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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Arthur France performing in David and Goliath (Photo: Danny Friar)
· 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
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Leeds West Indian Carnival Committee Members:
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.
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.”
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”.
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.
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.
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.
The growth of white nationalist groups such as the National Front led to an increase in racial conflict across the UK in the second half of the 1970s. Raids on Blues Clubs and homes, and a recently enforced ‘stop and search’ police policy unfairly targeted young black men causing distrust of the police and authority in black communities across Britain. A Riot broke out in Chapeltown in Leeds on Bonfire Night (5 November) 1975 after a large number of police turned up at a bonfire night celebration being held in the area. A number of arrests were made including the local steel pan player Sinclair Morris who was driving through the area with his wife and friend at the time. Twelve other people, aged 14 to 26, were also arrested. Among them was 26-year-old photographer Max Farrar who was arrested after taking a photo of a overturned police car. Notting Hill Carnival ended in riots two years in a row in 1976 and 1977. As the National Front rose in popularity, their supporters included Rock musician Eric Clapton, who, at a concert in 1976, made racist remarks on the stage and repeatedly declared his support for the National Front and former Conservative minister Enoch Powell. As a result of Eric Clapton’s comments, the Rock Against Racism movement was formed in London. Beginning in 1976, Rock Against Racism organised demonstrations around London and later, concerts and marches across the country, the first of which was held in London in 1978 followed by a second march and concert in Manchester. Known as Rock Against Racism Carnivals, the marches often featured music by steel bands as well as Rock and Reggae groups.
The Northern Carnival Against Racism took place in Leeds on Saturday 4 July 1981. A march began at Woodhouse Moor, where thousands of people gathered, hundreds of which had arrived from other cities across the North and Midland via coaches and buses hired especially for the event. The march then made its way to Potternewton Park via the city centre. The Yorkshire Evening Post reported that 17,000 people took part in the two-hour long march that travelled along a five mile route. Those on the march carried placards and banners with Rock Against Racism and Anti-Nazi League logos on. The two groups had organised the event. While the majority of people walked, several flatbed lorries were taken advantage of. However, the main purpose of the lorries was to carry bands from Woodhouse Moor to Potternewton Park. Among the bands pervading music for the demonstrators was the local band Household Name. At Potternewton Park a stage had been set up with a large banner that read ‘CARNIVAL AGAINST RACISM’. Performing on the stage was post-punk band The Au Pairs, reggae groups Aswad and Misty In Roots and 2 Tone ska group The Specials who played their latest single ‘Ghost Town’. They were joined by local acts that included Gang of Four, The Deviant, The Mekons, and Black Steel. Meanwhile, the National Front staged a march through the city centre. 600 people from Birmingham, Nottingham and London travelled to Leeds to take part in the 40 minute march that ended at the City Square with a speech by Martin Webster.
The Northern Carnival Against Racism took place in Leeds during a period of increasing racial tension, poor housing, low employment and alienation of black youths across Britain. A raid on a Caribbean café in the St Pauls area of Bristol in April 1980 resulted in a riot injuring 25 people. More riots took place the following year. A riot in Brixton that lasted several days in April 1981 left 364 people injured, 115 vehicles damaged or destroyed and 145 premises damaged, looted or set ablaze. It was the first in a series of riots that took place across Britain in 1981. An act of police brutality during the arrest of a black man in the Toxeth area of Liverpool on 3 July led to a riot that lasted nine days and spread to the Dingle and Stockbridge areas of Liverpool. During those nine days, more riots took place across England. In the Moss Side area of Manchester, a crowd of over a thousand youths besieged the local police station on 8 July, destroying twelve police vehicles. The riot spread across Moss Side and into the Rusholme area and lasted two days. Police raids in the Handsworth area of Birmingham resulted in three days of rioting that began on 10 July. Riots in the Chapeltown area of Leeds began on 11 July and quickly spread to the Harehills area with Chapeltown Road and Roundhay Road being the most affected. On 13 July, the Yorkshire Evening Post reported “In Roundhay Road hardly a shop window over a 200-yard stretch remained intact”.43 police officers were injured and two million pounds worth of damage was caused to shops in Chapeltown and Harehills over several nights of rioting. Other cities to experience riots to some degree during July 1981 included Leicester, Preston, Blackburn, Sheffield, Newcastle, Luton, Wolverhampton, Stockport, Chester, Nottingham, Reading, and Derby. A second riot took place in Toxeth during the night of 27 July, lasting until the early hours of the next day.
