Event to celebrate 50 years of the Leeds West Indian Carnival seeks contributors
The event – ‘Power, Performance and Play - An International Conference on Caribbean Carnival Cultures’, will be hosted from 19 to 21 May 2017 by the Centre for Culture and the Arts at Leeds Beckett in partnership with Leeds West Indian Carnival.
Organiser and Senior Lecturer in Cultural Studies at Leeds Beckett, Dr Emily Zobel Marshall, explained: “The conference will be a celebration of Leeds West Indian Carnival’s 50th anniversary - the oldest Caribbean street carnival in Europe, created and led by British Caribbeans - and the development of a Carnival Cultures research group at the Centre for Culture and the Arts here at Leeds Beckett.”
Co-organiser, Leeds Beckett Professor Emeritus Max Farrar, who has 40 years of experience in helping to support and photograph Leeds West Indian carnival, added “The conference is extremely timely: despite the 50 years that British Caribbean communities have brought carnival, their major artistic creation, with its highly significant cultural history, into the public life of the UK, there is little scholarship on this topic in cultural studies, in history, or in literary/drama studies.”
Arthur France MBE, chair and founder of Leeds West Indian Carnival, said: “The Leeds Carnival has its roots in Africa, Europe and the Caribbean. For 50 years we have brought the message of emancipation and multiculturalism to the city of Leeds. This conference will be an opportunity to celebrate our achievement and discuss how we can make it even more significant in years to come.”
The event will focus on breaking down the boundaries between academics and carnival participants and engaging the local Caribbean community in Leeds, whilst celebrating international Caribbean carnival cultures. Keynote speakers confirmed include: Arthur France, MBE, originator of the Leeds West Indian Carnival; Tony Hall, internationally-renowned Trinidadian carnival playwright and director of the Jouvay Institute and Lord Street Theatre Company; Professor Milla Riggio, world-leading researcher of the Trinidad carnival from Trinity College, Connecticut; and Michael la Rose, designer and leader of London’s People’s War Carnival Band and Chair of the George Padmore Institute.
Dr Zobel Marshall added: “The development of the Carnival Cultures research group aims to deal with some of the issues regarding the underrepresentation of black and minority ethnic (BME) students and cultures in academia, whilst developing stronger community partnerships. It will also directly feed into strengthening the Leeds bid for 2023 European Capital of Culture.
“The conference is shaping up to be an excellent event with a global scope involving academics, costume designers, musicians, filmmakers and founding members of the Caribbean carnival in Leeds. Plans also include a civic reception and welcome by the Lord Mayor of Leeds and an evening of reggae and soca at the Leeds West Indian Centre.”
Contributions to the event can include paper presentations, workshops and exhibitions. Dr Zobel Marshall said: “We are particularly interested in discussing the exceptional fusion of art, politics, pleasure and play that carnival represents. Themes we are looking at include: the relationship between carnival and diasporic identities; the cultural history of Caribbean carnival in the UK; the commercialisation of carnival; and carnival as a site for pleasure and social cohesion.”
Photo by Max Farrar