50th Leeds West Indian Carnival set to be biggest and best yet

Seth Condor at the launch. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
Seth Condor at the launch. PIC: Jonathan Gawthorpe
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THIS summer’s Leeds West Indian Carnival is set to be the biggest and best yet as organisers celebrate the 50th anniversary of Europe’s longest running authentic Caribbean carnival parade.

Thousands of visitors are expected to flock to the city’s Potternewton Park on Bank Holiday Monday August 28 for the dazzling procession of floats and stunning costumes from across the UK.

Hundreds of carnival supporters gathered at Leeds Town Hall last night for the launch of the 50th anniversary programme.

The parade already looks set to break records with around 2,000 revellers made up of over 30 costumed troupes and 50 large scale king, queen, prince and princess costumes signed up to take part.

Carnival founder and chairman Arthur France, who launched the first event in Leeds in 1967, said: “I never dreamed that when I came to the UK 60 years ago, I would be a part of something as amazing as the carnival.

“To be a part of this historic moment decades later in the city I love is a dream come true for me and I look forward to the streets of Leeds being transformed by culture, unity, colour and joy.”

Highlights of the lead up to the August Bank Holiday extravaganza include a city wide pop up photo booth taking 500 portraits of people sporting four head dresses commissioned by Leeds Inspired.

And there will be Heritage Lottery Fund supported summer exhibition at The Tetley in Leeds. The exhibition captures 50 years of the carnival with photography, footage, archive materials and more as well as an oral history project to gather the memories and stories of the pioneers who brought carnival to Leeds.

Mr France said: “This is a landmark moment not only for the carnival but for Leeds to showcase how very proud we are of one of the few events that can truly unite people from all walks of life”.”

West Yorkshire Playhouse will mark the 50th birthday with a week of events from September 11, including the launch of a new play commemorating the carnival’s history.

Arts Council England support means the annual Leeds Carnival King and Queen Show, which showcases dramatic large scale costumes will make its fourth showing at West Yorkshire Playhouse on August 25.

It will feature a brand new carnival choir made up of 50 voices from the local community and accomplished singers, performing calypso melodies with choral styling.