Life in Chapeltown continued as normal in spite of the riots. Reggae fans would have enjoyed the appearance of Jungle Warrior Sound System at a fashion show held at Chapeltown Boys Club on 21 August. The riots in Chapeltown took place just weeks before the Leeds West Indian Carnival was due to take place and preparations for that year’s carnival were already well under way. Hughbon Condor had begun designing his Queen costume, ‘Queen of Insects’ in 1980 and had been making it since June. “The materials alone cost £80” he told the Yorkshire Evening Post in August. The costume’s use of Christmas tinsel shows that Christmas decorations were still being used by costume designers into the eighties. Hughbon was filmed for later use in a television documentary, possible by ITV, details are sparse. He was shown with Theresa Thompson who was trying on her Queen costume for the first time. In 1988 she told the official Leeds West Indian Carnival magazine “when I first wore it (the costume) for a TV documentary it was so big and I was so small that I thought it would be impossible to wear”. Hughbon later adjusted the costume, making it a perfect fit before the Queen Show. Hughbon Condor was still working on the costume on Friday 28 August when he was visited at his home by the community newspaper ‘Come-Unity News’. His photo was taken by the newspaper and appeared on the front page of their September issue. That night’s Carnival Queen Show was again held at Primrose Hill High School and Abdul Ali returned once again to act as the compere of the evening. Five different Queen costumes were made for this year’s Queen Show. Hughbon’s Queen of Insects costume was worn by 24-year-old Theresa Thompson. Other contestants taking part in the completion that night included Helen Richards, Sheila Wilkes and Beverley Hutchinson. The September issue of Come-Unity reported that the Carnival Queen “is crowned not for her physical beauty but the originality of the costume displayed, poise, audience impression & the personal evaluation of the judges”. Queen of Insects gave Hughbon his second Carnival Queen win. Max Farrar from Come-Unity News was present at the Queen Show and a photograph of Theresa Thompson in her costume was included in their September issue. The Yorkshire Evening Post reported on the Queen Show on Monday 31 August. The newspaper included a photo of Theresa Thompson in her costume on page 5 under the headline ‘Hats off to a Butterfly Beauty’. Theresa told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “I have never won anything like this before and I still haven’t got over it yet. But I knew I would win with such a beautiful costume.” In 1988 Theresa told the official Leeds West Indian Carnival magazine “it was great being a Queen”. “I was crying, and I didn’t know why” she added. As well as receiving a trophy, Theresa also won a £50 prize. Entertainment on the night included an Old Mas performance that was a satire of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer who had married at St Paul’s Cathedral in July. Music was provided by a string band that included 8 members.
The carnival parade was held on Monday 31 August and was attended by 30,000 people. Lead by Theresa Thompson, the parade left Potternewton Park around 2pm. Steel bands and troupes had come from Nottingham and Manchester to take part in the parade which was, according to the Yorkshire Evening Post, “the biggest West Indian Carnival in the North”.On the road in 1981 were the Sustain Dancers from Leeds, a troupe of young girls organised by Gloria Pemberton, in white and red love heart outfits. The troupe’s members included eight-year-olds Dahlia Manners and Sherrena Frederick. Five Steel Bands took part in the parade in 1981. Among them were Huddersfield’s North Stars who won best Steel Band and the Wilberforce Steel Band from Leeds whose members included Rex, Joe, Alf, Let, Amos, Tuddy Richards, Skip and Wilton. The parade this year also included a troupe of Masqueraders and a troupe in black and white masks whose members included Doris Blackman. Another troupe that year was Benjy’s Masqueraders dressed as ‘Bushmen’ carrying tennis rackets. Their members included Reginald Challenger and Ruth Bundey. They would become a regular feature of Leeds West Indian Carnival over the next four years. In 1981 Reginald Challenger and Ruth Bundey were photographed by Max Farrar. A photographer from Leeds Other Paper also photographed the troupe in Potternewton Park. A photograph of four members of the troupe wearing masks was printed on the front page of the 4 September issue of Leeds Other Paper. Another photo of members of the troupe holding tennis rackets was printed on page 11. Other photos in Leeds Other Paper show a carnival queen and Arthur France.
