The 1987 general elections held in June saw the election of the first Afro-Caribbean members of Parliament. They were Diane Abbott, Paul Boateng and Bernie Grant. The New World Steel Orchestra travelled from Leeds to London to perform at their inauguration. It was around the same time that the steel band were filmed by Yorkshire Television for inclusion in their documentary film ‘Chapeltown: One Year On’. The documentary looked at how the area of Leeds had improved since the government Task Force had been set up 18 months earlier. The New World Steel Orchestra were shown as one of the positive examples of how the area had changed. They were shown performing the Freddie McGregor song ‘Just Don’t Want To Be Lonely’ at the West Indian Centre. Arthur France was interviewed for the documentary, which followed on from the 1986 documentary ‘Task Force Chapeltown’. Filmed outside the West Indian Centre Arthur spoke about the band saying “A lot of the kids look at the New World with a lot of pride because of the skill of the players and the places they go to has brought a lot of pride to the children and to Chapeltown. If you believe in yourself and you develop that pride it gives you a drive and you will rise above most hurdles.”
The second annual Seacroft Park Middle School Carnival took place on Saturday 20 June 1987 in the Seacroft area of Leeds. The carnival, organised by teachers and parents of the school, had begun in 1986 as an attempt to foster community spirit. 1987’s parade included students in fancy dress costumes, Tetley shire horses, decorated school minibuses, drummers from South Seacroft Youths and the Foxwood High School Steel Band. Foxwood Steel Band had been formed in 1981 after headmaster Bob Spooner bought a set of steel pans with funds provided by a government initiative designed to promote multiculturalism. The head of Music and Expressive Arts, Victoria Jaquiss became the band’s leader and the students were taught by St Clair Morris. They made their performance debut in 1982.
Preparations for the 20th Leeds West Indian Carnival were well underway by June with well-established costume designers like Hughbon Condor and Arthur France already at work on their Carnival Queen creations. Hughbon Condor had been working on his costume since Christmas. In August he told the Yorkshire Evening Post “Every night for the past three months six friends and I have been working hard to finish it”. For 1987 Hughbon had a secret weapon. He had discovered fiberglass, which allowed him to build larger but lighter costumes. His 1987 Queen costume, ‘The Peacock’, with its large tail feathers took advantage of this new discovery and would be considered by Hughbon as a turning point in his career as a costume designer.
Meanwhile, riots broke out in the Chapeltown area of Leeds. Conditions for black residents of Chapeltown had improved very little since the 1981 riots or indeed the 1975 riot. Institutional racism had led to an increase in unemployment among black youths by the mid-1980s which in turn led to an increase in local crime, particularly involving drugs and prostitution. Racism was still present within the police force and police harassment and brutality towards black youths was still common. Riots around the Chapeltown Road area began on the night of Sunday 21 June after the arrest and rumoured assault of a 17-year-old boy. Vehicles were attacked with bottles and stones by a gang of around 70 teenagers on Chapeltown Road beginning around 8pm. The disturbance ended but started up again around 11.30pm. Around 60 police officers, protected by shields, were sent to the scene and were attacked by bottles and stones. Three local shops were reported to have suffered minimal damaged and around 2.30am a taxi driver dropping off a passenger was threatened and fled the scene. His car was later found burnt out on Cowper Street. Stone throwing on Chapeltown Road continued with around 100 youths on Monday night beginning around 10.30pm. Monday night saw an increase in violence with the inclusion of petrol bombs. During the early hours of Tuesday morning shops were looted, a local sex shop was set ablaze and at least one car was set on fire. Tuesday’s Yorkshire Evening Post reported that community leaders and black elders were working with police to try and bring peace to the neighbourhood. A number of unnamed black elders and community leaders were reported to have been on Chapeltown Road on Monday night attempting to bring an end to the chaos. Meetings held at the West Indian Centre between local residents, local business owners, council members, and the police brought an end to the riots by Wednesday 24 June.
