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Caribbean Carnival Cultures

Dancers at Leeds West Indian Carnival

About the Caribbean Carnival Cultures

The Caribbean Carnival Cultures research strand, supported by the Centre for Culture and the Arts at Leeds Beckett, aims to kick-start carnival research in the UK and across the Caribbean diaspora. Leeds is a city perfectly placed to be leading on carnival research as it is home to the longest-running Caribbean carnival in Europe. We believe that carnival needs to be taken seriously and aim to bridge the perceived gap between academic research and artistic practice, in carnival, by encouraging a necessary dialogue between the two.

All of our key contributors regularly publish on carnival and we have a fully-funded PhD student in carnival cultures and aim to provide further opportunities to enhance research in the field. We also want to reach beyond the academic institution and support the local and national carnival community. Community is at the heart of carnival and we are dedicated to creating and nurturing community links to enhance the perception and understanding of carnival globally.

Caribbean Quarterly Journal

Dr Emily Zobel Marshall is guest editor for the latest issue of The Journal of Carribean Culture, Caribbean Quarterly (Vol. 65, 2019).

We work with:

Plus Icon Cabasa Carnival Arts

Community is at the very heart of Carnival. At Cabasa Carnival Arts, our dedicated team work to engage community groups in the delivery of exciting, creative projects, informed by a diverse range of cultural traditions and practices. We enable artists and communities to work together through costume, dance, percussion and theatre to transform the streets into a stage.

Plus Icon Centre for African Studies (LUCAS), Leeds University

LUCAS joins AEGIS Leeds University Centre for African Studies has recently been accepted as a member of the Africa-Europe Group for Interdisciplinary Studies (AEGIS), a research network of European studies centres which aims to create synergies between experts and institutions. With primary emphasis on Social Sciences and Humanities, AEGIS’ main goal is to improve understanding about contemporary African societies. It is excellent news for LUCAS that we are now part of this network and we look forward to being able to help contribute to developing AEGIS’ important work.

Plus Icon Chapeltown Arts

Chapeltown Arts is an arts organisation based in Chapeltown, Leeds, and open to all residents of Leeds and the rest of the world. Part of our main aim is to engage community, promote and encourage artists, makers and creatives to be involved and participate in the arts.

Plus Icon David Oluwale Memorial Association

The David Oluwale Memorial Assocation (DOMA) starts with the story of David Oluwale’s origins in Nigeria and his migration to the UK as a stowaway. We set out his experience in the Leeds, in the north of England (1949 to 1969) of exclusion and police persecution, culminating in what we believe to be his murder by two policemen. We acknowledge that Leeds has made great strides since then. We aim to educate the city of Leeds in coming to terms with its past, improving its care for those who remain marginalised, and to promote equality, diversity and racial harmony for our people.

DOMA invariably uses the creative arts to convey its message and at the 2017 Leeds Carnival partnered with the HB Mama Dread mas band in making King David Oluwale to lead 150 masqueraders proclaiming All Ah We Are Migrants.

Plus Icon Mama Dread

Harrison Bundey Mama Dread's Masqueraders is a Leeds based carnival troupe, named after local solicitor Ruth Bundey and costume designer and maker Athaliah Durrant, who died in 2015. We play mas every year at Leeds Carnival. We make social comment about issues of the day, through our costumes, dance and play on the road. Look out for us at the 50th celebration in 2017. Our troupe recently received Arts Council funding for our troupe about migration, in partnership with Remember Oluwale.

Plus Icon Peepal Tree Press

Peepal Tree aims to bring you the very best of international writing from the Caribbean, its diasporas and the UK. Our goal is always to publish books that make a difference, and though we always want to achieve the best possible sales, we're most concerned with whether a book will still be alive in the future.