Arthur France was in high carnival spirits and had brought along a water gun to splash the crowds with. Dressed as ‘African King’, Arthur’s photograph appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Post the following day, showing off his enormous headdress. The September issue of Come-Unity News described the parade: “On the day of the carnival the troupes, with their queens leading, set off on the route. The steelbands are ponging, the procession jamming & wining. The colour vivid, the atmosphere wild”. Speaking to the Yorkshire Evening Post, Theresa Thompson said “It was very tiring but enjoyable”. The parade returned to Potternewton Park around 5pm and awards were given on the stage. Hughbon Condor’s troupe took the prize for Best Troupe and Arthur France won Best Individual. Despite riots in Chapeltown in July, the Carnival was a peaceful day once again and continued its track record of zero arrests made. A police spokesman spoke to the Yorkshire Evening Post and praised the large crowd’s good behaviour. Abdul Ali also spoke to the newspaper, telling them “it was a highly successful day and we are already looking forward to 1982.” He went on to say “We were delighted that so many people came out on the streets to take part or watch. We were particularly pleased to see so many of the English community joining in”. The Last Lap Dance that night took place at Primrose Hill High School.
The Yorkshire Evening Post reported on the parade the following day under the headline ‘Carnival Of Fun’. Three black and white photos were printed on page 9. The September issue of Come-Unity News included six black and white photos of carnivals past and present and included a quote from Arthur France who told the newspaper “children born here are very responsive to the cultural aspects of the carnival”. Arthur went on to tell the newspaper “we should not forget the emancipation of our people and our culture. It is important we pass these on to our children.” The following issue of Come-Unity News included five black and white photos of the 1981 carnival and Queen Show that included photos of Reginald Challenger, Doris Blackman, and Theresa Thompson.
The Leeds West Indian Carnival Committee added a new member to their team in 1980. ‘Jeanie’ Stoute joined the committee as the Assistant Secretary. Preparations for the 1980 Leeds West Indian Carnival began as early as July with costume designers beginning work on that year’s troupe and Queen costumes. A total of eight Queen costumes were made for the 1980 Carnival parade. They included costumes made by Edris Browne and Hughbon Condor. This year, Edris Browne had designed and made her costume with the help of her 15-year-old daughter Cavelle. Together they worked on their ‘Eve In The Garden of Eden’ costume for six weeks. Hughbon Condor had spent less time on his ‘Tropical Flower’ costume. “I designed the basic construction about four weeks ago but I only actually started decorating it two weeks ago” Hughbon told Calendar News in an interview recorded on 22 August. “I spent my whole two weeks annual holidays working on it” Hughbon added. Not wanting to copy nature or be restricted in his design, Hughbon’s costume was not based on any real flower but was, as he described it, “a figment of the imagination” adding that it could perhaps be found “somewhere in Africa”. Hughbon, who had won first place at the Queen show the previous year, was confident that he could win again in 1980. He told Petrina Rance of Calendar News: “there’s no reason why it shouldn’t (win), I’ve put the effort in and as you can see, the goods are there”.
