Tens of thousands of people let their hair down at this year’s Leeds West Indian Carnival – and even Mother Nature joined in the celebrations.
The annual Bank Holiday Monday extravaganza – the oldest event of its kind in Europe – was blessed with long spells of Caribbean-style sunshine after a weekend dogged by wet weather.
Revellers ate dishes such as jerk chicken or curry goat with rice and peas as the carnival’s traditional afternoon parade wound its rhythmic way from Potternewton Park along Roundhay Road and Chapeltown Road.
Potternewton Park itself, meanwhile, was transformed into party central with arts and crafts stalls, fairground rides and music stages.
Organisers say around 160,000 people turned out for the event, the highest attendance in its near 50-year history.
And carnival founder and chairman Arthur France today paid tribute to everybody involved with one of the highlights of the city’s calendar.
He told the Yorkshire Evening Post: “[The carnival] has been a beautifully colourful showcase of all that’s great about culture and community harmony in Leeds.
“People have come from near and far to take part and from across the world to watch this amazing spectacle.”
Many people took to social media to toast the atmosphere at the event using the #CarnivalHappy hashtag.
Praise also came from civic chiefs, with Leeds City Council leader Coun Judith Blake saying: “The Leeds West Indian Carnival has become a cornerstone of our city’s cultural calendar and moreover a symbol of the diversity and togetherness that exists here in Leeds. and
“Tens of thousands of people have played a part in this year’s celebration and in doing so they have further strengthened Leeds’s reputation as a warm, vibrant and eclectic city.
“As the longest running event of its kind in Europe, the carnival continues to be a landmark occasion that makes a significant contribution to the local economy, boosts the city’s cultural offering but most importantly helps to foster a sense of community spirit and civic pride year after year.”
Today’s fun started with J’Ouvert, an early morning warm-up parade – named after the French for ‘day open’ or ‘opening day’ – which some decided to attend in their pyjamas or onesies.
The activities were just part of a busy carnival weekend, with the event’s king and queen – Lenard Carroll and Charlene Clarke – being crowned during a spectacular curtain-raiser show at West Yorkshire Playhouse on Friday evening.
The Leeds West Indian Carnival is estimated to be worth around £3.5m each year to the city’s economy.
Mr France, who is originally from St Kitts and Nevis, organised the first carnival in 1967 while he was a student in the city.
He says the inaugural event was about “bringing people of all races together and sharing Caribbean culture”.
Work has already begun on next year’s 50th anniversary carnival, with this summer’s bash being dubbed “the biggest dress rehearsal Leeds has ever seen”.
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