Despite the disturbances, the Leeds West Indian Carnival went ahead as planned. A blue carnival t-shirt featuring the new carnival logo was made for 1987. A special ‘Leeds Westindian CARNIVAL ‘87’ magazine was published by the committee. Its cover featured last year’s winning Carnival Queen Lisa Condor in all her glory. The 24-page magazine was sponsored and produced by Caribbean Times and was priced at 50p. It included a ‘Chairman’s Message’ in which Arthur France wrote “It is our greatest pleasure to welcome one and all, no matter what colour, creed or race to celebrate with us as we look back with pride and joy at our achievements”. Arthur went on to write “We can have a good laugh at our successes and how many people we’ve made happy and brought together”. He then went on to share some of the “many happy memories” from past carnivals. The magazine printed messages of good will (dated to June) which came from the Carnival Arts Committee, West Yorkshire Police, Commonwealth Institute, Technorth, City of Leeds College of Music, and Leeds Polytechnic among others. Colin Sampson, the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire Police wrote:
Over the years the event has developed into a first class, multi-cultural, fun day for thousands of the citizens of Leeds and this reflects great credit on the Carnival Committee and indeed on the public of Chapeltown.
The magazine gave readers an account of how the Leeds West Indian Carnival started – the first written account of the 1967 carnival. The magazine also profiled the Leeds Carnival Committee members, gave a parade route map, a programme of events and a list of prizes to be won at the various contests. Also included was a profile on Melvin Zakers, The Paradise Steel Orchestra, The New World Steel Orchestra and Dudley Nesbit. Fourteen black and white photos of past carnival were also included in the magazine.
A message from the Carnival Committee informed the reader that they were looking “forward to seeing you once again, at the 1987 Carnival when we hope to stage our most spectacular and enjoyable event.” The magazine gives the names of 14 committee members with the Chairman Arthur France being the only member not mentioned in the three-page feature on the committee.
1987 Leeds West Indian Carnival Committee Members:
Arthur France (Chairman)
Jeannie Stoute (Secretary)
St. Clair Morris
New for the 1987 Carnival was the Prince and Princess Show held at the West Indian Centre on Sunday 23 August. Leeds Other Paper informed their readers that “boys and girls between 8 & 14 can take part”. Gail Claxton, who had been a member of Arthur France’s troupe since 1978, tried her hand at costume making for the first time. She designed and made the costume for Princess contestant Samantha Gatewood who came second. This year’s show included the ‘Baby in a Pushchair’ competition for the first and last time. First prize was given to 11 month old Helen Victoria Jeffers who was in a costume titled ‘Queen Bee’ which turned her pushchair into a giant flower. It had been designed and made by her mother Joan Jeffers. Another baby’s pushchair was turned into a giant bumblebee. Helen, or perhaps her parents, won a prize of £10. Prizes of £20 each were given to the best Princess and best Prince. Sherry Pemberton (11) won the Carnival Princess and Wayne Bailey (8) took the first Carnival Prince title. According to Leeds Other Paper an ‘Open Dance’ competition was also held. The “full support show” included a steel band, dancers, disco and “other acts”. In their 21 August issue, Leeds Other Paper mentions Roscoe Methodist Church Steel Band and The Leopold Street Dancers being among the entertainment. Admission was free and the show ran from 3pm until 7pm.
The Roscoe Methodist Church Steel Band that performed at the Prince and Princess Show was the second incarnation of the band first formed in 1984. The band had been reformed earlier in the year and now included both adult and child members including Elbert Moving, Myrna Tyrell and Sheila Forbes. The band’s tutor was carnival committee member and leader of Paradise Steel Band, St. Clair Morris.
A four-page printed programme was put together for the 1987 Queen Show. Inside it listed the six Queens competing in the competition. They were:
- Amaire Claxton in a costume titled ‘The Peacock’ designed and made by Hughbon Condor, sponsored by Yorkshire Arts Association.
- Heather Thompson in a costume designed and sponsored by Apex Trust.
- Sharon Lewis in a costume designed and made by Tyrone Ambrose, sponsored by Mecca Leisure.
- Venetta Bussue and Julia Lewis in a costume designed and sponsored by St. Martin’s Church Group.
- Icylma Richards in a costume designed and sponsored by the Palace Youth Project.
- Gaye Gooding in a costume designed and made by Arthur France, sponsored by New World Steel Orchestra.
