra. Pepe Francis then returned to the stage to discuss the future of pan and a video clip of BP Renegades performing at the 2018 Panorama was shown. The evening came to a close with a speech by Susan Pitter who spoke about the importance of keeping culture alive and remembering our history which was followed by a special performance by Dudley Nesbitt. Official photos were taken by David Lindsay and appeared on the Leeds West Indian Carnival page the next day.

Pop Up Carnival, 6 May
The only Pop Up Carnival of 2018 took place in the market town of Masham in North Yorkshire. Masham was the fourth and final stage of the 2018 Tour de Yorkshire. 30 performers from  the AAA Team and Ferm & Ready carnival troupe took part in two mini carnival parades at Masham Market Place on Sunday 6 May. Both parades began at Masham Town Hall. The first parade began at 1.30pm with a second parade beginning at 4.30pm. The parade included a troupe as well as Glennis Fleming in her individual costume ‘High Priestess’, one King costume and eight Carnival Queens from previous years dancing to Soca music. Prior to the event, the Harrogate Informer spoke to Arthur France who said “We are delighted that Pop Up Carnival will showcase the spectacle and artistry that Leeds West Indian Carnival is known for, to Masham and the Tour de Yorkshire.” Present at the Pop Up Carnival was Design & Deliver who filmed and photographed the parades.

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Leeds Carnival in Masham (Photo: David Gwillam)

Leeds West Indian Carnival YouTube Channel, May – June
The official Leeds West Indian Carnival YouTube channel received somewhat of a revival in 2018 when two new videos where uploaded in May and June. They were the first videos uploaded to the YouTube channel since May 2015. The first video, ‘Design and Deliver Final’, was a short film looking at the Leeds West Indian Carnival’s Arts Council England supported programme Design And Deliver. The video was produced and edited by Esta Suma who also wrote an article about Design And Deliver for the Leeds Carnival website. The video was used in the article and was uploaded onto YouTube on 19 May. The second video, unloaded on 6 June, was audio of Lord Silkie performing ‘St. Kitts Is My Borning Land’ in 2017. It was used in the multi-media article ‘Carnival Music & Leeds’, written by Danny Friar and Susan Pitter and uploaded onto the Leeds Carnival website on 6 June.  Various other updates were made to the Leeds Carnival website including updates to the Carnival Timeline and Carnival Heroes, which had first been uploaded in 2017.

Carnival Preparations, May – August
Costume making for 2018’s carnival parade began as early as May. The Harrison Bundy Mama Dread troupe received funding from Arts Council England and Leeds Inspired. Work on the Mama Dread troupe costumes began in May and a Mas Camp was set up at 150 Chapeltown Road in June. Valentina’s Collective also received funding from Arts Council England and Leeds Inspired and began making their costumes in June.

Some of Team Creative’s costumes were designed and made by July. Team Creative are the only self-funded Leeds troupe to take part in the Leeds West Indian Carnival. Their costumes were made in the living rooms of members of the troupe. Team Creative’s training sessions and dance rehearsals took place at the Norma Hutchings Park every Wednesday beginning in June. Mama Dread dance rehearsals took place at the Mama Dread Mas Camp every Wednesday evening. Weekly carnival dance classes took place at Koby Studios on Mabgate over a 10 week period. Run by Pareesha Valentina, the ‘Soca Sweat’ sessions were offered at a discounted price for Leeds troupe members. Dances were still be rehearsed and costumes were still being made until the morning of the carnival parade.

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Max Farrar last-minute costume making two days before the parade (Photo: Danny Friar)

Leeds Carnival On The Road, June – August

Between June and August, carnival troupes from Leeds took part in carnivals across the UK. Valentina’s Collective, High Esteem, RJC Dance, The AAA Team and Harrison Bundey Mama Dread were among the Leeds talent that took part in UK Carnivals during 2018. These were the following:

10 June – Preston Caribbean Carnival
30 June – Tyneside Festival Summer Parade, South Shields
7 July – St. Pauls Carnival, Bristol
15 July – Derby Caribbean Carnival,
15 July – Mirfield Carnival Parade
4 August – Leicester Caribbean Carnival
11 August – Caribbean Carnival of Manchester

