Leeds Carnival 2017: Parade brings party atmosphere to city streets

Nisha Pankhania takes part in the Leeds West Indian Carnival's 50th anniversary parade. Pictures: Simon Hulme
Nisha Pankhania takes part in the Leeds West Indian Carnival's 50th anniversary parade. Pictures: Simon Hulme

It has been part of life in Leeds for 50 years now, bringing an explosion of colour, music and dance to the streets of the city every Bank Holiday Monday.

And the organisers behind Leeds West Indian Carnival pulled out all the stops today for this eagerly anticipated milestone in the event’s history.

Zenaida Shabba Gonzalez gets ready for the parade.

Zenaida Shabba Gonzalez gets ready for the parade.

They had promised the biggest parade to date, with an estimated 2,000 dancers gathering in Chapeltown’s Potternewton Park before winding their way through the streets to spread the party atmosphere.

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Early risers had already taken to the streets once today for J’Ouvert Morning – a Caribbean music event and mini parade which set off from Leeds West Indian Centre at 6am.

The park was a hive of activity by noon, with bustling food stalls spreading out across the park and families gathering on the hill overlooking the main stage to see the dancers begin to assemble.

One proud grandmother, who stood near the gates of the park among crowds keen to wave off the parade, had been coming along for some 40 years.

I’ve been every year since I was a baby. It’s definitely bigger and more vibrant, lots more people.

Diane Hinds, carnival spectator

Her granddaughters were among the dancers taking part this year, sporting flamboyant costumes made by their mother – another of those taking part in the parade’s 50th year.

The sheer task of gathering so many dancers, and the floats carrying the all important sound systems, should not be underestimated.

But at around 2pm, the dancers nearest to the gates sprang into life and the party had truly started.

Feather headdresses quivered, sequins caught the sunlight and the bass of the music reverberated through the crowds.

Eye-catching costumes on show during the carnival.

Eye-catching costumes on show during the carnival.

And so it continued for hours as the parade worked its way through Harehills and Chapeltown, then back to the park where the festivities will carry on late into the night.

Diane Hinds, 46, who lives in nearby Chapel Allerton, said: “I’ve been every year since I was a baby. It’s definitely bigger and more vibrant, lots more people.

“It’s definitely one of the biggest I’ve ever seen. It’s been really fantastic.”

She was one of many parents who had brought their children along to watch the parade, a testament of how the community in Chapeltown has worked to shake off the troubled reputation it once held and the fear created by riots in the 1970s and 1980s.

Crowds gather to watch the 50th Leeds West Indian Carnival.

Crowds gather to watch the 50th Leeds West Indian Carnival.

READ MORE –Leeds Carnival at 50: Inspiring us for half a century

Joining the crowds for the first time were Nicola Lester, 50, from Roundhay, and her daughter.

“My daughter wanted to go as she’s got a couple of friends taking part,” she said.

“It’s been really great, very friendly, all cultures. It’s really nice to see.”

Friend Elizabeth Woodhouse, 47, said: “We’ve been two or three years. I really enjoyed it. I’m always so impressed by the costumes.”

Another father had travelled over from Hull, saying: “I wanted to bring my son to see if for the first time. Everything looks great, it’s entertaining. We’re going to head to the park, get something to eat and enjoy the rest of it.”

Among the entertainment awaiting those returning to the park is a special guest appearance from Barbadian music star Edwin Yearwood, lined up with the support of the Leeds 2023 team.

A young dancer has the finishing touches made to their make-up.

A young dancer has the finishing touches made to their make-up.

A taste of the cultural events to come and just what communities in Leeds could deliver if the city realises its goal of becoming European City of Culture six years from now.

Dancers join in with the festivities.

Dancers join in with the festivities.

A troupe takes its costume inspiration from nature.

A troupe takes its costume inspiration from nature.

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