Saturday, 23 August 2014

Leeds Carnival to be more inclusive?

Foxwood Steel popped up at Leeds Carnival 2013
This is my letter printed in Yorkshire Evening post Friday 22 August 2014.
 I ask this question, not just because none of my own bands are welcome at Leeds Carnival anymore, but because there are good many people who would like to see and hear us, and a good many Leeds school children who would like to know that if they learn pans at school there's a good chance that one day they might be able to play their home town carnival - as indeed used to be the case.
Here's the full letter:
local kids curled up on our cosy banner
Letter to YEP re Culture and Carnival

I am concerned about the nature of the culture that Leeds is putting forward in its bid to be capital of culture, especially as it seems to be pinning a lot of its hopes on Leeds Carnival.

For size and longevity, Leeds Carnival is certainly a winner, but that seems to be about it. We read that Carnival will be bigger and better, but this year we now we also have "authentic Caribbean". Is this a way of explaining, I wonder, why music from other cultures is not included?

Cities like Liverpool, Cardiff and Bristol have expanded their carnival events in order to welcome and include their more recently arrived immigrants. I am sure I am not the only person who would like to see and hear a bit of Bhangra, dohls, samba, Junkanoo, New Orleans style marching bands, circus acts, gypsy music, and maybe even a Yorkshire brass band,  parading around our streets, and filling Potternewton Park and the streets of Chapeltown with all these different wonderful sights and sounds.

And, since when did an "authentic Caribbean" carnival only include one steelband, and why only the one run from the West  Indian Centre itself? Besides the many local Leeds bands, eg Casablanca, Sea, Sun and Sand or my own Foxwood Steel/Sparrows there are other UK steelbands that could come and visit Leeds as Foxwood Steel does every year for Huddersfield and Manchester?

My last point regarding the size of Leeds Carnival is that its size, colour and vibrancy depends not just on Leeds troupes but on all those who visit from other cities such as Huddersfield, Birmingham, Nottingham and Luton. All credit here to Leeds for inviting and making them welcome, but let's shout out for them too.
Annette and Victoria

It's a sad legacy that Leeds Carnival which originally did so much to unify newly-arrived West Indian immigrants with the host nation does not now include other than its own steelband, nor open up its own heart to the immigrating nations that followed. 

Victoria Jaquiss FRSA
Band leader Foxwood, East Steel, Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows,
steelband leader Leeds Carnival 2000-2010