Members of the Valentina’s Collective and High Esteem carnival troupes took part in the Preston Caribbean Carnival parade held on Sunday 10 June. The Preston Caribbean Carnival had been expanded to two days this year with the addition of a Sound System Festival held at Moor Park on Saturday 9 June. The festival included headlining act King Tubby.  The carnival parade took place the following day and left Moor Park at 12pm, it then headed down Deepdale Road and onto Meadow Street before heading to North Road via St. Paul’s Road and Sedgwick Street. From North Road the parade went up Garstang Road before returning to Moor Park via Moor Park Avenue. The theme for 2018’s carnival parade was ‘Under Water’. Parersha Valentina of Valentina’s Collective had worked closesly with Preston Caribbean Carnival earlier in the year, running a headdress workshop.

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High Esteem in Preston.

The RJC Dance Youth Provision took their ‘Light It Up’ Carnival troupe to South Shields to take part in the Tyneside Festival Summer Parade on Saturday 30 June. The parade, which was part of the Tyneside Festival –a three-month programme of free events, began at South Shields town hall at 1pm and made its way to South Shields Seafront via Fowler Street and Ocean Road before ending at Bents Park. The parade, which was made up of 2,000 people, was based around the theme of Monsters, Myths & Magic.

St. Pauls Carnival returned to the streets of Bristol on 7 July after a three-year absence. Members of The AAA Team troupe from Leeds took part in the carnival parade which was celebrating its 50th anniversary. The Rise Youth Dance troupe from Bristol also took part in the parade in headdresses made by Valentina’s Collective. The troupe was made up of 12 members all wearing headdresses from the 2017 troupe ‘Egyptian Uprise’. The parade began at midday on Wilson Street outside St. Paul’s Park before heading towards Portland Square. From Portland Square, the parade went down Surrey Street and up Upper York Street. From Upper York Street, the parade traveled along City Road, Ashley Road and Lower Ashley Road before turning into Tudor Road. From Tudor Road, the parade made its way down Newfoundland Road via Fern Street. The parade ended outside St. Paul’s Sport Centre on Newfoundland Road. The day ended violently when a 40-year-old man, Carlton Foster, was stabbed outside his home on Campbell Street, nearby the parade route. Mr Foster was selling drinks in his front garden when the incident took place around 9.30pm. It was one of a number of violent incidents to take place at British Carnivals in 2018.

Huddersfield Carnival came to a violent end on Saturday 14 July when shots were fired from a car on Great Northern Street.  Armed officers were immediately dispatched and the car was later traced, a gun was recovered and three men were arrested. Despite the incident, the Official After Party at the Hudawi Centre still took place as planned. A statement from Huddersfield Carnival read: “Well what can we say! We had fantastic weather, hard working groups of young people enjoying the Carnival splendour and having fun. Then the worst situation ever at Carnival by a small minority which is a police matter. We are still going ahead with our Official After Party”. The Last Lap dance took place at the Hudawi Centre from 11pm and among the night’s entertainment was Sensation Sounds from Leeds.  Special coaches had been put on by Huddersfield Coaches, bringing carnival revellers from Manchester and Leeds for the event.  Sensation Sounds also played at the ‘Twins Of Twins’ Carnival after party in Manchester on Saturday 11 August.

Carnival troupes from Leeds were busy on Sunday 15 July. The AAA Team and Valentina’s Collective took part in the Derby Caribbean Carnival. They were two of the eleven troupes to take part in the carnival parade that also included troupes from Bradford, Nottingham and Leicester.  2018’s carnival route was in reverse, beginning at the Market Place at 1pm and ending at Osmaston Park at 3.15pm. Members of the Harrison Bundey Mama Dread troupe played Mas in Mirfield at the annual Mirfield Carnival Parade. Organised by Callaloo Carnival Arts UK, the parade was part of the Mirfield Arts Festival.  Music for the parade was provided by DJ Soca Haze. As well as including the Harrison Bundey troupe, the parade also included a group of Moko Jumbies from Tyneside.