The Queen Show was held inside the marquee erected outside the West Indian Centre on Friday 28 August. Tickets were priced at £2.50 and the show began at 9pm and lasted until 2am the following morning. On the front page of that evening’s Yorkshire Evening Post a small article under the headline ‘A Caribbean dream on offer’ gave details of what was on offer for the winner of the contest. “Tonight one of six girls will be casting aside the thoughts of drizzly Britain for the sun-drenched beaches of the Caribbean” they began before going on to explain “For that is the prize awaiting the lucky girl chosen to be this year’s Leeds West Indian Carnival Queen”. The newspaper reported that the trip wasn’t the only prize, explaining that the winning Queen “will lead the Carnival Parade of steel bands, dancing troupes and floats from Potternewton Park” during Monday’s parade.
The compere for the evening was again Susan Pitter who officially opened the show at 10pm after an hour of music provided by Beresford Sound. After a performance by ‘Contemporary Dancers’ that included Flora Wilkes, the winning Prince and Princess danced on the stage for fifteen minutes. 1987’s “Ole Mas” sketch involved Arthur France dressed as Diane Abbott, the country’s first female black MP. Dressed in a black wig, makeup, and a red dress complete with white handbag, Arthur was photographed by Max Farrar. The photo shows Arthur holding a placard that reads “MP DIANE ABBOTT ON THE POLL TAX!!!”Comedian The Mighty Zipper returned for 1987 and was photographed by Max Farrar mid-show, wearing large novelty ears, his trousers around his ankles and his decency covered by a colourful apron. The joke, long forgotten, was enjoyed by members of the New World Steel Orchestra, seen cheering and laughing in the background. At 11.10pm guests were entertained by Dudley Nesbit who performed a solo on the steel pans. Dudley Nesbit had arrived from Trinidad earlier in the year to take up a teaching post with Leeds City Council, teaching steel pan music and pan tuning. He also became the tutor for the New World Steel Orchestra, improving and expanding their repertoire. Entertainment later in the night included the La Caramba Limbo dancers which featured Janet Halliday and the New World Steel Orchestra. The full programme was as follows:
9:00 – Beresford Sounds
10:00 – Opening of Show with Susan Pitter
10:05 – Contemporary Dancers
10:15 – Prince and Princess
10:30 – “Ole Mas”
10:45 – The Mighty Zipper
10:55 – Contemporary Dance Group
11:10 – Dudley Nesbit Steel Pan Solo
11:25 – Carnival Queen Contest
12:15 – Limbo Dancers
12:30 – Results
12:45 – Beresford Sounds
1:30 – New World Steel Orchestra
The West Yorkshire Archives holds around three minutes of colour footage that shows all six Queens dancing for the judges while accompanied by the New World Steel Orchestra. First out was Sharon Lewis in a costume designed by new-comer Tyrone Ambrose. She was followed by Heather Thompson and then Susie Abbott who had replaced Gaye Gooding as the Queen chosen to wear Arthur France’s costume. Her costume shows that, 20 years on, Christmas tinsel was still being used in some designs. Icylma Richards followed in a spider and web costume designed and made by the team at the Palace Youth Project. Fabulous as these Queens were, they could not compete with the next Queen, the likes of which had never been seen at the Leeds West Indian Carnival before or since. St. Martin’s Church Group’s costume entered the performance area closed up and slowly opened up, receiving a huge cheer from the crowd. The performer on the programme was listed as Venetta Bussue but once the costume had fully opened up, after being helped along by Arthur France, it revealed not one but two performers. The second of which was Julia Lewis. The crowd, taken aback, erupted with cheers. Last out was Hughbon Condor’s fiberglass wonder ‘The Peacock’ worn by his sister-in-law Amaire Claxton, which also received a great deal of appreciation from the crowd, especially when the tail feathers rose into the air. The tail was operated by by pulleys and cantilevers. The judges for 1987 were Brian Braimah, Dr. Loss, Brenda Muskett, Leroy Wenham and Sheila Howarth.
The Carnival Queen contest was followed by La Caramba Limbo dancers who were given a helping hand by Susan Pitter who held the limbo pole steady as the two women limboed under it. Around 15 seconds of colour footage of the performance is kept in the West Yorkshire Archives. After the fifteen minute limbo show, the results for the Queen contest were given. 17-year-old Amaire Claxton won the first prize. Her prize was a ticket to the West Indies donated by BWIA. “but” reported the Yorkshire Evening Post “first she must choose which island she would like to visit”.