The Queen Show that year took place at Primrose Hill High School on Friday 22 August and Abdul Ali returned as the compere. Tickets were priced at £1.50. Before the show began, Abdul Ali took some time to speak to Calendar News reporter Petrina Rance outside Primrose Hill High School. “It’s all about fun, vitality, colour, everything that’s exciting” Abdul explained. The Queen Show began at 8pm and entertainment on the night included a steel band and a troupe of dancers in matching grey and red outfits. There was also Old Mas, a mix of satire and amateur theatre, which Come~Unity News (September 1981) later reported portrayed ‘the racial implications of the Nationality Bill’. On Thursday 21 August the Yorkshire Evening Post reported that the show would feature “limbo dancing, comedy and calypso singing” along with music provided by Paradise Steel Band. Among that year’s contestants was 21-year-old Sharon Hall in a costume titled ‘The Queen of the Universe’. Her costume represented a galaxy of stars and the moon. Edris Browne’s costume, ‘Eve In The Garden of Eden’, was worn by Pat Powell. Earlier in the day Edris explained to Petrina Rance: “Of course, you can only be a Queen contestant once, and I myself had been a Queen contestant and after that I went into designing and making costumes. I have been very successful at it. I’ve done four costumes and I’ve got two firsts, one second and one didn’t place. So, that’s quite a good track record.” Edris added another win to her “good track record” in 1980 when Pat Powell was crowned as the Carnival Queen.
ITV’s Calendar News’ five and a half minute long special report on the Leeds West Indian Carnival was aired that night. It featured interviews with Abdul Ali and Hughbon Condor outside Primrose Hill High School and Edris Browne outside her home. Abdul gave a brief history of the carnival up to this point. “Carnival actually began in Leeds about thirteen years ago when a chap called Arthur France from Leeds decided ‘let’s have carnival’” Abdul explained before going on to discuss carnival in the West Indies, explaining that each island has its own traditions. “If you want the real thing, you’ve got to go to Trinidad” Abdul told Petrina Rance. Speaking about the carnival, Hughbon Condor said “all in all, it brings people together, not just West Indians but the whole spectrum of people who are living here. I see it as an extension of our culture from the West Indies and it’s just beautiful”. The report ends with a shot of the dancers, joined by Abdul Ali, dancing in a conga line outside the school to music played by a steel band.
The Leeds West Indian Carnival parade took place on Monday 25 August. Ten troupes and eight Queens took place in 1980’s Carnival parade. The proceedings began at Potternewton Park and the Lord Mayor of Leeds, Councilor Eric Atkinson was present to launch the event. The parade left the park around 2pm. An estimated 700 people took part in the parade that year. The Yorkshire Evening Post reported the following day that “the assembled musicians, dancers and carnival queens brought the noise and razzamataz of the West Indies to complement the sunshine”. Among them was the Star Crusaders troupe, dressed in golden hooded overalls and robot masks. They were led by Sharon Hall dressed as ‘The Queen of the Universe’. Sharon Hall’s photo appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Post the following day. Another troupe wore pointed hats with streamers and carried flags. Also on the road was Hughbon Condor’s troupe of butterflies that included 80 members. For the troupe, Hughbon had made 80 pairs of butterfly wings and 80 antenna headpieces. His wife Gloria and a team of friends had made 80 dresses. “I feel these butterflies must be attracted by such a flower” Hughbon told Calendar News. Hughbon’s troupe wasn’t the only troupe on the road that year inspired by butterflies. The African Butterflies troupe took the prize for best troupe that year. The parade took the same route as 1979 which included Chapeltown Road, Regent Street, Skinner Lane, and North Street. Large crowds gathered on Chapeltown Road and a group of young men climbed on a bus shelter to get a better view of the parade. Warsaw Stores at 151 Chapeltown Road did good business selling refreshments to spectators. The Polish delicatessen sold large amounts of salami, crisps, ice cream and cold beers.
Seven steel pan bands performed on the road to an estimated 10,000 spectators. (The Yorkshire Evening Post reported 20,000 people attended this year’s parade). They included Huddersfield’s North Stars, Manchester’s Star Quality, Leeds’ Paradise Steel Band and The Groovers Steel Band. Another form of musical entertainment was present for the first time this year. People had been asking for Reggae sound systems at Leeds West Indian Carnival since 1975 but the Carnival Committee would not allow sound systems on the road and by-laws forbid loud speakers in Potternewton Park. Towards the end of the seventies, sound systems began appearing along the carnival route in Chapeltown but it wasn’t until 1980 that the first sound systems appeared in Potternewton Park on Carnival day. The Maverick sound system from Leeds was photographed in the park by Max Farrar. The importance of steel bands at Leeds West Indian Carnival had not been forgotten and Abdul Ali commented “there’s no carnival without steel bands”. Also present in Potternewton Park for the first time this year was the performer’s arena – a section of the park in front of the stage separated from the crowd by waist-high railings. The stage in the park was also larger than previous years and included a ramp (rather than steps) for the first time. Once the procession returned to Potternewton Park, awards were given for best troupe, best individual and best steel band.
