Europe’s longest running West Indian Carnival has a packed programme to look forward to for its 51st year…
Leeds has been home to the spectacular West Indian Carnival since 1967, which means 51 years of music, dancing and eye-popping costumes – and 2018 promises to be just as good. If you’re in Leeds this bank holiday, head over to Potternewton Park or find a spot on the route to enjoy the carnival atmosphere in the sunshine.
As usual, the action gets going ahead of time with two warm-up shows to choose the Carnival royalty that will lead the parade on Monday. On Sunday 19th August 2018, the Carnival Prince and Princess Show will see the little ones competing for the most colourful outfit.
On Friday 24th August 2018, it’s the adults’ turn. Expect live steel pan music and some of the best costumes in the UK as they decide who will be crowned Leeds Carnival King and Queen. And the next night, the iconic Soca Monarch Show returns to Leeds – there are no elaborate costumes here, just razor sharp lyrics and humour as the contestants fight it out “battle-rap” style over classic Caribbean music.
Once Bank Holiday Monday dawns on the 27th August 2018, it’s time for the carnival itself. Things start bright and early with the J’Ouvert Morning, a traditional soca music jam, so get your dancing shoes on and head down to the West Indian Centre. There’s no airs and graces here, in fact J’Ouvert is also known as ‘pyjama jamming’ – so wear whatever you feel comfortable in. It gets started at 6.30am, so no one would blame you if you just rolled out of bed.
At 2pm, Leeds West Indian Carnival finally gets underway. The streets of Leeds will be alive with music, colour and dance as steel drum and soca music drifts through the air. The Carnival King, Queen, Prince and Princess will lead the parade through the streets, with troupes of dancers decked out in colourful costumes following behind, accompanied by a live DJ and floats pumping out the sounds of the Caribbean. Expect feathers, jewels and dazzling attire as the parade begins on the edge of Potternewton Park. Make sure you’re there early to bag a good spot, so you can see it head along Harehills Avenue, Roundhay Road and Chapeltown Road before circling back to finish where it started.
Once you’ve watched the parade go by, it’s time to explore everything Potternewton Park has to offer for Carnival Day. Expect live music and dancing to carry on well into the night, as well as a slew of global cuisine, including the famous West Indian Carnival Jerk Chicken – BBQ chicken marinated in a secret blend of rubs, spices and chillis for over 24 hours. If you want to get the full experience, try it with deep-fried cornbread and hot pepper sauce, but be warned – the hot sauce really isn’t for the faint of heart.
There’s Caribbean goat curry with rice and peas too. It promises a warming kick of scotch bonnet pepper and herbs, softened by a big helping of rice and red peas simmered in garlic, thyme, pepper and hint of coconut. Finally, for those with a real sweet tooth, go for a classic chunk of sugar cane. It might look like bamboo, but when you chew it, it lets out a flood of deliciously sweet cane juice.
Less Indian Carnival is Europe’s longest continuously running West Indian Carnival. As far as we’re concerned, it’s the original and the best in the country – so get yourself down there on the bank holiday weekend.
Leeds West Indian Carnival takes place at Potternewton Park on Monday 27th August 2018.Cover image © Copyright Leeds-List 2018 by Ali Turner.