Carnival Word Junction, 9 September
2017’s Chapeltown Word Junction’s theme was ‘Leeds West Indian Carnival’ and that year’s event was given the name ‘Carnival Word Junction’. Carnival Word Junction was held at the Reginald Centre in Chapeltown on 9 September. The free event began at 11am and lasted until around 4.30pm. The event featured book stalls from Peepal Tree Press and a stall run by Patricia Jones selling copies of her Carnival poetry scroll and the Community Highlights Family Fun Book. The centre was decorated with Carnival banners created by Rhian Kempadoo-Millar and Max Farrar’s Carnival stands. Refreshments were available at the cafe and guests were entertained by the ‘Melly Zakers Steel Pan Band’. The event was opened by Sandra Whyles who welcomed guests and introduced Dr Emily Zobel Marshall. Dr Emily Zobel Marshall spoke about traditional Carnival Characters and showed a clip of the film ‘Out Soul Turned Inside Out’. She spoke about the Midnight Robbers and her trip to Trinidad before performing her own Midnight Robber speech. Dr Emily Zobel Marshall’s talk was followed by members of the Harrison Bundey Mama Dread troupe in conversation. They gave a brief history of the troupe and spoke about their inspiration for that year’s theme, David Oluwale. Joe Williams was up next and he spoke about the Carnival Chronicles research team and read extracts from some of the interviews the team had carried out. The first half was ended by a performance by ‘Red, Green, Gold & Blues’. The group were led by Akeim Toussaint Buck and Sai Murray and combined spoken word and dance to present a performance inspired by Chapeltown’s sound system and blues culture of the late 70s and early 80s. Members of the group had taken part in a two-day workshop at Roscoe Methodist Church on 1 and 2 September.
After a break, tributes were given to Dr Carl Hylton and Paul Eubanks. The loving tributes included Patricia Jones reading her poem dedicated to Dr Carl Hylton. Patricia Jones also read her poem ‘Fifty Golden Years of Leeds West Indian Carnival’. The tributes were followed by Trish Cooke reading from her book ‘Tales From The Caribbean’. Max Farrar, Guy Farrar and Tim Smith discussed their new book ‘Celebrate! 50 Years of Leeds West Indian Carnival’, copies of which were available to browse at the event. Hughbon Condor was joined by his son, Seph, and grandson, Andre, to give a talk about costume design and show a slideshow of photos of costumes that the High Esteem team had designed over the years. Poems were read by members of Leeds Young Authors and Khadijah Ibrahiim read poetry and spoke about her journey to becoming a Carnival Queen. The event ended with a short open mic session and a dance performance by the Harrison Bundey Mama Dread troupe.
Celebrate! 50 Years of Leeds West Indian Carnival, September
A photo book, ‘Celebrate! 50 Years of Leeds West Indian Carnival’, was published in September 2017. The book was edited by Guy Farrar, Tim Smith and Max Farrar and collected together over 650 photographs of Leeds West Indian Carnival taken between 1967 and 2016. The photographs used in the book were taken by Max Farrar, Guy Farrar, Tim Smith, Leroy Wenham, Fabian Hamilton and over 30 others. Members of the public were asked to contribute photographs to the project. Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post in May 2017, Guy Farrar said “This is the chance for local people to submit their own favourite photographs to be considered for inclusion in the publication.” The book included a history of Leeds West Indian Carnival written by Max Farrar along with articles and interviews from the Leeds West Indian Carnival magazine archives. The book’s foreword was written by Arthur France.
The public got their first glance of the book at the Carnival Word Junction on 9 September and the book went on sale the following week. The book, priced £20, could be bought via an order form or the publisher’s website. Guy Farrar also sold copies of the book at the various Carnival events held at the West Yorkshire Playhouse throughout September and at the Leeds Film Festival in November. 700 free copies of the book were given to schools, colleges, universities and libraries across Leeds.
