Music lovers power through rain at Leeds Black Music Festival

Imar Shephard on the stage.
Imar Shephard on the stage.

A celebration of black cultures, music and community took place in Leeds.

Hip hop, grime, reggae and performers from other genres played to crowds who braved the rain at Potternewton Park, Chapeltown, today.

Umbrellas out for the downpour at Potternewton Park.

Umbrellas out for the downpour at Potternewton Park.

After starting in 1985 as the Leeds Reggae concert to complement the Leeds West Indian Carnival, the event has been organised by Black Health Initiative (BHI) from 2015.

Read more: Leeds West Indian Carnival 2018: Everything you need to know about this year’s event
Chief executive Heather Nelson said: “We need to share. There seems to be more separation. We need to start, all of us, to share our cultures so there is more understanding of where we are coming from.

“[We need to] celebrate what makes us different but what unites us together.”

Speaking about today's event, she added: “The rain has not dampened anything except our ponchos.”

Imar Shephard.

Imar Shephard.

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Ms Nelson also said the Leeds festival is a good alternative to the Notting Hill Carnival in London.

“It’s safer, it’s family-friendly,” she said.

When the BHI started organising the festival, it branched out from its reggae focus and began to offer more hip hop, grime and other types of music of black origin, in response to community feedback.

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Ms Nelson, 52, said she was “shocked” to find out that a European federation of festivals previously named the event as the fastest growing one in the continent.

She added: “I would like to say that we are proud that something which is having a positive impact on Leeds, Yorkshire and Europe is coming out of an area that’s had a difficult reputation to address.”

BHI is a “community engagement organisation” which is working towards equality of access to health and social care within Leeds and the surrounding areas.