One big dress rehearsal! Sunshine and spectacular costumes for Leeds West Indian Carnival
A carnival parade of people dressed as glittery butterflies and feathery birds, wobbling along the streets of Chapeltown and Harehills on huge stilts, with the tropical sounds of steel pans and fresh coconut juice served straight from its shell...
...It can only mean one thing: Leeds’ annual West Indian Carnival has returned.
This year marks the 49th time thousands of people have turned out on the streets of Leeds to watch the parades and floats go by in celebration of all things Caribbean on the August Bank Holiday weekend.
Organisers estimated 150,000 had attended this year's celebrations.
The Leeds West Indian Carnival is estimated to be worth around £3.5m each year to the city’s economy.
Arthur France MBE, the founder and chairperson of the festival, said: “Carnival is not just about putting on a street party – spectacular as it is.
“It is not just about sharing the sweetness of steel pan and soca music nor the magnificence of costumes... It is about creating a cultural and artistic legacy for the UK – with carnival arts as a platform. It is the best way I know to secure unity and harmony.”
The colourful parade set off from Potternewton Park at 2pm and turned left towards Harehills Avenue before ending up in the city centre. After partying the day away, the floats then looped back on themselves and returned to the park.
The celebration, which included delicious Jamaican food like Ackee, saltfish and curried goat - along with music and culture – is among the oldest events of its kind in Europe.
Months of preparation go into the event which includes a show dedicated to children as well as a calypso showcase.
The drama of the stunning King and Queen Show costume extravaganza is always a treat for the eyes and ears.
This year the Leeds Carnival King was Lenard Carroll as ‘Journey of the Caribbean Rose’ and the Leeds Carnival Queen’s crown was awarded to Charlene Clarke from Leeds, as ‘The Black Swan’.
Both costumes were made by Unity Carnival Arts and The Geraldine Connor Foundation and the winners were announced on Friday during a spectacular show at West Yorkshire Playhouse.
Praise also came from civic chiefs, with Leeds City Council leader Cllr 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.
“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.”