Welcome to Leeds West Indian Carnival.

Arthur France MBE Hon LLD Founding member and Chairperson Leeds West Indian Carnival. Photo: Simon Dewhurst

Welcome to Leeds West Indian Carnival.

When I left the tiny island of Nevis in 1957 heading for the UK like so many West Indians of my generation, I didn’t just leave my home and family behind. I left what makes the Caribbean tick, what gives the region such a pulsating heartbeat; I left my culture, my music, my art behind.

I was not alone and having connected with like minded Caribbean students at Leeds University,

family, friends, even complete strangers – we fought to make Carnival happen. You can only imagine the battles we faced, not only from the authorities of the day but from within our own community! I was known as ‘that crazy man from Nevis’!

After an uphill struggle, the first Leeds West Indian Carnival was held in August 1967 and was the first formally organized authentic Caribbean carnival in Europe. For me it wasn’t about being the first. It was about bringing people of all races together and sharing Caribbean culture as widely as possible. I remember that shortly after that first carnival, a group of us didn’t hesitate to go down to London when we were asked to get the first formal Notting Hill Carnival on the road. The rest is history.

For us, 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 a serious business that needs great partnerships, and that creates a cultural and artistic legacy fuelled by the dedication, hard work and passion of our volunteers, contributors, artists and participants. Half a century later it is the best way I know to secure unity and harmony.

We pride ourselves on welcoming EVERYONE to Carnival – ours is an open invitation and this year we invite you to celebrate 50 remarkable years with us.

Dr Arthur France M.B.E. Hon LLd

Founding Member & Chairperson

You can read more about Arthur France here