47th Leeds West Indian Carnival

arthurfrance1

The 47th Leeds West Indian Carnival took place today (August 25) in Leeds, England, with a Carnival parade that traveled from Potternewton Park, through Harehills Avenue, Harehills Lane, Roundhay Road, Barrack Road and Chapeltown Road before returning to the park for a costume judging in the early evening. Oliver Wright and Abigail Jaiyeola  (BBC) write that the “Leeds Carnival provides Caribbean cure for homesick West Indians.” They also say that discussions continues as to whether Leeds or London’s Notting Hill is home to the oldest Caribbean carnival. Here are excerpts:

The streets of Leeds [were] awash with the sights, sounds and scents of the West Indies on Monday, but how did carnival spirit make the journey from the sun-drenched islands of the Caribbean to the cooler climes of Chapeltown?

When Arthur France [see above] arrived in West Yorkshire in 1957 he quickly found himself longing for his home in the Caribbean nation of St Kitts and Nevis. But, as the homesickness set in he resolved to cure his melancholia by bringing the carnival spirit of his birthplace to the grey streets of Leeds. “When we came here, we came from different parts of the Caribbean and, apart from the cold, we had nothing to hold on to,” Mr France said. “We needed something that would bring us together.”

In 1964 he gathered 27 friends together in his cramped bedsit and outlined his grand plan. “Most of the people thought I was crazy,” he said, “They said ‘A carnival in England? You’re mad’.” But, in 1967 that plan became a reality and the first Leeds West Indian Carnival took place.

Now, 47 years later, the event which is held annually on the streets of Chapeltown and Harehills attracts up to 150,000 and is estimated to bring in as much as £10m to the local economy.

Mr France, who remains at the helm of the organising committee, said ahead of the inaugural parade he bought and plucked a dozen chickens to help make costumes. He said: “You need feathers to make an Indian costume but they didn’t sell feathers in the shops in England. As you know West Indians like chicken and rice for Sunday dinner. So, we found people in the community who were buying chicken. We went to Otley and bought 12 chickens, then we plucked them and passed them on to people who buy chicken for Sunday dinner.” [. . .]

In the years that followed the carnival went from strength to strength. But some would say 1967 marked the pinnacle of its success. Rex Watley, who played in a steel band at the first carnival said: “I still think the first carnival was the very best one. We had a troupe of Indians and we had a big troupe called the Fallen Angels. I remember that really well.” [. . .]

For full article, see http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-leeds-28868288

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