WHEN Arthur France and his friends launched the first Leeds West Indian Carnival in 1967, 15,000 people turned up and the event was deemed a huge success.
This year the carnival celebrates its 45th anniversary and 130,000 are expected to join the celebrations which will pack the community of Chapeltown.
Leeds West Indian Carnival was the first of its kind in Europe and is one of the most popular.
Mr France, 73, still has his hand on the helm as chairman of the carnival committee whose work makes the event the success that it is.
Mr France’s early years were spent on the Caribbean island of Nevis.
“As a child growing up in the Caribbean I was fascinated with costume and carnival, but my parents were conservative with a small ‘c’,” he said. “They said you will watch but not take part.”
He came to Britain as a teenager, living with his sister, working in construction and then teaching.
“When I came here we didn’t have much going for us,” he said. “We needed something to bring us together. I did some research and had the idea of a carnival in England. Funnily English people were more interested in it than West Indians. The West Indians were not up for it because they thought we were going to make ourselves a laughing stock, but I was determined.
“It was a hard struggle but it worked very well and we have never looked back.”
The 45th Carnival is on August Bank Holiday Monday.
“This year is special,” said Mr France. “It is the Queen’s Jubilee, it is the Olympics which is a great thing for England, and we have 45 years of the Carnival, which we thought we would never see.
“There will be up to 130,000 people coming from the Friday of the Carnival Queen’s Show until the Monday. Leeds will be over-run with visitors from all over the country and from overseas.”