Hughbon Condor was awarded £150 plus a trophy. The second placed Queen won £80 plus a trophy with the designer winning the same. The third place prize for both the Queen and designer was £60 each plus a trophy. The remaining three Queens and designers were awarded a consolation prize of £30 and a trophy. Amaire Claxton’s photograph was taken by the Yorkshire Evening Post who featured her on the front page the following day alongside a short report on the Queen Show. The newspaper estimated that the show was attended by “more than 600” people.
Reggae and Ska legends Toots And The Maytals performed live at The Phoenix Club on Francis Street on the night of Saturday 29 August. Tickets could be bought from Jumbo Records at £4 each. The second annual Reggae Concert was held in Potternewton Park on Sunday 30 August. Headlining the free concert was British reggae group Aswad, whose latest single was ‘Hooked On You’. They attracted a large crowd and performed songs including ‘Roots Rocking’ and ‘African Children’. Both songs had been recorded live when Aswad performed at the Notting Hill Carnival in 1983. They were later released on the album ‘Live And Direct’. Also on the bill was Macka B and Sister Sonie. Local acts performing included Creation Roots, Exile Intact, P.L.U Band and Rydim Squad. Leeds Other Paper reported on the concert in their 4 September issue. “The weather could not have been any better for this massive reggae show” they reported. Under the headline ‘Potternewton Park Festival’ they reported that “Exile Intact were the most impressive of the local acts, playing a cool blend of roots reggae and lovers rock, sweet melodies and finely balanced instrumentations shimmering like reflected sunlight over the crucial rhythms.” The October issue of ‘Chapeltown and Harehills What’s On’ included five black and white photos of the concert that included two photographs of Aswad and one each of Carly Dan of Exile Intact, Sister Sonie, and Creation Roots.
Monday’s carnival parade began at Potternewton Park at 2pm and was officially opened by the Lord Mayor of Leeds Doreen Wood. Yorkshire Evening Post photographer Steve Riding took her photo alongside Amaire Claxton and Hughbon Condor prior to the parade. Captain Wenham’s Big Drum and Fife band were joined by The Leeds West Indian Masquerade Dancers, a troupe made up of children and adults in traditional costumes. The Leeds West Indian Masquerade Dancers led the parade which “whooped, whistled, danced, sang and cavorted” its way from Potternewton Park to Roundhay Road. PC Billy Gilmore was photographed by Bruce Greer of the Yorkshire Post as he danced along with The Leeds West Indian Masquerade Dancers. In their 21 August issue, Leeds Other Paper reported that troupes from Leeds, Manchester, Huddersfield and Bradford took part in the parade. Among them was the peacock inspired ‘Birds of a Feather’ troupe organised by Hughbon Condor. Among its members were the young Stephbon Condor, Rose Farrar and Michelle Condor. Children from the Harehills Lane Baptist Church Sunday School formed a troupe with the theme of Noah’s Ark. Among its members were Louise Hibbit (8) and Charlotte Bandawe (9) who were both dressed as zebras. Their photos appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Post the next day. Another troupe of children were dressed as sailors. Also on the road for 1987 was former Lord Mayor of Leeds Councillor Christine Thomas dressed in a star costume. In her role as the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Christine Thomas had officially opened the carnival in 1979. The Yorkshire Post described the parade as “a kaleidoscopic conga” that “whirled, jived and jigged its way through the streets of Leeds”.
Five steel bands took part in the parade. They were the New World Steel Orchestra, the Metro Steel Band and the Caribbeans from Leeds, Star Quality from Manchester and Silver Stars from Birmingham. The Caribbeans Steel Band were sponsored by the Caribbean Times and all the members sported ‘CT Caribbean Times’ t-shirts. The Yorkshire Evening Post reported that 30,000 “revellers jived and jigged their way through the streets of Chapeltown”. The Yorkshire Post added that they “added their own accompaniment with whistles and hooters.”
David Marsh for the Yorkshire Evening Post wrote that “the weather added to the carnival atmosphere as early grey clouds gave way to warm sunshine”. It was reported in the Yorkshire Post that the heat “took its toll” on Amarie Claxton who had to temporarily remove her costume and take a breather.
Back at Potternewton Park, entertainment on the stage was provided by Eastern Vibrations soca band and the Esso Steel Band. Among the sound systems playing in the park were Maverick International Sound and Colin & Kids Sound. The Yorkshire Evening Post reported that “stalls, sideshows, games and displays were being held” in the park.
