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3 – 5 Forward 6 Thank you Hertitage Lottery Fund 7 Introduction 8 – 10 The Origins of Carnival 11 – 27 Carnival Timeline 28 Publication deatils


Carnival photographs courtesy of Max Farrar and Leroy Wenham, Leeds West Indian Carnival Committee Members photographs courtesy of David Renwick and Jonathan Turner. Photograph of Jeff Renwick courtesy of the Heritage Lottery Foundation. Carnival Messiah, 2007 by Paul Hodgson. Collection, Harewood House Trust. Courtesy of Marlborough Fine Art (London) and Diane Howse. Yorkshire Post Newspapers.



I am delighted to welcome you to the 50 Years of Leeds West Indian Carnival Exhibition, supported by Heritage Lottery Fund and in partnership with The Tetley. When I arrived in Leeds in 1957, I never imagined that I would be a part of a phenomenon that has helped to shape this city - that has transformed a cultural landscape and impacted the lives of thousands upon thousands. If, in 1967 you told me that Leeds West Indian Carnival would over the years attract hundreds of thousands or contribute an estimated £55 million to the economy – I would have questioned your sanity! Those days were hard. Our welcome, like the weather was cold, and our struggles were real. Coming together was an antidote. Carnival was a way to bind us together, to remind us of what we left behind and celebrate something that we saw as ‘ours’. So despite us being called crazy by some of our own community and establishment knock backs, a few of us set about making history, though we didn’t know it at the time.

1988 - Palace Youth Project’s 1988 Queen Costume homage to Nelson and Winnie Mandela. Photo: Max Farrar


Photo: David Lindsay

The golden anniversary is an incredible celebration, but it is also a time for reflection. This year I am reminded of the contributors, artists and pioneers who have done so much – some who are no longer with us. For the people and the community who made Carnival happen, the 50 Years of Leeds West Indian Carnival Exhibition is an opportunity to appreciate the Carnival’s importance and history even more. For new audiences it is about learning. To paraphrase one of my heroes, Malcolm X, it will say clearly “If you don’t know, I’ll tell you. If you’ve forgotten, I’ll remind you.” Though it’s a time of celebration, the exhibition and the wider Leeds Carnival 50 Heritage programme showcase how the Carnival’s African and Caribbean roots run deep and over centuries. Its genesis is steeped in the emergence of a people from the cruelty of slavery, into liberation and emancipation. That history is too important to be forgotten beneath the costume spectacle or with the passing of time. So I am particularly looking forward to hearing the recollections of past contributors, to seeing the ‘carnival antiques’ donated by the public and being reunited with the very first Leeds Carnival Queen costume The Sun Goddess, being recreated by Hughbon Condor. The roll call of people who have helped to make and shape our Carnival is impossible to list or quantify. What I do know, is that without their toil, sacrifice, passion and steadfast determination we would not be here half a century later celebrating and reflecting on one of the UK’s most important cultural events. I am proud to have been a part of a remarkable history, honored to have led the organisation that has championed its roots and grateful to be in the company of volunteers, contributors and Carnival Committee members who have taken Leeds West Indian Carnival this far. The exhibition and everything we do this year will celebrate our achievements and elevate our story and traditions. It will preserve and protect what we hold dear. Most importantly it will shape and inspire a new generation to deliver the next 50 years of Leeds West Indian Carnival. One Love Dr Arthur France MBE, Hon LLd Founding Member and Chairperson Leeds West Indian Carnival



David Renwick, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund in Yorkshire & the Humber: “The heritage of Leeds Carnival is integral to the last 50 years of Leeds’ history, and serves to highlight the important stories of folklore, cultural integration, community engagement, and the development of diverse communities in the city. We are extremely pleased that, thanks to National Lottery players, we at the Heritage Lottery Fund are able to offer our wholehearted support and congratulations to this excellent project”.