Members of the AAA Team troupe from Leeds took part in the Leicester Caribbean Carnival on Saturday 4 August. The troupe was one of eleven troupes representing different Central and South American and Caribbean countries. The theme for the carnival was ‘Latino Fiesta’. The AAA Team troupe took the prize for Best Visiting Troupe. The parade began and ended at Victoria Park. Live entrainment was shown on a number of stages in the ‘Carnival Village’ in Victoria Park. Soca B and The Godfather from Leeds were the MCs on the main stage. Acts on the main stage included dancers, rappers and drummers. The headlining act for 2018 was the 1 Plus Band from London.

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AAA Team in Leicester.

Due to financial reasons, the Caribbean Carnival of Manchester had a much shorter route in 2018. Among the troupes on the road was Valentina’s Collective  from Leeds displaying their 2017 troupe costumes. The shortened parade left Alexandra Park around 1.30pm and travelled up Alexandra Road,  then turned down Raby Street before returning to the park via Quinney Crescent. The parade stopped at Quinney Crescent for twenty minutes to allow the troupes to perform their routines. A street party, held on Claremont Road after the carnival, ended in violence when ten people, including two children, were hurt in a shooting that happened around 2.30am on Sunday morning. It is believed the gunman used a shotgun with pellets in its rounds. The Carnival chairman Mike Bisson gave a statement saying the attack would not ruin the two day ‘Windrush Bacchanal’. “Whatever happened outside has no connection to the carnival and it will be safe today (Sunday 12 August) and the crowds are coming in” he said.

Island To Island, 27 June – 27 July
The photography exhibition ‘Island To Island’ was held in Room 700 at Leeds Central Library between 27 June and 27 July. The exhibition displayed photographs of the Caribbean taken by Tim Smith and his father Derek Smith. Some of the photos showed images of carnivals in the Caribbean. The official exhibition launch was held on Wednesday 4 July between 5pm and 7pm. As well as photographs,  the exhibition also included a short film about Caribbean carnivals, archive material handpicked by Joe Williams of Heritage Corner, and recordings of poetry by Khadijah Ibrahiim as well as recordings and texts of local people’s memories of the Caribbean and their journey to the UK.  During the exhibition launch guests were provided with refreshments and were invited to enjoy the exhibition.  Tim Smith spoke about the photographs and putting the exhibition together. Khadijah Ibrahiim spoke about her recent trip to Jamaica and read her poem ‘My Mother’s Dutch Pot Of Stories’.  Joe Williams gave a short performance as Olaudah Equiano speaking about his life as a slave travelling from ‘island to island’. The following week on 11 July, the exhibition hosted an evening of Ghanaian dance, displaying the West African connections to carnival. The dance performance by Miishe African Music and Dancers was choreographed by Nii Kwartey Owoo and was followed by a Q&A discussion with the choreographer and Tim Smith. Both the exhibition launch event and ‘West African Connection To Carnival’ were free events supported by the Geraldine Connor Foundation.

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Island to Island exhibition (Photo: Danny Friar)

Team Creative Reveal Show, 15 July
Team Creative held a ‘Reveal Show’ at Revolucion de Cuba in Leeds City Centre on 15 July. DJ Krome provided music at the guest- list-only event that began at 6pm. Revolucion de Cuba offered two-for-one cocktails which were enjoyed by most guests. The host for the night was 9-year-old Tyrone who began the night by inviting guests to ‘loosen up’ on the dance floor. The costume catwalk began at 7.15pm and the children’s costumes were revealed first. After a short break, the adult costumes were revealed.  Photographs at the event were strictly forbidden apart from those taken by the official Team Creative photographer. The costume catwalk lasted until 8pm after which a raffle was drawn.

Leeds Summer Service Exchange, 19 July
Students from Nazareth College in New York spent two and half weeks in England between 15 – 31 July. The majority of their time in England was spent in Leeds which included some time spent at the West Indian Centre in Chapeltown. At the West Indian Centre the students learnt about West Indian culture and history. They learnt about Leeds West Indian Carnival and were given a demonstration of Steel Pan music by Halima France-Mir on Thursday 19 July.