The Last Lap Dance was again held at Primrose Hill High School. Beginning at 8pm, guests were entertained by five steel bands from Manchester, Huddersfield, Nottingham, and Leeds until the early hours of the next morning. Tickets were priced at £1.25. Tuesday’s Yorkshire Evening Post included five black and white photographs on page 5 under the headline ‘Sunshine Smiles For Caribbean Carnival Time’. The photos included one of 15-month-old Tammie Norfolk enjoying a ice cream. 3-year-old Clare Simms was also enjoying a ice cream when she was photographed with Hebrew Rawlins in Potternewton Park. Other photos showed the parade on the road, Sharon Hall as ‘The Queen of the Universe’ and Paradise Steel Band performing in the park. The band’s members included 13-year old Julian Willcocks. The newspaper reported that “Carnival was king in the streets of Chapeltown, Leeds, when the West Indian community went to town.” Abdul Ali spoke to the Yorkshire Evening Post about his hopes for the future. He said he hoped to add 5,000 people to the procession in 1981 and according to the newspaper, wanted to “persuade the English to dress up in West Indian Costume”. “It’s such a happy occasion we want everybody in the community to enjoy it” Abdul Ali was quoted as saying.
Leeds Other Paper reported on the harmony of the carnival. In issue 138 (5 – 19 September) of the now fortnightly newspaper (it had previously been monthly), under a black and white photo of the parade, they wrote “the faces at the Leeds Chapeltown Carnival this year said it all. Wouldn’t life be so much better if it was like this every day?” Four more black and white photos were included in Leeds Other Paper on pages 12 and 13 under the headline ‘Roundhay War Games – Chapeltown Fun’. The headline was a reference to the fact that the Armed Forces recruitment team had been present at the Roundhay Gala at Roundhay Park, something the newspaper disagreed with. “It was different in Chapeltown” they reported. “Steel bands and colourful displays – dancing through the streets of the neighbourhood. Here were the drumbeats of happiness and noisy, but peaceable, fun”. Two of the photos printed in Leeds Other Paper showed steel bands, another showed the Star Crusaders troupe and the fourth photo was a side view of Hughbon Condor’s Tropical Flower costume.
Hughbon Condor was born in Saint Kitts in 1953 and grew up with a fascination for the island’s traditional Christmas Sports and particularly liked the traditional mocko jumbie costumes that used stilts. At the age of 12, Hughbon decided he wanted to make his own mocko jumbie costume but couldn’t figure out how to make the stilts essential to the costume; the technique was guarded by the stilt walkers. Not wanting to be defeated Hughbon nailed two pieces of wood together. It’s fair to say Hughbon’s first costume attempts didn’t end too well. The homemade stilts collapsed, Hughbon fell to the ground and later received a scolding from his grandmother. Hughbon came to Leeds in England in November 1967 were he was reunited with his parents and siblings who were already settled in the city. He studied at Primrose Hill High School where he excelled in metal work. He went on to study Mechanical Engineering at Leeds Polytechnic and was working as an engineer in 1971 when a chance meeting with Arthur France led to him joining the Leeds West Indian Carnival Committee and becoming a costume designer and maker.