The exhibition 50 Years of Leeds West Indian Carnival aims to encapsulate some of the main joys of carnival – the sheer force of will that leads to the creation of great costume, music, performance and fun. This is done in a way that also connects to the broader social, cultural and political histories of African-diasporic populations in Leeds and the UK – carnival takes place within a context that is ever present. Each room tells some of the stories of the Leeds West Indian Carnival, through the contributions of participants and makers, as well as through media and historical artefacts. Take, for example, the ‘African Connections’ room, which contextualises a costume by Arthur France with historical Asante stools and Kente cloth. The costume – inspired by the story of Asante warrior Yaa Asantewaa – comes to life not only for its beauty, but also because it reminds us of a story of a great woman of Africa. This story is further bought to life by the programme from a play directed by Geraldine Conner (a hugely significant figure in the history of LWIC) that sits alongside. We travel through hundreds of years of history and across continents – all through carnival. This exhibition takes us right to the beginning of the LWIC to the present day. We can hear stories about many peoples involvement with LWIC, or see if we can spot a loved one in the ‘Kings and Queens’ room. We can enjoy the sound of Lord Silky whilst admiring work by one of the most exciting up and coming mas troupes and photographs of traditional big drum players. We can see images that demonstrate how the LWIC has grown from its humble origins in 1967 to an event that is a highlight of the Leeds calendar today. Most of all, I hope that this exhibition gives us the chance to imagine what the next 100 years might look like. Sonya Dyer, Exhibition Curator



It is estimated that before 1807, over 20 million people were forcibly taken from the West coast of Africa and forced to work on the sugar plantations in the Americas – which included he entire Caribbean, Brazil, and the southern states of North America – producing luxury goods such as sugar, tobacco, rum and cotton for the European market. In Trinidad, the early morning celebration of the first day of carnival is called J’ouvert. The term is a corruption of the French expression jour overt (opening of the day) and is derived from the enactment of the Cannes Brulees (burning of the sugar cane.)

This was the only time of the year that enslaved Africans from different plantations were able to legitimately gather together. It was a time of celebration for them: many marriages, child namings and thanksgivings were known to take place under the guise of Cannes Brulees. When emancipation took effect in Trinidad on 1 August, 1834, (seventeen years after the signing of the abolition of the slave trade parliamentary act in England) the enslaved Africans celebrated their newly acquired freedom by reproducing on the streets of Port of Space a re-enactment of Cannes Brulees. Under its new guise of J’ouvert / carnival, Cannes Brulees provided the blueprint upon which the carnival masquerade bands of today have modelled themselves.

Image: African ex-slave dance by Richard Bridgens. Painted between 1838 and 1845.

Carnival is not just a legalised rave…. Lest we forget, millions lost their lives in pursuit of their liberty. Today, carnival best expresses the strategies that the people of the Caribbean and black British citizens have for speaking about themselves and their relationship with the world, their relationship with history, their relationship with tradition, their relationship with nature and their relationship with God. Carnival is the embodiment of their sense of being and purpose and its celebration is an essential and profoundly life affirming gesture of a people. This text was originally written by Geraldine Connor and published in ‘Carnival Magazine, 2008,’ under the title ‘Where did Carnival Come From?’

Carnival Messiah, 2007. Photo: Paul Hodgson. Collection, Harewood House Trust.

Geraldine Connor trained at the Royal College of Music in London, in Trinidad and at SOAS in London before completing her doctoral research at the University of Leeds in 2006. Geraldine was one of the first female arrangers to compete in the Panorama competition in Trinidad, and arranged for Ebony Steel Orchestra. In 2005 she was recognized by the British Association of Steel Bands for her family’s contribution to the promotion of Caribbean culture and heritage in the UK. Her publications include Pan, the Steelband Movement in Britain (2011) Over three decades Geraldine created or directed a number of theatrical and musical productions, including her landmark Carnival Messiah. In 2009, she was presented with Trinidad and Tobago’s second highest national honour, the Chaconia medal (gold). Geraldine Connor, died in 2011, aged 59. In 2012 the Geraldine Connor Foundation was established to continue Geraldine’s legacy.

Photo: Diane Howse



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1834 Traditional African music - Kaiso, Lavways and Calinda chants feature as the music of Cannes Boulay processions in Trinidad, and, following Emancipation, from which Carnival as we know it evolved.

1881 Government attempts to ban masquerade processions spur Canboulay riots in Port of Spain, Trinidad.

1914 Julian Whiterose makes first English speaking calypso recording by Victor Records in Trinidad.

1935 Lady Trinidad is first recorded female calypsonian.

1940s 55 gallon oil drums used as steel drums become 20th century’s only new acoustic musical instrument, the steel pan.

