PARTY TIME: Leeds Carnival
AS THE countdown to the Leeds West Indian Carnival gets into swing, Europe’s longest running authentic Caribbean carnival extravaganza is preparing to transform the streets of the city into an explosion of colour.
Thousands of visitors are expected to descend on the city’s Potternewton Park on Bank Holiday Monday August 29, for a sparkling procession of floats and hundreds of stunning costumes from across the UK.
As well as bringing the streets of Leeds to life with the colour, spectacle and unbeatable atmosphere that have attracted millions of visitors and millions to the economy over 49 years, the carnival gives culture in the city the chance to shine and show why it has dazzled Yorkshire for nearly five decades.
Organisers of the event, which in 1967 was the first of its kind in Europe to feature all three essential Caribbean carnival elements of masquerade, music and a parade - have already started working closely with artists, funders and partners in the hope of attracting corporate sponsorship to ensure that 2017’s landmark 50th anniversary celebrations are the biggest and best yet.
Carnival founder and chairperson Arthur France told The Voice: “We are already receiving national and international queries from carnival fans planning to be in the city for our 50th anniversary next year. As well as being a huge milestone, 2017 will be a fantastic opportunity for Leeds to show the world how proud we are of this phenomenal event that unites people from all walks of life.
“To make sure that we get it right, this year’s Carnival has to be the biggest dress rehearsal Leeds has ever seen.”
With a number of Caribbean carnivals across the UK being cancelled or scaled down over the past two years due to funding cuts, France is aware that nothing can be taken for granted. He added: “We are very much aware that public spending and arts funding across the UK are facing significant challenges.
“So, we are particularly pleased to receive continuing support from Leeds City Council and from Arts Council England Lottery funding which will help us to fly the flag for Carnival arts and culture in Leeds.”
Arts Council England support means that the much anticipated annual Leeds Carnival King and Queen Show, which showcases dramatic large scale costumes will make its third showing at West Yorkshire Playhouse on August 26.
The funding will also help Carnival organizers to offer young people practical skills, mentorship and work experience with costume designers, and partner organizations including BBC Radio Leeds, BBC North, West Yorkshire Playhouse and BBC 1Xtra.
Plans for the 50th anniversary celebrations will be announced later in the year, and includes Carnival Ballet, a 2017 world class dance production inspired by the Carnival’s story, heritage and spectacle, and done in partnership with Leeds’ highly acclaimed Phoenix Dance Theatre.