Carnival Chronicles, 11 September
In September, The West Yorkshire Playhouse held a week of carnival events that included two new plays and a screening of the Carnival Messiah film. The week began on Monday 11 September with the premiere of the play Carnival Chronicles. The play was written and directed by Leeds playwright Zodwa Nyoni. Zodwa Nyoni had used the oral histories collected by the Carnival Chronicles research team to write the play. The play told the 50 year love story of Melody and Cyril, two West Indian immigrants living in Leeds. The play featured key moments from local history and real-life memories from Carnival pioneers. The free play starred Lladel Bryant in the role of Cyrill and Ellie Manners playing the part of Melody. The plays choreographer was Akeim Toussaint Buck. Carnival Chronicles last for 60 minutes with no interval.
Queen of Chapeltown, 13 – 15 September
A second especially commissioned play, ‘Queen of Chapeltown’, was at the West Yorkshire Playhouse for three nights. The play was written by Colin Grant and was directed by Amy Leach. The play told the story of the first Leeds West Indian Carnival and was based on 10 hours of interviews carried out by Colin Grant in 2015. For the plays programme Colin Grant wrote “much of what they said was poignant, funny and at times incendiary.”
The cast of the play performed an exclusive extract of the play in the Reginald Centre on 11 September. Among the guests at the Reginald Centre were Angela Carr, Sheila Howarth, Pauline Mayers, Hughbon Condor and Arthur France.
Queen of Chapeltown was scheduled to premiere on 12 September but that performance was cancelled and instead the play premiered the following day. That performance was attended by Arthur France who returned to the West Yorkshire Playhouse on 15 September for a second performance as part of a birthday treat. Among those that attended the premier on 13 September were historian Joe Williams, artist Carol Sorhaindo, poet Khadijah Ibrahiim, designer Hughbon Condor, associate director and movement director Pauline Mayers, and playwright Colin Grant. Tickets for Queen Of Chapeltown were £12 and the play lasted 64 minutes with no interval.
The performance on 14 September was followed by a discussion with the cast members. During the discussion audience members were invited to ask questions and Angela Wenham shared some of her early carnival memories from her seat.
Raphael Bushay – Arthur
Emily Butterfield – Hilary
Benjamin Cawley – Raymond
Gabriel Paul – Tidy Boots
Elexi Walker – Beverly
Carnival Messiah Film Screening, 16 September
Carnival week at the West Yorkshire Playhouse ended with a screening of ‘Carnival Messiah The Film’. The film version of Geraldine Connor’s musical Carnival Messiah was recorded at Harewood House in 2007. Tickets to the film screening were £10. The evening began with a performance by the Geraldine Connor Foundation who performed part of their new production ‘Forest Dreaming’. The film screening began at 8pm before which the director Ashley Karrell spoke about the film. There was a 15 minute interval at around 9.15pm. Before the show and during the interval guests were filmed speaking about Carnival Messiah. The interview clips were later used in a short documentary film. The film continued at 9.30pm and ended around 10.20pm. The audience included many of the cast members of other people that had been involved in Carnival Messiah over the years. After the film screening they gathered on the stage where a photograph was taken.
Leeds Light Night, 5-6 October
Carnival Kings and Queens, both past and presents, along with members of the AnnoyMas troupe, took part in a Carnival parade to celebrate Leeds Light Night on 5 October. The Illuminated Night Carnival Parade marked the official launch of the 13th annual Leeds Light Night. The parade began at 7.30pm and as well as including performers from Leeds West Indian Carnival it also included Handmade Parade, Cirque Bijou’s LED Umbrellas, DAZL and Spark! Drummers. The parade began outside the Leeds Art Gallery and made its way down The Headrow before turning onto Briggate. From Briggate the parade turned onto Commercial Street and then up Albion Street. Then around 8.30pm the parade made its way back to Leeds Art Gallery via The Headrow.