1948 Calypso legend Lord Kitchener sings London is the Place for Me for crowds as he arrives in UK on SS Windrush.

1964 United Caribbean Association formed when 27 founding members gather at Arthur France’s bedsit at 15 Grange Avenue in Chapeltown.

1965 Caribbean Steel Band from Leeds, led by Sonny Marks, appear on TV talent show Opportunity Knocks.

1966 First Leeds Caribbean Carnival fete held at Kitson College featuring Jimmy James and Vagabonds, organised by students from Trinidad and Jamaica including Tony Lewis and Frankie Davies.


1967 LEEDS WEST INDIAN CARNIVAL IS BORN Founding Committee Members: • George Archibald • Calvin Beach • Arthur France (Chairman) • Tony Lewis • Rose McAllister (Secretary) • Willie Robinson • Ansell Shepherd • Ken Thomas Founding Pioneers: • Courtland Carter • Ian Charles • Alice Gordon • Gloria Pemberton • Rasheeda Robinson • Irwin and Veronica Samlalsingh • Eddie Vanterpool • Cleve Watkins

Founding members and pioneers Willie Robinson, Arthur France, Rasheeda Robinson, Calvin Beach and Ian Charles. Photo: David Lindsay

Arthur France invites West Yorkshire Police, Chief Inspector Exley to his flat to discuss plans for the first carnival parade. A few thousand people attend the first Leeds West Indian Carnival parade which makes its way from Potternewton Park through Leeds city centre.


1967 The inaugural Carnival Queen Show is held at Jubilee Hall (now Host Media Centre). Vicky Cielto as The Sun Goddess by Veronica and Irwin Samlalsingh wins the very first Leeds Carnival Queen title. Arthur ‘Lord Silky’ Davies wins the first Leeds Calypso King title with songs including St Kitts is my Borning Land. Courtland Carter and Arthur France set up the Gay Carnival Steel Band. The first Leeds Steel Pan contest is won by Birmingham’s St Christopher Steel Band who take the title with their performance of Elizabethan Serenade competing against three other bands including the Gay Carnival Steel Band and Invaders from Leeds. Golden Age of Leeds Pan: • Boscoe Steel Band • Caribbean Steel Band • Esso Steel Band • Gay Carnival Steel Band • Invaders Steel Band • Paradise Steel Band • New World Steel Orchestra • Wilberforce Steel Band (Pictured)

Photo: Courtesy R Wattley

Janet France as Rocket to the Moon in 1969. Photo: Ian Charles

1968 Leeds costumed troupes take part in the fledgling Notting Hill Carnival.

1969 Janet France’s costume Rocket to the Moon by Ian Gill, inspired by the first moon landing. Felina Hughes appointed LWIC’s youngest Secretary at age 16. Masqueraders - with their folklore costumes, characters, symbolism and dance steeped in African heritage, Masquerade is a tradition amongst many Caribbean islands and carnivals. Though now retired, Captain Wenham is still widely considered an icon and pioneer of Masquerade in Leeds. There is no Masquerade without the big drum, kettle and fife. The late fife players Kenneth Brown and Prince Elliot were a part of many Carnival Day Masquerader appearances, joined by Albert Henry on kettle drum and Henry Freeman on the fondly named ‘big drum’ who both continue to play today. 15

1970 Carnival Queen Show joy. Photo: Pepper Photos

Early 1970s Trinidadian Ras Shorty develops The Soul of Calypso known today as soca music. Trevor McDonald comperes Carnival Queen Show at the Mecca Ballroom.

1982 Carnival Parade goes down Regent and North Streets cutting out Leeds city centre for the first time.


Carnival 1980. Photo: Yorkshire Post Newspapers

Rope pulled trolleys carried steelbands along the Carnival parade up until the 1980’s. Photo Max Farrar

1983 Carnival Parade takes the current route for the first time. The last Queen Show to be held at Primrose High School. Kooler Rooler and Mavrick Sound systems played music. The rise of soca DJ’s including Mackie, Beresford, Godfather, Brandy and Caribbean Sound from Manchester.

1984 New World Steel Orchestra founded.

1985 Carnival Queen Show moves to Leeds West Indian Centre Marquee.


1986 Rhonda Ward becomes the first Carnival Princess.


The first full Carnival Prince & Princess Show held at Leeds West Indian Centre, Wayne Bailey takes the first Carnival Prince title.