With the help of his friend James Brown, Hughbon made his first Queen costume in 1971. It was a butterfly design with moveable wings and Hughbon and his family were very proud of it but it failed to win that year’s contest. For the next couple of years, Hughbon and James continued to make Queen costumes in Hughbon’s parent’s garage but they struggled to win any prices. Hughbon and James’ costumes were always crowd favourites and their 1973 costume ‘The Goddess of Fertility’ worn by Edris Browne was featured in the Yorkshire Evening Post. Many of Hughbon’s future costumes, winners or not, went on to appear in newspapers and magazines. Hughbon made his first troupe costumes in 1973 and continued to make troupe costumes along with his Queen costumes for the next 45 years. 1974 saw Hughbon work alone for the first time. His Queen costume that year was titled ‘Goddess of The Wild’ and was worn by Joanne Hector. James Browne made a separate costume that year but neither man took that year’s first prize. That year’s winning Queen was Yvonne Ruddock in a costume designed by Edris Browne. For Hughbon, improving on his past designs was more important than winning. Even in year’s when the Queen Show was not held (1976 and 1978) Hughbon still made Queen and troupe costumes. His early costumes used shinny materials and Christmas decorations but as time went on, more materials became readily available. Hughbon’s costume designs continued to improve throughout the 1970s. For his 1977 costume, ‘Queen of Hearts’, Hughbon received help from James Brown and the costume came second in that year’s Carnival Queen Show. His first winning costume came a few years later in 1979 with a costume called ‘The Morning Glory’ worn by Maureen Williams. It was a double win for Hughbon that year. He also took the prize for the best troupe. Hughbon would later refer to the 1970s as his long apprenticeship.
Hughbon was confident that he could win the Queen Show again in 1980 when he was interviewed by ITV’s Calendar News. His Queen costume that year was titled ‘Tropical Flower’ but again Hughbon was beaten by a design by Edris Browne. Hughbon’s troupe that year included 80 members, all dressed as butterflies and his wife Gloria, as well as friends and other family members, stepped in to help make the 80 costumes. Hughbon’s wife Gloria has always been an important part of the behind the scenes team; helping to make costumes, proving advice and support, and always having a hot meal on the go. Hughbon was now making costumes at home and often spent his entire two weeks holiday from work making costumes. Hughbon’s second win came in 1981 with a costume titled ‘Queen of Insects’ worn by Theresa Thompson. A third win came in 1983 with ‘Eastern Delight’ worn by Cavell Browne. ‘ Hughbon was already getting a name for himself as a talented costume designer but it was perhaps his 1986 winning Queen costume, ‘Sea Anemone’, worn by Lisa Condor that guaranteed his place in carnival history. His iconic fourth winning costume brought all the grandeur of Trinidad Carnival to the streets of Leeds. It was featured on the front of the 1987 Leeds West Indian Carnival magazine and is still fondly remembered today. Leeds West Indian Carnival was a family event for the Condors; Hughbon’s wife Gloria and sister Lisa were both active members of the winning team and Hughbon’s son Sephbon (born in 1977) was an active member of his father’s carnival troupes.
Hughbon’s discovery of fibreglass opened up more design opportunities for him. He could now make bigger and grander costumes without having to worry about the weight of the costume on the performer. His first use of fibreglass was in 1987 on his costume ‘Peacock’. The costume’s feathers raised over ten feet into the air. ‘Peacock’ was featured on the cover of the Carnival magazine the following year. ‘Sea Anemone’ was the first in a hat-trick of wins for Hughbon Condor. Hughbon’s costume ‘Peacock’ worn by Anne Marie Claxton took the first prize in 1987 and ‘The Visitor’ worn by Michelle Adams not only won first place at Leeds but also took first place at Huddersfield Carnival too. And to top it off, Hughbon entered ‘The Visitor’ into the Huddersfield’s Junior Queen contest and took first prize in that contest too. On that occasion the costume was worn by Sherica Joseph.
It seemed that Hughbon was now unstoppable and the wins kept coming. While he didn’t win 1989’s Carnival Queen Show in Leeds, his costume ‘Carnival Fever’ worn by Lucy Charles took first place in Huddersfield. While the 1970s had only given Hughbon one Carnival Queen win, the 1980s were far more successful and saw Hughbon winning time and time again, not just in Leeds but in Huddersfield too. By 1989, Hughbon Condor had designed and made six winning Queen costumes for Leeds West Indian Carnival and two winning Queen costumes for Huddersfield Carnival. He had also won best troupe and Junior Queen. The trophies were piling up and showed no signs of slowing down in the 1990s.
