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Celebrating Emancipation Through Culture Music & Dance, Carnival is here!

LEEDS 2023 trustee and former Leeds United player Sanchez Payne writes about growing up with Carnival.

I have never missed the Leeds West Indian Carnival. 

I grew up in Chapeltown and my earliest memories of the Carnival are of being at my nana’s house having a traditional Jamaican breakfast and then hearing the drums, the beat going right through me, before running out the front door to join in.

It’s the sounds that really have the biggest impact, it’s still now my favourite part of the whole thing.

Walking up to the parade, feeling the murmur of the crowd, the music all building; it’s like walking out onto the pitch or on stage, it was a rush when I was 7 years old and it’s never changed.

This year, Leeds West Indian Carnival turns 54 and will once again be a virtual event

It’s an unbelievably hard job to try to take what is such a face-to-face experience and create something that people can enjoy at home, but the team have done an amazing job. 

It’s not the same, we know that – it couldn’t be without the sounds, the smells, the fact that at Carnival you come together with friends and family; but it is important that we still celebrate and it all starts this weekend with the Carnival Prince and Princess Show, live at Leeds Playhouse and broadcast online, followed by the Carnival King and Queen Show next Friday. The theme for this year’s Carnival is legacy, and I can’t tell you how much this really hit me.

It’s about more than a party and having fun, it’s about heritage, culture, family and togetherness; it’s about seeing people – you can’t move without catching up with a cousin or school friend, an uncle or former teacher that you only ever bang into at Carnival – and connecting.

I think that the Carnival is really a representation of the whole of Leeds, not just in terms of the people but in the way that even though it’s a massive event, it’s still a friendly and intimate one. 

People have the same shared experience, coming together and being part of something that’s been a huge part of the city for a generation.

Dance, eat, sing, try new things, meet new people – embrace it and be open minded to what this brilliant city has to offer and maybe understand a little more about how it ticks.

Until we can all come together again in person – and let me tell you that will be incredible – we can still enjoy the show and support the events taking place in the run up to the big one, the main Carnival, on Bank Holiday Monday, 30 August. 

Head over to Leeds West Indian Carnival’s website to find out more.

First published in the Yorkshire Evening Post on Saturday 21st August.

IMAGE CREDIT: M SPADAFORA, Leeds West Indian Carnival