Arthur France in Nevis, 25 – 26 July
Arthur France and members of his family including his wife and three grandchildren took a trip to Charlestown in Nevis at the invite of Hon. Mark Brantley, Premier of Nevis. Arthur was welcomed by the Premier of Nevis at his Pinney’s Estate Office on 25 July. The story was covered by the local press including the St.Kitts & Nevis Observer and Times Caribbean.  Mr Brantley said “I just want to extend very warm greetings to Mr Arthur France MBE who is quite famous not only in England but here as well”.  Arthur France said “For me it’s a pleasure and an honour to be here because Nevis is the island that shaped my destiny”.

The following day, Arthur France officially opened the 44th Culturama festivities at the Cultural Village. The theme of 2018’s festivities was ‘Fete, Food & Folklore’. Culturama began on 26 July and concluded on 7 August.

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Arthur France in Nevis, 25 July 2018.

Other Leeds West Indian Carnival News, July
On 10 July, Susan Pitter announced that she would no longer be working with Leeds West Indian Carnival. Susan had been a freelance consultant advisor, producer, PR and partnership specialist for the carnival since 2003. Prior to 2003 she had been a member of the carnival committee since 1982. In a statement posted on her Facebook page Susan said: “I am now off to re-focus on my business as a consultant locally, nationally and who knows, maybe even internationally!”

Arthur France was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Arts by Leeds Beckett University on 16 July. Arthur gave a speech at the ceremony saying “It gives me a great honour to be here this afternoon to receive such a prodigious award”. He added “we cannot be responsible for the past but we will certainly be responsible for the future”. Speaking after receiving the award Arthur France said: “First and foremost I must pay homage to my forefathers because it’s under their guidance and blessings I am here today.” The Chancellor of Leeds Beckett University, Sir Bob Murray CBE said: “Arthur’s desire to bring people together and celebrate his country’s culture is admirable. He has been a champion of the West Indian people of Leeds for many years.” A video of Arthur France speaking about the honour was uploaded on to the Leeds Beckett University YouTube channel the following day. In the video Arthur said “It’s not just for me. My community, my family, the nation, and the people who have supported me over the years. This honour is not for me, it’s for all of us.”

Leeds City Council uploaded a video onto their YouTube channel on 24 July. The one-and-half-minute long video, ‘Together We Are Stronger: Halima’, featured Halima France-Mir, the granddaughter of Arthur France. In the video Halima spoke about carnival and community. Halima spoke about her involvement in Leeds West Indian Carnival, making costumes and playing steel pans. The video included footage of Halima France-Mir and Arthur France making carnival costumes at the Carnival Centre as well as footage of the New World Steel Orchestra playing on the road. The video was part of the ‘Together We Are Strong’ project by Leeds City Council and Building a Stronger Britain Together.  The video, one of six, was also included on the leeds.gov.uk website.

Whistles And Roller Skates – Leeds West Indian Carnival 1982

The Leeds West Indian Carnival Committee underwent some changes in 1982. Vi Hendrickson, who had served with the committee since 1980, left after feeling disillusioned at the way the carnival was organised. In 1990 she spoke to Leeds Other Paper, giving her reasons for leaving. Speaking to Farrah Hussein, Vi Hendrickson expressed a number of issues she had with the carnival committee and the way things were organised. Vi felt that the committee didn’t do enough to promote involvement in the carnival. “Even now, no-one is sure of how to get involved in the preparations, it seems to be a closed shop” she said.  “The only way to get in is if you happen to know who’s on the committee”. Vi also felt that the committee was very male controlled. “The carnival organisers need to recognise the power and contribution of women within the carnival movement” she told Leeds Other Paper in 1990. Vi added “without their enormous skills there would be no carnival”. Vi felt that the committee didn’t do enough to communicate with the public. “They are spending public money and we have a right to know where it goes and how it’s spent” she told Leeds Other Paper. Vi also felt that the police and Leeds City Council had too much control over the event saying “now the police and the council decide how black people should express themselves”. Vi added “We should also be told of the negotiations that take place between the carnival committee and the council, and the committee and the police”. Vi Hendrickson’s last compliant was that the committee didn’t involve the younger generation. “Their contribution is absent from the carnival” she said in 1990.