Plus Icon Leeds City Council

Leeds City Council has supported Leeds West Indian Carnival since its beginning fifty years ago. The city is entering the competition to be the UK’s next European Capital of Culture in 2023 and Leeds West Indian Carnival will be a key part of the city’s strong cultural offer in 2023 and increasingly so in the years leading up to it. Support for the Lord Mayor’s Civic Reception is being provided by Leeds City Council’s 2023 European Capital of Culture Bid team. More information

Leeds City Council logo

Plus Icon The Geraldine Connor Foundation

The Geraldine Connor Foundation was established in 2012 to continue the work and vision of renowned educationalist, theatre director and ethnomusicologist Dr Geraldine Connor.

Geraldine’s magnus opus was Carnival Messiah, a reimagining of Handel’ Messiah which fused music, dance and carnival and united international artists and communities in Leeds on a professional stage. This year the Geraldine Connor Foundation will celebrate 10 years since the last performance of Carnival Messiah at Harewood House.

Since its founding the Geraldine Connor Foundation has dedicated itself to advancing the development of young people and continuing the work and vision of Geraldine. Through our creative projects in the Arts we engage and empower young people from diverse communities throughout Leeds and the northern region. More information

Geraldine Connor Foundation Logo

Plus Icon Moving Worlds

Moving Worlds is a Journal of Transcultural Writings, edited by Emeritus Professor Shirley Chew from Leeds University. Its central concern – the transcultural – is the movement of cultures across national boundaries, and the productive transformations resulting from these crisscrossings.

Moving Worlds Logo

Key Collaborators

Key people working on research alongside our academic staff:

  • Tony Hall: internationally renowned Trinidadian carnival playwright, project partner and director of Jouvay Institute and Lord Street Theatre Company.
  • Professor Milla Riggio: world-leading researcher of Trinidad carnival from Trinity College, Connecticut and project partner.
  • Michael la Rose: designer and leader of London’s People’s War Carnival Band, Chair of the George Padmore Institute and project partner.
  • Professor Max FarrarCofounder of Caribbean Carnival Cultures. Sociologist, author, political activist and photographer with over 40 years of publications on carnival and photographs of carnival as well as a long-standing involvement with Leeds West Indian carnival and local community political and arts groups.
  • Dr Emily Zobel Marshall: Cofounder of Caribbean Carnival Cultures, Senior Lecturer in Postcolonial Studies and Course Director for English Literature undergraduate postgraduate degrees at Leeds Beckett University. Publishes regularly on carnival and has a decade of involvement in Leeds West Indian carnival.
  • Tola Dabiri: Fully funded PhD student at the School of Cultural Studies. Supervised by Emily Zobel Marshall and Caroline Herbert, her work examines the function of the oral tradition in carnival cultures. Tola is artistic director of Carnival Cultures and has a wealth of experience of experience in carnival archiving and carnival arts and heritage projects.
  • Angela Chappell: Arts Council England, Relationship Manager Combined Arts - North and National Lead for Carnival Arts. Leads the Combined Arts national task group for Carnival, developed ACE Gfta carnival advice sheets and chaired two National carnival conferences: UKCCA 2013, EMCCAN 2015. Angela has undertaken research at Cape Town Carnival, South Africa, 2016 and published articles and photo galleries for Soca News as well as several academic papers on carnival arts. 
  • Cathy Thomas: A University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in the Creative Writing Department at UC Riverside. Her interdisciplinary research and writing is focused on the Caribbean diaspora and global popular culture that engage literary genre, archives, science, and cultural practice.This work uses cross-genre narrative strategies to trace continuities between postcolonial ideologies, speculative and natural ecologies, and Caribbean carnival masquerade.

Carnival Conference Interviews

Plus Icon Carnival Conference Interviews: Arthur France MBE
Plus Icon Carnival Conference Interviews: Rasheeda Robinson
Plus Icon Carnival Conference Interviews: Calvin Beach
Plus Icon Carnival Conference Interviews: Dr Emily Zobel Marshall
Plus Icon Carnival Conference Interviews: Professor Milla Riggio
Plus Icon Carnival Conference Interviews: Tony Hall
Plus Icon Carnival Conference Interviews: Willie Robinson

Carnival Research & Blogs

Plus Icon Chapletown Arts: Carnival at 50 Ebook
Plus Icon Launch of New Carnival Arts Journal, May 2020: The International Journal of Carnival Arts (Volume 1).