The 1990s saw Hughbon’s talents win him prizes across the country. His 1990 costume ‘Flower’ worn by Sharmane Lawrence gave Hughbon his third Huddersfield win in a row and his 1991 costume, ‘Golden Peacock’ worn by Pam Campbell took the first prize at Leicester and Nottingham. In 1992 Hughbon designed and made his transforming costume ‘Caterpillar/Butterfly’. The costume, worn by Denis Lazarus, entered the stage as a caterpillar before transforming into a butterfly. Not only did the costume win at Leeds but it took the first place prize at Huddersfield too. 1993 was a big year for Hughbon. While his Queen costume, ‘Jelly Fish’, didn’t win in Leeds, his Princess costume ‘Flight of Fancy’ worn by three-year-old Eleanor Claxton won first prize. His biggest success that year came in Leicester. His ‘Jelly Fish’ troupe won Best Children’s Troupe, his Queen costume worn by Angela Parkes won Best Queen, his costume worn by Gloria Williams won ‘Best Mama’ and his octopus costume worn by Jaudash Taylor won Best Prince. In April 1994, with funding by East Midlands Arts, Hughbon began providing workshop experience at the Leicester Carnival offices for local young people. Hughbon was now working as a free-lance designer but it would be some years before he won the first place prize at the Leeds West Indian Carnival Queen Show.
Hughbon won his fifteenth (8 from Leeds, 4 from Huddersfield, 2 from Leicester and 1 from Nottingham) Carnival Queen contest in 2001 when his costume ‘Pollinator Honey Bee’ worn by Stacey Robinson was placed first at Leeds West Indian Carnival. Hughbon had designed the costume so that the performer, dressed as a bee, could detach herself from the structure, climb up it, and pollinate the flowers. It marked the beginning of a new era for Hughbon in which performance and storytelling became essential elements in his costume designs. Hughbon became known for his costumes that allowed the performer to interact with the structure, costumes with moving parts and costumes that transformed on the stage. ‘Pollinator Honey Bee’ was Hughbon’s return to winning the Leeds Carnival Queen Show. His costume the following year was titled ‘The Ship’ and was worn by Sharon Clement. It too took the first place prize in Leeds. With giant sails that rose over ten feet into the air, ‘The Ship’ was one of Hughbon’s grandest costumes. When the performer danced in the costume, the waves moved giving the impression of a ship on the ocean. Working from home with a team of supporting family members, Hughbon was able to build and test his costumes in his garden. Hughbon’s 2003 Queen costume, ‘Pink Butterfly’ worn by Helena Hamlet gave Hughbon another hat-trick of wins in Leeds. ‘Pink Butterfly’ marked Hughbon’s tenth costume to win first prize at Leeds West Indian Carnival. The costume, sponsored by Huddersfield Grenadian Association, also took first place in Huddersfield. Hughbon’s 2005 flying saucer costume opened up on the stage and closed again at the end of the performance. His 2006 winning custom, ‘The Bush Warrior’ worn by Sarah Bryant, was followed by perhaps his best remembered costume, ‘Man On Hos Back’ which was worn by Charlene Smith. It was placed first at Leeds Carnival, giving Hughbon his twentieth Queen win in total. The costume, made up of a giant white horse rode by an overseer with moving parts, was designed to tell a story. When the costume entered the stage the performer, dressed as a slave woman, was seen being pulled along by the horse. She then acted out the cutting of sugarcanes before pulling the overseer from the horse and mounting the horse herself in an act of liberation. ‘Man On Hos Back’ was later displayed at the Hidden History of The Dales exhibition at the Dales Countryside Museum alongside his 2006 ‘The Bush Warrior’ costume.
