Leeds West Indian Carnival is marking its 50th anniversary in 2017 with a spectacular series of milestone events to celebrate its golden anniversary, including a new exhibition which captures the 50-year history of Europe’s longest running Caribbean carnival parade, in photo, film, audio and costume.


The exhibition, entitled 50 Years of Leeds West Indian Carnival, is now open and is part of Leeds Carnival 50 Heritage, a programme of events to showcase the history, heritage and hidden stories behind the Leeds West Indian Carnival, and made possible by National Lottery players.

The exhibition features photography, sound, video, costumes and archive material capturing the heritage and half century history of the Carnival. Staged in partnership with The Tetley in Leeds and curated by London based artist, Sonya Dyer, the exhibition reflects two journeys at the heart of the story of Leeds West Indian 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 a highlight in Leeds’s cultural calendar. It will feature a replica of The Sun Goddess, the very first Leeds Carnival Queen costume, which has been recreated by Leeds designer, Hughbon Condor. It will also include Carnival artefacts donated by members of the public following a community call out for memorabilia.

The exhibition at The Tetley runs until October 29th and will be complemented by a series of pop-up satellite exhibitions and displays in community and city centre locations as well as an online archive of footage, historical photo galleries and interviews with pioneers on the Carnival’s website.

As part of the Leeds Carnival 50 Heritage project, volunteers have collected the stories of pioneers and community that brought carnival to Leeds. Their recollections have inspired Carnival Chronicles, a play written by acclaimed writer Zodwa Nyoni which will be woven with real life moments and imagery from the Carnival’s history. Carnival Chronicles will premiere at West Yorkshire Playhouse on September 11th as part of the theatre’s week of celebrations marking the 50th anniversary, before performances in community locations.

A series of workshops and symposia based on the Carnival’s history and heritage including traditional costume making, steel pan and calypso will also be held in October as part of Leeds Carnival 50 Heritage.


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