The Leeds Carnival, sometimes referred to as Chapeltown Carnival, takes place in Harehills and Chapeltown every August bank holiday. First held in 1967, it is the longest-running West Indian carnival in all of Europe. The celebration lasts three days and culminates in a parade on the bank holiday Monday; A procession of floats and dancers begins their journey in Potternewton Park and travels in a circle across the neighbourhood before returning to their point of origin. In the park, stalls and stages provide entertainment as well as refreshment.
This year’s Carnival marks the 50th anniversary of the festival. Way back in ’67, Arthur France and Ian Charles, then two Leeds University students, first established the Carnival committee. About 1,000 people attended the inaugural celebration, a number which in recent years has grown to 150,000.
For the half-century jubilee, the festivities will expand beyond their usual reach. Sonya Dyer has curated an exhibition to showcase the Carnival’s history, taking place at Tetley House from August to October. The West Yorkshire Playhouse celebrates the Carnival’s birthday from September 11-15, when new plays commemmorating the festival’s history will debut. Carnival Messiah, the acclaimed West Indian reimagining of Handel’s Messiah, will see the stage of its premiere once again. On October 5th, a nocturnal Carnival procession opens the annual Light Night in celebration of the anniversary.
This year’s parade takes place on August 28. Courtesy of the Leeds 2023 committee, yet-unnamed international special guests will accompany the celebration on the festival’s main stage. For those who’d like to join the party earlier, the Carnival Queen and King will be crowned on the previous Friday, while Saturday offers the iconic Soca Monarch show.