1992 First J’Ouvert parade – the traditional Caribbean early morning start to Carnival Day. Hughbon Condor’s landmark transformable Caterpillar Butterfly costume worn by Denise Lazarus wins Carnival Queen title.

The late Kenneth Brown and Prince Elliot were stalwarts of traditional Masqueraders along with Henry Freeman on ‘big drum’ who still plays today. Photo Max Farrar

2008 Brenda ‘Soca B’ Farara becomes the first woman to win the annual Calypso Monarch title. Tyrone Henry as Pan Jumby, by Asha France crowned first Leeds Carnival King.

2011 King & Queen Show returns to Leeds Town Hall. Tyrone Henry as Pan Jumby crowned the first Carnival King in 2008. Photo: Max Farrar

Hughbon Condor’s 1992 iconic transformable Caterpillar Butterfly worn by Denise Lazarus. Photo: H Condor


2014 King & Queen Show moves to West Yorkshire Playhouse. International soca star Kerwin Dubois performs at show. Pop Up Carnival appears at the Grand Depart of the 2014 Tour de France in Leeds city centre and Scarborough Seafest Carnival and Leeds Carnival artists appear on BBC Songs of Praise.


Calypso Monarch Show renamed Soca Monarch Show.

2016 Record crowds of over 160,000 attend the Carnival parade. AnonyMas take the Biggest and Best Troupe titles. Unity Carnival Arts unprecedented clean sweep winning Carnival King, Queen, Prince and Princess titles. Estimated Carnival has brought ÂŁ55 million to Leeds economy since 1967.

2016 Pareesha Webster as Gateway to Wonderland for Valentina’s Collective. Photo: Maria Spadafora


Pop Up Carnival 2014 at Scarborough Seafest. Photo: Lizzie Coombes

2017 Current Committee Members: Back row L-R Brainard Braimah; Arthur France MBE, Hon LLd (Chair); Stuart Bailey (Acting Treasurer); Debbie Jeffers (Secretary). Front row L-R Melvin Zakers; Sheila Howarth; Norma Cannonier; Brenda Farara (Vice Chair). Missing from the picture are Ian Charles MBE, Brian Phillips and Yola Fredericks.

A spectacular Rampage Mas Band costume at Leeds Carnival 2016. Photo: Guy Farrar



With thanks to; • Heritage Lottery Fund •L  eeds West Indian Carnival Committee and the tireless guidance of Arthur France • Bryony Bond and The Tetley team • AnonyMas Leeds Carnival Band •S  tanley Carey – Masquerader traditions expert •H  ughbon Condor and the Sun Goddess volunteers – Gloria Condor, Andre Condor and Sheldon Charles • Sonya Dyer • Teresa Flavin • Aimee Grundell • Susan Pitter • Dawn Cameron • Tricia Ramsey • Zoe Sawyer • Lord Silky • Mitch ‘Godfather’ Wallace • Joe Williams and the Carnival Chronicles team of volunteers •B  BC Yorkshire (BBC Look North and BBC Radio Leeds) • Black Cultural Archives • West Yorkshire Archive Services •Y  orkshire Evening Post and Yorkshire Post

And finally… To all the pioneers and visionaries, the artists and contributors, the people of Chapeltown and those who have given their time, talents, hard work and determination to make Leeds West Indian Carnival the 50 year phenomenon that it is today – we cannot thank you enough.

Special thanks; To all the community members who shared memories of Leeds West Indian Carnival, precious mementoes of loved ones and loaned their Carnival treasures for the exhibition.

9 781999

To the talented photographers credited in this catalogue, the exhibition at The Tetley, satellite displays at West Yorkshire Playhouse and Reginald Centre and throughout the wider Leeds Carnival 50 Heritage project.


50 Years of Leeds West Indian Carnival Made possible by Heritage Lottery Fund support Limited edition of 750 Published by The Tetley August 2017 Design by Lee Goater Printed by Colour Options ISBN 978-1-9997291-1-0


© 2017 Leeds West Indian Carnival Reporduction without permission strictly permitted Leeds West Indian Carnival is supported by Arts Council England, Leeds City Council, Heritage Lottery Fund, Leeds BID and Leeds 2023 The Tetley is supported by Arts Council England, Leeds City Council, Carlsberg UK and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.


50 years of Leeds West Indian Carnival  

With thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund

50 years of Leeds West Indian Carnival  

With thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund