For 50 years it’s been one of the most flamboyant and spectacular dates in the city’s cultural calendar.
Now the pioneering pair behind the phenomenally successful Leeds West Indian Carnival have pledged their support to the city’s bid to be European Capital of Culture 2023.
Arthur France and Ian Charles came to Leeds from the Caribbean in the 1950s and both found themselves missing the vibrant culture, art and music that characterised their homeland.
In 1967, a carnival committee headed by Arthur France put on the first Caribbean Carnival that Europe had ever seen, bringing the tastes, sounds and sights of West Indian culture to the streets of Leeds.
In 10 years, visitor numbers increased from 1,000 to 10,000, and by 1988 the carnival was attracting crowds of 40,000. In 2016, the event attracted around 160,000 people.
Ian, now 85, said: “I immediately liked the culture here. I would always go dancing with my friends.
“The only thing that lets England down is the cold weather - hopefully the carnival helps to bring a bit of Caribbean warmth and sunshine each year! The community can all come together and have a great time, no matter who you are or where you’re from.”
With fewer than 100 days to go until Leeds’s bid to be European Capital of Culture 2023 is submitted, Arthur and Ian have pledged to spread the word about Leeds’ 2023 bid in the Leeds West Indian Centre which they set up a few years after the carnival, and at the carnival itself.
Everyone in Leeds can do their bit for the bid by pledging their support for the bid and sharing their activities on social media using #makeleeds2023.
Other suggestions for pledges include telling 23 family and friends about the bid, sharing details about the bid with everyone on your social networks or downloading an exciting new Maker’s Manual, which includes creative ideas for how to get involved, from the Leeds 2023 website.
Sharon Watson, chair of the Leeds 2023 independent steering group, said: “The enthusiasm for the bid that we’ve already seen from people across Leeds has been truly inspiring and it’s clearer than ever that there’s an incredible passion for this once-in-a-generation opportunity for our city.
“With the all-important submission date now fast approaching, we’re keen to harness that collective energy and help spread the message that the bid is something that everyone, from every walk of life can be a part of.
“We’d urge as many people as possible to take this chance to get involved, pledge their support and help show the world that culture is at the absolute heart of Leeds and our communities.”
More details of how to pledge your support or where you can download a Maker’s Manual can be found at: http://leeds2023.co.uk/