Launch of New Carnival Arts Journal, May 2020: The International Journal of Carnival Arts (Volume 1).

IJCA is an online journal launched by a consortium of artists, musicians, teachers, historians and academics around the world who are passionate about Carnival Arts. We want to use a new approach for sharing studies and analyses of the history, evolution and contribution that Steelpan, Mas, Calypso and other related carnival disciplines have made to culture and the arts everywhere.

We are launching a web-based journal where research is captured in documents that any passionate, active or a keen observer of carnival arts can submit. Our Editorial Board consists of volunteer peers who will work to ensure that the accuracy and uniqueness of the work is reflected in each published paper. We want to encourage individuals to narrate key events in Mas, Calypso and Pan that they have experienced, relate accounts of individuals – particularly ‘unsung heroes’ – who have made contributions as yet undocumented, and articulate their own views on the history and future development of carnival arts. Everyone is an author!

Journals, in our opinion, should not be restricted to academic research nor restricted to specific societies. Knowledge propels progress and innovation, creating a platform to celebrate and exchange views and ideas which can bring carnival artists from around the globe into a virtual and mutually supportive community that can learn, perform and grow together.

We have a history of opening new horizons and encouraging international conferences and workshops which have paved the way for launching this journal. In fact after 15 years of bringing a free and accessible series of international conferences and workshops, we are confident that the passion to document and share our knowledge and experiences of all aspects of carnival arts, steelpan, calypso, soca, chutney and carnival music and mas – including design, mas bands, parades, symbolic figures, history and culture – is overwhelming and will drive this new initiative.

IJCA is an open and cost-free all-inclusive journal that promises to capture the enormous breadth of carnival arts and translate the predominantly oral narrative of carnival arts into a living, visible and accessible record.

Plus Icon Caribbean Carnival Cultures Publication

Caribbean Carnival Cultures Publication 

Emily Zobel Marshall is guest editor for the latest issue of the international journal the Caribbean Quarterly (Vol. 65, 2019).

Plus Icon Follow the Signs – The Quadrille, Intangible Heritage and the Caribbean Carnival, Tola Dabiri (2019)

Follow the Signs – The Quadrille, Intangible Heritage and the Caribbean Carnival.

The Quadrille was danced throughout the eighteenth century, and became a symbol of European refinement and enlightenment. It was during this century that the rapid expansion of European colonisation of the Americas and Caribbean took place, and along with it the establishment of the plantation based economy based on the free labour of enslaved African peoples.

Plus Icon The Intangible Heritage of Carnival in the Köln Region of Germany, Tola Dabiri (2019)

The Intangible Heritage of Carnival in the Köln Region of Germany.

Carnivals have taken place in the Rhineland region of Germany for centuries, and the biggest and most influential of these to have survived as a contemporary festival is in the city of Cologne (Köln), a Lenten festival, which takes place on Rosenmontag (Rose Monday), two days before Ash Wednesday. 

Plus Icon The Leeds West Indian Carnival Archive

The Leeds West Indian Carnival Archive.

In the Leeds West Indian Carnival Archive you will find newspaper articles, photographs, videos and much more relating to Leeds West Indian Carnival. The archive is an on-going project and will be added to on a regular basis so please continue to return to check for updates.

Plus Icon A Short History of Leeds West Indian Carnival: 1967 - 2000, Max Farrar

A Short History if the Leeds West Indian Carnival: 1967 - 2000.

This document aims to record some of the key moments in the life of the West Indian Carnival in Leeds, which started over the August Bank Holiday in 1967, and has taken place at that time every year since.

