New Leeds West Indian Carnival Mural

New Mural Inspired By Leeds West Indian Carnival To Be Unveiled In The City

Draft mural design (detail) © Rhian Kempadoo-Millar
Draft mural design (detail) © Rhian Kempadoo-Millar

East Street Arts, Leeds West Indian Carnival and Leeds City Council, working in partnership, are set to unveil a new 13m x 9m mural by artist and costume designer Rhian Kempadoo-Millar, in early October. As part of LEEDS 2023, the artwork, which celebrates the rich, vibrant history of Leeds West Indian Carnival, will feature on the gable end of a two-storey house on Savile Mount in Chapeltown, at the heart of the Caribbean and Carnival communities.

Taking inspiration from ‘ole mas’ characters – such as masqueraders, blue devils, and moko jumbies – and the theatrical creations of Leeds’ infamous costume designers, Rhian blends elements of traditional Caribbean carnival with contemporary visuals for the mural, Reflections of Carnival. With input from Carnival and Chapeltown communities, including local school children, older people and costume designers, this important artwork brings a piece of the legendary celebration to the neighbourhood as a permanent tribute. A launch party to celebrate the official unveiling of the mural will take place at the Leeds West Indian Centre, next to the mural, from 12pm to 3pm on Saturday 28 October. Join Rhian, East Street Arts and the Leeds West Indian Carnival committee for food, dance, music, and family activities.

Rhian Kempadoo-Millar said: “I’ve been making and designing costumes for Leeds Carnival for over 25 years. It’s the highlight of my year! I feel well and truly part of the family, so being able to work closely with the local Carnival communities to help shape the design of ‘Reflections of Carnival’ has been a real pleasure. My aim is to create a feeling of movement, flow, colour and passion in the piece, which captures the overall atmosphere of carnival on the road, and its wider influence and impact on Chapeltown and the city”.

‘Reflections of Carnival’ – commissioned as part of LEEDS 2023 – is the latest in East Street Arts’ award-winning ‘A City Less Grey’ series which brings new and unique artwork to the streets and neighbourhoods of Leeds. Rhian Kempadoo-Millar’s artwork sits alongside pieces across the city including Add Fuel’s Burmantofts Pottery-inspired mural ‘ECHOES’ on Mabgate, and will be joined by a further public artwork later in the year, both of which were also commissioned as part of LEEDS 2023.

Emma Beverley, Director of Programmes at LEEDS 2023, said: “We can’t wait to see Rhian’s new mural unveiled. This is the second edition in a series of three new murals as part of East Street Arts’ award winning ‘A City Less Grey’ programme, which we have had the privilege of partnering on for LEEDS 2023. And to celebrate one of the city’s most monumental cultural events in Carnival, with an artist as exciting as Rhian, will be a special legacy from the year of culture that residents and passersby will be able to enjoy for many years to come.”

The mural will complement an upcoming series of carnival-themed East Street Arts projects taking place this year, in collaboration with Leeds West Indian Carnival. Hot on the heels of the large-scale celebration in August, Leeds Carnival will make a spectacular return to Leeds city centre for Heritage Open Day on Saturday 16 September, with a pop-up street performance on New Briggate. And, in December, artist and fashion designer Yaku Stapleton will present an exhibition of clothing reimagined for the communities in Leeds today, which takes inspiration from untold tales of Leeds’ history of clothing, textiles and tailoring from New Briggate to Carnival, and beyond.The project is funded by Leeds Inspired, Wade’s Charity, Leeds 2023, Inner North East Community Committee, and Housing Advisory Panel INE. It is sponsored by Vertu Motors, Unity Housing, Rushbond, Connect Housing, North Brewing, and Maureen’s Catering. The project has also been supported by Moving Homes.

Editors notes

● Interviews are available on request

About Rhian Kempadoo-Millar

Rhian Kempadoo-Millar is a designer and visual artist based between the UK and Portugal. She studied Theatre & Costume Design at Central St Martins, London, and Millinery at Leeds College of Art, and has worked as a costume designer between the UK, USA and The Caribbean for video games, film and carnival for over 25 years. As a visual artist, she creates original canvases and large-scale art pieces using Caribbean heritage, masquerade characters, dance and carnival as a vehicle for issues such as politics, race, trauma and gender.

Rhian’s work has been shown at a number of exhibitions including the Women in Carnival Conference (Leeds, UK, 2022), and Carnaval at Artesis; and in the solo shows ‘O Corpo Lembra’ (The body remembers) and ‘Dança e Luta’ (Dance and Fight). She is currently designing costumes for RJC Dance’s 30th year anniversary.

About Leeds West Indian Carnival

Leeds West Indian Carnival (LWIC) is the oldest authentic Caribbean Carnival in Europe. It was the first to incorporate all three essential elements that define Caribbean Carnival: the spectacle of a street parade, the music of kaiso, calypso, soca accompanied by steel pan and a masquerade of colourful costumes.

LWIC was founded in 1967 by three Caribbean men living in Leeds as a remedy for their community’s collective homesickness and need for connection to their cultural identity. LWIC remains committed to the true roots of Caribbean Carnival, a vision championed by co-founderand Chair, Arthur France: “Carnival is steeped in a history and culture that goes far beyond the costume spectacle …Rooted in slavery, born from Emancipation, and championed by Caribbean communities, it is a journey of resilience, struggles and triumphs that has universal appeal.”

The biggest Caribbean carnival street parade outside London, LWIC’s annual procession attracts up to 150,000 visitors into the city and has become an important contributor to theLeeds cultural economy. Celebrated in August, the annual programme features a children’s costume show, The King & Queen Show, The Soca Monarch, J’ouvert Morning celebrations, culminating in the extravaganza of the street masquerade.

About LEEDS 2023

LEEDS 2023’s ambition is to deliver a transformational year of creative experiences connecting and benefiting people now and into the future. The planned programme will celebrate and transform the city’s identity locally, nationally and internationally – creating a lasting legacy of economic and social impact.

LEEDS 2023 is run by the Leeds Culture Trust, an independent charity set up in 2019 by Leeds City Council as part of its Culture Strategy and as a response to the cancellation of the UK’s participation in the European Capital of Culture competition.

Leeds City Council recognises in a number of its key strategies the difference culture and creativity can make to a city and its citizens and is the principal funder of LEEDS 2023.

LEEDS 2023 is supported by Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage Fund. Thanks to National Lottery players for making this possible.

About East Street Arts

East Street Arts secures better livelihoods for artists and our neighbours, while addressing the issue of economic and commercial decline in our towns and cities. The organisation forces positive interventions through art. As leaders in the artist-led sector for almost 30 years, East Street Arts has empowered artists to be self-determined, take control, incite change and influence key decision-makers to improve lives and environments, locally, nationally and internationally.


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