The younger generation’s involvement in the Leeds West Indian Carnival was clear in 1982; Susan Pitter (19) and Melvin Zakers (16) both joined the committee that year and Stuart Bailey (18) was involved in the Queen Show. Melvin Zakers was already a well-established steel pan player. He had joined the Chapeltown Dance Theatre Steel Band in 1981 and later joined the Metro Steel Band before joining Paradise Steel Band in 1982. Other members of the committee included Arthur France, Ian Charles, Hughbon Condor, Edris Browne and Gloria Pemberton. Prior to the carnival, the BBC filmed part of a Carnival Committee meeting for inclusion in their news programme Look North. The Leeds West Indian Carnival, now in its fifteenth year, had managed to gain support from several public sector bodies including Leeds City Council, Leeds Education Department, The Commission for Racial Equality, Yorkshire Arts Association and Leeds Community Relations Council.

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Carnival Committee meeting, 1982.

Leeds West Indian Carnival Committee Members:
Ian Charles
Arthur France
Hughbon Condor
Brian Phillips
Gloria Pemberton
Susan Pitter
Melvin Zakers
Edris Browne
Jeannie Stoute

The Carnival Queen Show that year was held on Friday 27 August. 18-year-old Stuart Bailey provided manual help at the Queen Show which was again held at Primrose Hill High School. This year’s comperes were Susan Pitter and Reggie Challenger for the first time, replacing Abdul Ali who had immigrated to Trinidad. Susan Pitter was working as a presenter on the BBC Radio Leeds magazine programme ‘Calypso’ when she was ‘spotted’ by Ian Charles and Abdul Ali. She had been a hostess to special guests at the 1981 Queen Show and was invited by Edris Browne to replace Abdul Ali as the compere of the 1982 Queen Show. This year’s Queen Show was a much bigger show than previous years. Guests were entertained by records played by Mackie’s Disco and live music performed by Addison Phillips and his singing group with guitars, the Bosco Steel Band and local calypsonians that included Lord Silkie, Mr and Mrs Sketch, the Bazzard Players and others. Paul ‘Quincy’ Eubanks performed a comedy show and The Sustain Dancers performed a dance routine. The Sustain Dancers had been founded a year earlier by Gloria Pemberton, who directed the troupe. Gloria invited her friend’s daughters to join the troupe and another committee member provided rehearsal space. “Ian Charles gave us a place to practise” Gloria told Max Farrar in 2007. The night also included a carnival film and slideshow and Old Mas sketches. Six Carnival Queen costumes were made for the 1982 Leeds West Indian Carnival. They were:

  • Valerie Daley,22, in a costume designed and made by Arthur France and Gloria Pemberton sponsored by the Commission for Racial Equality.
  • Leone Gordon in a costume designed and made by members of The Hub Youth Club in Sheffield sponsored by The Hub.
  • Deborah Blackwood,17, in a costume designed and made by Elaine Thomas sponsored by Yorkshire Arts Association.
  • Pat Burt in a costume designed and made by Edris and Cavelle Browne sponsored by Leeds City Council.
  • Joan Fishley,20, in a costume designed and made by Ken and Angela Wenham, sponsored by Roseville Arts Centre
  • Yvette Lake in a costume designed and made by Rita Williams sponsored by Leeds Community Relations Council.
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Valerie Daley as ‘An African Bird’

Colour footage of the 1982 Queen Show is kept in the West Yorkshire Archive. One clip shows four of the Queens dancing on the stage at Primrose Hill High School including Valerie Daley and Pat Burt. Another clip shows Valerie Daley dancing on the stage, her large white bird costume with rainbow wings almost touches the ceiling. The winning Queen for 1982 was 22-year-old Valerie Daley in the costume called ‘An African Bird’ designed and made by Arthur France and Gloria Pemberton. Valerie Daley led the parade on Monday 30 August that took the shorter, half-mile route first introduced in 1979. 1982 saw the dampest Leeds West Indian Carnival since 1970. Leeds Other Paper’s headline on 3 September read ‘It always shines at the West Indian Carnival – even when it rains!’ They reported that the weather “passed from grey skies through rain, to sunshine and back to grey skies”. A black and white photo printed on the front page shows Hughbon Condor in stilts towering over people with umbrellas in Potternewton Park. The Yorkshire Evening Post later reported that “A gloomy sky threatened to dampen the spirits of the 15th West Indian Carnival but, as if on cue, the sun shone on the glittering parade as it hit the streets.”