Plus Icon Red, White and Blue Feathers in the Summer Rain, by Tola Dabiri

Tola Dabiri has worked in the cultural sector since 1995 and is currently a PhD researcher at Leeds Beckett University, looking at the oral tradition and intangible heritage of Carnival.

Plus Icon Windrush Bacchanal: Leeds West Indian Carnival Troupe Celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Arrival of Empire Windrush, by Emily Zobel Marshall

Windrush Bacchanal: Leeds West Indian Carnival Troupe Celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Arrival of Empire Windrush

Dr Emily Zobel Marshall reflects on the history of Caribbean culture in Britain and how it has enriched our lives both here in Leeds and throughout the country.

Plus Icon Analysing 43 years of the Arts Council's funding and supporting of Caribbean Carnival in England by Angela Chappell

Analysing 43 years of the Arts Council's funding and supporting of Caribbean Carnival in England

The history of Arts Council England's relationship to the Carnival sector.

Plus Icon It's not all Sequins and Bikinis? Power, Performance and Play in the Leeds and Trinidad Carnival

It’s not all Sequins and Bikinis? Power, Performance and Play in the Leeds and Trinidad Carnival

Explore the tensions between power, performance and play within the Caribbean carnival in Trinidad.

Plus Icon City could burn down we jammin' still! by Michael La Rose

City could burn down we jammin' still!

The history and tradition of cultural resistance in the art, music, masquerade and politics of the Caribbean Carnival.

Plus Icon Solidarity, jouissance and the free carnival by Max Farrar

Solidarity, jouissance and the free carnival.

The Free Carnival is inspired by the urge for jouissance.

Popular political cultures and the Caribbean carnival

Studying how Carnival is a rich resource for cultural resistance as well as pleasure.

Plus Icon Resistance through 'Robber-Talk': Storytelling Strategies and the Carnival Trickster by Emily Zobel Marshall

Resistance through 'Robber-Talk': Storytelling Strategies and the Carnival Trickster

Examining the cultural trajectory of the traditional Trinidadian carnival masquerade character the Midnight Robber and his use of language as a vehicle for cultural resistance.

Upcoming Events

Past Events

Plus Icon 50 Years of Leeds West Indian Carnival book launch

50 Years of Leeds West Indian Carnival book launch

Join the Centre for Culture and the Arts for the launch of this book which uses a combination of photos and text to map Leeds' 50 year Carnival journey and helps to illuminate the full story of Caribbean-led creativity and multicultural hospitality. Introduced by Arthur France and Emily Zobel Marshall, short talks will be given by co-authors Guy Farrar, Tim Smith and Max Farrar.

Refreshments will be served. All welcome. Booking necessary, to book click here.

7 February 2018, 17:30 - 19:30

Caygill’s Corner (2nd floor), Leeds Beckett University, Broadcasting Place, Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, LS2 9PD

Plus Icon Diasporic everyday AHRC network carnival roundtable
Learning from Carnival - A discussion with key actors and participants from the Leeds Beckett Carnival Conference (May 2017) where central themes and lessons which emerged from the major international event will be reflected upon.
November 2017
Plus Icon 50 Years of Leeds West Indian Carnival

Featuring many photographs taken by Max Farrar, this exhibition explores and celebrates the legacy of the Leeds West Indian Carnival with a mix of cultural, aesthetic and political displays including costume, film, sound and ephemera. Curated by Sonya Dyer, the exhibition reflects two journeys at the heart of the story of Leeds Carnival: the journey of carnival from its West African roots to Leeds via the Caribbean, and the journey of Leeds Carnival from humble beginnings to the highlight in Leeds’ cultural calendar it is today.

12 August - 29 October, The Tetley, Leeds

Plus Icon Caribbean Carnival Symposium, May 2014

In November 2014 the Centre for Culture & the Arts held a successful Caribbean Carnival Symposium. Organised by Dr Emily Zobel Marshall with Professor Emeritus Max Farrar it brought together a community of people involved in and interested in the Caribbean carnival, including such hugely popular events as the Notting Hill and Leeds West Indian Carnivals.