Once the parade returned to the park “more than three hours” later, prizes were given on the stage, which now had a waterproof roof. Prizes were given for best carnival troupe (£100 plus trophy), largest troupe (trophy), best troupe display (trophy), best individual costume (£50 plus trophy), best steel band on the road (£100 plus trophy), and best steel band presentation (trophy).
The following day, the Yorkshire Evening Post reported that TV personality Jimmy Savile had been present at Potternewton Park “on a training run”. He was quoted in the paper saying “It’s a marvellous event. I like the colour, the music and the beaming, smiling faces. With a bit of sunshine you have the recipe for a perfect day.”
The Yorkshire Evening Post ran a short report on the carnival on the front page of that evening’s paper. Under the headline ‘All roads lead to carnival’ the newspaper reported that “Floats, dance troupes and steel bands from all over the North gathered in Leeds today for the West Indian Carnival – the city’s largest street festival.” The Yorkshire Evening Post gave a more detailed account of the carnival the next day. A black and white photo of Amaire Claxton was featured on the front page with eight more black and white photos appearing on page ten. ‘Triumph of Chapeltown’ read the headline on the front page of the Tuesday 1 September issue and on page ten “Caribbean joy as crowds whoop it up”.
Leeds Other Paper included two black and white photos of the carnival on the front page of their 4 September issue with a third photo appearing on page 5 alongside a photo of Notting Hill Carnival. Amaire Claxton and Hughbon Condor were featured on the front page of the October issue of ‘Chapeltown and Harehills What’s On’.
The carnival was again crime free, marking two decades without a single arrest made at the Leeds West Indian Carnival. The Yorkshire Post reported that the police “had little to do but redirect traffic”. Chief Superintendent Alan Stoneley spoke to the Yorkshire Evening Post, telling them “It was trouble-free and everyone had a good time. I would like to congratulate everyone involved with the carnival”. The story was much different at the Notting Hill Carnival however. Twenty-three-year-old Michael Galvin was murdered during the first day of the Notting Hill Carnival. The Yorkshire Evening Post reported on the story on Monday 31 August under the headline ‘Carnival death: Plea for calm’. Michael Galvin, a stall owner on Ledbury Road, was selling food and drinks during the carnival when he was stabbed to death after an argument broke out over the theft of a can of Coca-Cola. Alban Turner was sentenced with the murder in December 1988. The death of Michael Galvin wasn’t the only incidence of violence at the Notting Hill Carnival in 1987. A riot broke out on the streets of Notting Hill just hours after the carnival came to an end, during which at least one police officer was stabbed. Hundreds of arrests were made throughout the day and night. On Tuesday’s front page, the Yorkshire Evening Post reported “A tale of two carnivals – one of peace and joy in Leeds, the other of violence and hatred in London – was told today”. They went on to say “The Leeds community has had its problems, but it is true to say that it is now rewarding the city with a new dimension and character on the summer holiday weekend”.
The future of the Leeds Gala, held in Roundhay Park on the same day as the carnival, was in question after a massive decrease in attendance. The Yorkshire Evening Post reported that the 1987 Gala only attracted 17,000 people. Poor attendance at 1986’s Gala was put down to the poor weather conditions but now the Gala Committee blamed “other conflicting things”. Jack Pickles of the Gala Committee spoke to the Yorkshire Evening Post saying “With Leeds United at home and the West Indian Carnival and an event at Harewood, it’s obviously something we have to consider”. Jack Pickles went on to say “We do have to charge to put on the acts we do, while the West Indian Carnival is free”.
The Last Lap Dance was held at the West Indian Centre on Monday night from 8pm until 6am Tuesday morning. Tickets were priced at £3 for which quests would be entertained by the Trinidad Calypso King 1987 Black Stalin. He had won the title with two calypso numbers; ‘Mr Pan Maker’, a tribute to steel bands and ‘Bun ‘Em’ a song that called for St. Peter to cast the likes of Christopher Columbus, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher into Hell. He was joined at the West Indian Centre by Denyse Plummer backed by Roy Cape and the Calypso All Stars. Music was provided by Colin & Kids Sounds plus the carnival procession steel bands.