Tributes to founders of Leeds’s West Indian Carnival as event marks 50 years

CARNIVAL KINGS: Arthur France and Ian Charles, the founders of the Leeds West Indian Carnival, at Leeds Civic Hall.
CARNIVAL KINGS: Arthur France and Ian Charles, the founders of the Leeds West Indian Carnival, at Leeds Civic Hall.
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The founders of Leeds’s West Indian Carnival - which marks its 50th anniversary next month - have been honoured with a special civic ceremony ahead of the milestone event.

Arthur France and Ian Charles received glowing tributes and a standing ovation from a packed chamber at yesterday’s monthly full council meeting at Leeds Civic Hall.

Arthur France and Ian Charles with Leeds Lord Mayor Jane Dowson at Leeds Civic Hall during a special meeting honouring their contribution to the carnival and to the city

Arthur France and Ian Charles with Leeds Lord Mayor Jane Dowson at Leeds Civic Hall during a special meeting honouring their contribution to the carnival and to the city

The special meeting was held “in recognition and high appreciation of their outstanding achievements and to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Leeds West Indian Carnival, the lasting legacy of the carnival, and its significant contribution to the international reputation of the city”.

Tributes were paid from across the political spectrum to the hard work that has gone into turning the annual spectacle from a small community event into a major citywide celebration of diversity, culture and inclusivity.

Leading the tributes to Mr Charles and Mr France, councillor Judith Blake, leader of Leeds City Council, said the carnival had made a “legendary contribution to the rich tapestry that is Leeds over the last 50 years”.

“It gives me enormous pleasure to welcome Ian Charles and Arthur France to the council chamber today,” she said.

A Leeds Carnival dancer in costume at the 2010 event

A Leeds Carnival dancer in costume at the 2010 event

“I am absolutely delighted that you are here to speak to us and to enable us to articulate to you just how important the carnival is to the city of Leeds.”

She recalled the early days of the carnival, when the pair had battled to secure backing and funding for the event, and reflected on the journey to making it the “extraordinary celebration that carnival is now”.

She added: “It gives me an enormous amount of pride when I talk to colleagues in London and particularly Noting Hill, and keep reminding them that Leeds’s is the longest running carnival in Europe. The claim is ours - and yours.”

Thanking councillors for the “honour and privilege” of being invited to the special ceremony, as well as the council’s continuing support, Mr France also reflected on the initial struggles and hard work which had gone into making it the event that it now is.

“We cannot be responsible for the past, but we will certainly be responsible for the future,” he said. “I believe in legacy, and our children and grandchildren will reap these benefits.”

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