Plus Icon Power, Performance & Play, May 2017

The conference was a celebration of Leeds West Indian Carnivals 50th Anniversary and the development of a Carnival Cultures research strand at the Centre for Culture & the Arts. The Conference was supported by the Leeds West Indian Carnival together with Leeds City Council, The Geraldine Connor Foundation and Moving Worlds. The conference was opened by Arthur France MBE, Founder of the Leeds West Indian Carnival. Read a round-up of the event here.

Plus Icon Screening of Carnival Film, August 2017

Film screening of carnival film 'Our Soul Turned Inside Out' on 11 August at Seven Arts, Chapel Allerton.

This film was originally screened in Leeds May 2017 at the Leeds Beckett Caribbean Carnival Conference at the Little Reliance Cinema.

“Our Soul Turned Inside Out” is a documentary that examines traditional Carnival characters created in the 19th century crucible of slavery and emancipation.

Produced by The Carnival Institute of Trinidad and Tobago, this film documents and celebrates some of Trinidad and Tobago’s Traditional Carnival Characters. This event was hosted by Chapeltown Arts, Leeds Black Film Club, Remember Oluwale, Leeds DynaMix, Conversations in Black History and supported by Leeds Beckett University Centre for Culture and the Arts. It was attended by over 50 people and followed by a lively debate on carnival and politics.

Plus Icon Chapeltown Arts Word Junction, September 2017

Carnival event, supported by the Centre for Culture and the Arts and co-organised by Emily Zobel Marshall. Reginald Centre, Chapeltown, 9 September 2017.

Our 4th Chapeltown Word Junction is a Carnival-themed celebration of the literary achievements of Chapeltown, its writers and beyond. Supported by the Leeds Beckett Centre for Culture and the Arts, hosted by Sai Murry and featuring performances, readings and discussion from:
• Leeds Young Authors
– Carnival poetry
• Hughbon Condor
– 'The Flight of the Condors': nearly 50 years of three generations of carnival costume design
• Mahalia France + Halima
– Women, Carnival and family
• Khadijah Ibrahiim 
– Carnival and the body
• Joe Williams
– 'Carnival Chronicles'
• Akeim Toussaint Buck
– 'Red, Green, Gold & Blues': a celebration of Chapeltown's vibrant and pioneering legacy of Blues parties and Sound System Culture
• Emily Zobel Marshall
– The Traditional Masquerade including extract of the film 'Our Soul Turned Inside Out'
• Harrison Bundey Mama Dread Carnival Masqueraders
– in conversation on this year's Mas inspiration David Oluwale Remember Oluwale - The David Oluwale Memorial Association
• Guy & Max Farrar
– 'Celebrate: 50 years of Leeds West Indian Carnival' – discussion/ presentation on newly published book
• Patricia Jones
– Carnival poetry
• Trish Cooke 
– Tales From The Caribbean

Photographs of the Leeds West Indian Carnival

1970 Leeds Carnival Queens at Mecca Ballroom © Photographed by PepperPhoto
1987 Arthur France playing mas as Dianne Abbott, the first black female Member of Parliament © Photographed by Max Farrar
1999 Mahalia France, a Carnival Queen, in the marquee at the West Indian Centre © Photographed by Max Farrar
2003 Hughbon Condor, Leeds’ most successful costume designer, and his Queen, Helena Hamlet © Photographed by Max Farrar
2016 Blue Devil mas, designed and performed by RJC Dance and Rhian Kempadoo Millar © Photographed by Max Farrar
2016 Leonard Carroll, Carnival King, & Charlene Clarke, Carnival Queen, at West Yorkshire Playhouse © Photographed by Max Farrar
2013 Members of the Harrison Bundey Troupe in the ‘Unstitch the Rich’ mas. Photographed by Max Farrar
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