Leeds Light Night included Leeds West Indian Carnival in other ways during the two night event. The centrepiece of the event was the ‘Out Of The Aire’ display projected onto the outside of Leeds Civic Hall in the Millennium Square. Created by Ross Ashton the piece celebrated the many people and events that have helped shape the city of Leeds. This included Leeds West Indian Carnival. The recording of Lord Silkie’s song ‘St. Kitts Is My Borning Land’ was played while images of Leeds West Indian Carnival were projected onto the building. The Leeds Town Hall included a photo gallery of ‘Humans Of Leeds’ that included a photograph of playwright Zodwa Nyoni who had written the Carnival Chronicles play. The Light also hosted an art gallery titled ‘Arts & Mind’ that included photographs of 2017’s Leeds West Indian Carnival taken by the group ‘Snap Shot’. The ’50 Years Of Leeds West Indian Carnival’ exhibition at The Tetley was open until 11pm both nights with a ‘Carnival Creations’ workshop taking place on 6 October. Participants were invited to make their own Carnival masks using the materials provided.
Pyramid’s View On Sensory Carnival, 19 October
As part of a series of ‘Pyramid’s View On…’ at The Tetley, the High Rise Movement Group performed a ‘Sensory Carnival Parade’. The Sensory Carnival Parade took place at The Tetley on 19 October and members of the High Rise Movement Group, that included artists with and without learning disabilities, paraded around the Tetley exhibition to Soca music. Two one-hour performances took place during the day. The first began at 12pm and the second began at 2.30pm.
Pyramid’s View On The High Rise Carnival Songs, 20 October
The following day The High Rise Music group performed songs that they had composed inspired by their visit to the ’50 Years of Leeds West Indian Carnival’ exhibition at the Tetley. The performance began at 1pm and lasted for 2 hours. The performance acted as a preview of a musical performed later in the year.
Carnival Chronicles On Tour, 20 – 21 October
In October the play Carnival Chronicles had a short tour of venues within the community. One performance took place at the RJC Dance studio inside the Mandela Centre on 20 October with a second performance taking place at Seven Arts on 21 October. Both performances were free.
I’m Carnival Happy Exhibition At Leeds Library, 21 October – 3 November
The ‘I’m Carnival Happy’ exhibition also went on tour in October having previously been at the Reginald Centre in August and September. The exhibition launched at Room 700 inside the Leeds Library on 21 October. Guests at the launch were given the opportunity to speak to the photographers and designers that had taken part in the project. Along with photographs, the exhibition also included the ‘I’m Carnival Happy’ headdresses, a short film about the project, Max Farrar’s Carnival stands and copies of the book ‘Celebrate! 50 Years of Leeds West Indian Carnival’. Visitors to the exhibition could also pick up a copy of the free ‘I’m Carnival Happy’ newspaper that showed all 660 photographs. The exhibition ran until 3 November and included a ‘Carnival Happy Zine Drop In’ workshop on 24 October. Participants of the workshop were invited to contribute to a carnival-themed zine. Other arts and craft actives including mask making were available for children.
Max Farrar At Leeds Central Library, 27 October
Max Farrar gave a talk on the history and importance of Leeds West Indian Carnival on 27 October. The talk took place at Room 700 at Leeds Central Library between 1pm and 2pm. The event was part of the libraries Black History Month Talks that had included Tom Woolmore giving a talk on ‘Chapeltown In The 1980s’.
Leeds City Council Care Leavers Celebration, 27 October
In October members of the Harrison Bundey Mama Dread troupe performed at the Leeds City Council Care Leavers Celebration. The celebration was held at Leeds Indoor Kirkgate Market in the evening of 27 October. The troupe, dressed in their carnival costumes, included Simon Namsoo wearing the King David king costume. They performed a dance routine to the song ‘Full Extreme’.
Children’s Presentation and Adults Presentation Evening, 29 October + 11 November
Towards the end of the year two award ceremonies were held at Leeds West Indian Center. The first was for children under 16 and was held on 29 October. Among the awards presented were prizes for the Carnival Prince and Princess. A second presentation evening for adults was held on 11 November. The event began at 7.30pm and was hosted by Fluid Erie and Sheila Howarth. Awards were given for Carnival King, Carnival Queen, Best Troupe, Best Individual, Best Newcomer and Biggest Troupe. Awards were also presented for Best Individual Performer, Best Soca DJ On The Road, Best Supporting Carnival Entertainment, Best J’ouvert Independent Costume and Best Soca Monarch Entertainer. There was a dinner dance after the presentation and guests were entertained by One Plus Band and Daddy Rico.