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Hughbon Condor in Potternewton Park.

After leaving Potternewton Park at 2pm, the parade travelled down Harehills Avenue and onto Chapeltown Road. From Chapeltown Road the parade went down Regent Street and into Skinner Lane and then North Street before returning to Chapeltown Road and Potternewton Park. Large crowds gathered on Chapeltown Road and some spectators even climbed onto the flat roofs to get the best possible view of the parade. The following day, the Yorkshire Evening Post described the parade with Brian Kay writing: “as it danced, bounced and swayed on its way, its infectious atmosphere drew people from the pavements to swell the throng”.  Leeds Other Paper described the atmosphere. “The smell of rum was heavy in the air as bottles in paper bags were passed around” they wrote in their 3 September issue. Both the Yorkshire Evening Post and Leeds Other Paper mention the use of whistles at the carnival for the first time.  “Music was provided by steel bands and whistlers” Leeds Other Paper wrote and the Yorkshire Evening Post included a photo of “some of the whistle-blowing carnival dancers”.

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“Some of the whistle-blowing carnival dancers”

Among the six Carnival Queens on the road that year was 17-year-old Deborah Blackwood from Bradford in a sparkling gold costume and 20-year-old Joan Fishley, who’s costume ‘Floral Goddess’ included four giant vases, brown ones at each side of the costume and two blue ones at the back. Both Queens were photographed by Yorkshire Evening Post photographer Steve Riding and were captured on film by ITV. A twenty-four second colour clip sits in the ITV film archive. It captures the moment when a wheel on Deborah Blackwood’s costume frame jams and Deborah continues on without the frame while a member of the troupe rushes in to fix the problem.  The footage also shows troupes and steel bands on the road and includes a shot of Hughbon Condor. Also on the road that year was Brenda Brown who was photographed on Chapeltown Road in a costume inspired by the American Pilgrims. Edris Browne was also on the road that year as was Hughbon Condor whose costume involved stilts. Edris was photographed by Max Farrar and Hughbon was photographed by Steve Riding from the Yorkshire Evening Post. Hughbon’s photograph was one of seven black and white photos to appear in the newspaper the following day. Among the troupes on the road this year was Benjy’s Masqueraders who were again dressed as ‘Bushmen’ carrying tennis rackets. Among their members was eight-year-old Darren Craig who’s photograph appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Post the next day.

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Darren Craig on the road.

The six Carnival Queens were joined by six steel bands that played on the road in 1982. Bosco Steel Band and Paradise Steel Band from Leeds were joined by North Stars from Huddersfield, Regal Star and Star Quality from Manchester and Contrast from Leicester. Spectators would have recognised Paradise Steel Band led by Sinclair Morris; the band had appeared on television earlier in the year. Paradise Steel Band appeared on the ‘Caribbean’ episode of 3-2-1 aired on ITV on 13 March. The band performed a tune while two Limbo dancers, one of which was Hebrew Rawlins, showcased their skills. Crowd favourites were again North Stars who, according to the Yorkshire Evening Post, were “pride of place in the carnival”. The newspaper also reported that “dazzling roller skaters” were also a part of the parade in 1982.

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Joan Fishley as ‘Floral Goddess’.

An estimated 6,000 people gathered in Potternewton Park at the end of the parade to enjoy music played by Steel Bands and Sound Systems. Awards for best Steel Band, Troupe, Queen and Individual were given on the stage in the park. The following day the Yorkshire Evening Post reported that “the event had been totally peaceful and there were no arrests.”  The Last Lap Dance was again held at Primrose Hill High School on Monday night from 9pm until 2am the following day. Tickets were priced at £1.50.

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Steel Band on the road.