Hughbon’s son Sephbon Condor began designing his own carnival costumes in 2006. Taking a different approach to his father’s ‘pretty mas’ and influenced by Japanese anime, Sephbon’s first costume design was a group of devils and among his troupe was his ten-year-old son Andre. The following year saw Sephbon design his first Carnival King costume, a dragon, but the costume proved difficult to dance in. With this in mind, Sephbon’s 2008 lion costumes were designed to be more flexible and easier to dance in. Sephbon returned to his dragon design in 2010, improving upon it and entering it into the Leeds Carnival King contest. No other King contestants entered the contest that year and as Sephbon had made four different dragon costumes for the carnival parade, he was asked to enter all four costumes and won his first Carnival King prize. His second Carnival King win came the following year with a costume worn by his father Hughbon. Hughbon had now been making carnival costumes for 40 years and despite his friendly rivalry with his son, he was extremely proud that his son was following in his footstep as an award winning costume designer. Sephbon’s ‘Praying Mantis’ King costume, worn by himself, gave him his third win but as a costume designer, Sephbon still had some important lessons to learn. He had used paint on his costume for the first time but had not used paint sealer. When it rained on the carnival parade day, the paint began to run! Hughbon’s costume that year, ‘Salute’, celebrated the Queen’s diamond jubilee and featured the Queen’s coat of arms and Union Jack Flag. While the costume failed to take the first place in Leeds, it won the first prize in Huddersfield. In October, Sephbon took part in a Black History Month event at Leeds City Museum performing in his ‘Praying Mantis’ costume. Hughbon also gave a talk at the event.
For the most part, prior to 2013, Hughbon and Sephbon had worked on separate costumes. In 2013 High Esteem Carnival Designs was formed and father and son began working together. High Esteem was founded in July 2013 after receiving a £500 grant from Leeds Inspired Funding. The troupe made their debut at Huddersfield Carnival in their ‘Birds of a Feather Flock Together’ costumes. Both a King and Queen costume was made by High Esteem that year along with their troupe costumes. The troupe’s first King costume was performed by Sephbon’s son Andre Condor. The following year, Andre followed in his father’s and grandfather’s footsteps and tried his hand at costume designing. With help from his father, Andre designed the King costume ‘Dragon Mash-up’ which was a runner-up at that year’s King Show. Earlier in the year, Hughbon had designed costumes for the first ‘Pop-Up Carnival’ which took place at Tour de France Grand Depart in Leeds and was featured on the BBC TV programme ‘Songs of Praise’. A second Pop-Up Carnival took place on Scarborough beach. High Esteem won their first Carnival King show in 2015 with their ‘Flight of Fantasy’ costume worn by Elroy Condor (Hughbon’s nephew). Sephbon Condor’s 2008 lion costumes were the inspiration for his 2016 ‘Tigers At Play’ costumes. Sephbon often returns to old designs and ideas and attempts to improve upon them. Hughbon and Sephbon have kept a lot of their past costumes and they also design with transport and storage in mind. The costumes can be then taken out of storage and worn and displayed at special events. Occasionally, updates are made to the costumes. Updates were made to several costumes in 2016 when High Esteem took part in the 40th anniversary of Luton Carnival. Costumes made by the Condors have also made appearances at Morley’s St. George’s Day Parade (2016), Big Disco (2016), Rio Heroes Homecoming Parade (2016), and Leeds Light Night Parade (2017). As well as appearing at special events, High Esteem also take part in carnivals across the country including Manchester, Luton, and Preston.
2017 marked the 50th anniversary of Leeds West Indian Carnival and was a busy year for Hughbon Condor and the High Esteem team. Hughbon was one of four designers chosen to design special headdresses for the ‘I’m Carnival Happy’ project. Hughbon also recreated the 1967 ‘Sun Goddess’ costume that was displayed at the ’50 Years of Leeds West Indian Carnival’ exhibition at The Tetley. His 2007 costume ‘Man On Hos Back’ was also displayed at the exhibition. As well as working on the High Esteem costumes, which included a King, Queen and troupe, he also helped the Harrison Bundey Mama Dread troupe with their ‘King David Oluwale’ costume. Hughbon’s Queen costume ‘Hell Fire-Heaven Reign’ worn by Eleanor Claxton won first prize at the Queen Show. The following year, Sephbon Condor’s King costume ‘King of The Beasts’ was placed first at the Leeds carnival, giving the Condor family a total of 27 Queen or King wins, 18 of which were won in their home city. Serial costumes by Hughbon and Sephbon Condor were displayed at St. Martin’s Church in Leeds in 2018. They included Pink Butterfly (2003), Salute (2012) and King of The Beasts (2018).