Carnival Messiah At Leeds Film Festival, 7 November
One of the films shown at the Leeds Film Festival in November was Carnival Messiah The Film. The film was shown at the Victoria Hall in the Leeds Town Hall on 7 November. Tickets were priced at £6 and £7 and the film screening began at 8.15pm. Like the screening at the West Yorkshire Playhouse the audience included cast members and those that have been involved with Carnival Messiah. Among those that attended the screening were playwright Zobwa Nyoni and Leeds West Indian Carnival founder Arthur France. At the event Guy Farrar was selling copies of the book ‘Celebrate! 50 Years of Leeds West Indian Carnival’. Guests could also pick up a copy of the original 2007 programme. Before the screening, director Ashley Karrell spoke about the film and told fans of Carnival Messiah that they could look forward to a DVD release of the film. A short documentary film was shown before the screening. It featured behind-the-scenes footage and interviews from 2007 along with footage filmed at the film screening in September. Carnival Messiah The Film was shown in full with no interval.
Chapeltown Arts Carnival Creative Exhibition, 9 – 12 November
The Chapeltown Arts Carnival Creative Exhibition was launched at Union 105 in Chapeltown on 9 November. The exhibition showcased the work of local artists and photographers. The centrepiece of the exhibition was a collaborative art piece that had been made during workshops earlier in the year. The exhibition also included photographs of 2017’s West Indian Carnival taken by local photographers, some of whom had attended workshops earlier in the year. Also on display at the exhibition was the photograph e-book ‘Carnival At 50’ which was projected on the wall. A short film of the Carnival Word Junction that had taken place in September was shown at the exhibition. Visitors to the exhibition could purchase tote bags and prints of some of the photos. Also on sale at the exhibition were copies of the book ‘Celebrate! 50 Years Of Leeds West Indian Carnival.’ The exhibition was launched on 9 November and guests enjoyed refreshments and music. The exhibition then ran until the end of the weekend on 12 November.
Carnival At 50 E-Book, December
In December, the e-book ‘Carnival At 50’ was published via the website issuu.com. The book included an introduction by Sandra Whyles and a Forward written by Dr Emily Zobel Marshall. Photographers that contributed to the book included Jonathan Turner, Emily Zobel Marshall, Sandra Whyles, Alex Clark, Peter McDonagh, Max Farrar, Guy Farrar, and Danny Friar
A Carnival Musical, 8 December
The High Rise Music Group performed ‘A Carnival Musical’ at Seven Arts on 8 December. The musical was made up of newly composed songs that had been written by members of the High Rise Music Group earlier in the year. The songs had been inspired by a visit to the ’50 Years of Leeds West Indian Carnival’ exhibition at the Tetley. The group had performed songs from the musical at the Tetley in October. A Carnival Musical began at 1pm and lasted for two hours.
Light It Up, 8 + 9 December
RJC Dance Youth Provision held their annual Christmas show in December. 2017’s Christmas show was titled ‘Light It Up’. Light It Up showcased the talents of RJC Dance Youth Provision members who were aged 9 -19. The show was performed on two separate nights at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance. The first performance took place on 8 December with the second performance taking place on 9 December. Both performances began at 7.30pm and ended at 9.30pm. Tickets were priced at £7. The show included performances by Saju Iqbal Ahmed, Leeds Young Authors and Shahck Our Youth Dance. The show also included a performance by the RJC Dance Youth Company who danced on the stage in their 2017 Carnival costumes.
Eddie Nestor, MBE
2017 ended with the announcement of the Queen’s New Year Honours List. Among those to be awarded the MBE was actor Eddie Nestor. Eddie Nestor is best known for his starring role in the TV shows The Real McCoy and Desmonds. Eddie Nestor and co-star Robbie Gee have been involved with Leeds West Indian Carnival since the 1990s and were both part of the entertainment at 2017’s King and Queen Show. Eddie Nestor was honoured for his charity work and services to radio; he has been a presenter on BBC Radio London since 2003. In a statement he said: “It is an absolute honour to receive this wonderful award. To be gifted the opportunity to reach out and touch people’s lives through the radio is something I could only have dreamed of”.