• Leicester has one of the largest Caribbean Carnivals in the UK
  • Held in August to commemorate the emancipation of slaves in the West Indies, which took place on 1st August 1834
  • A celebration of Caribbean culture with food, dance, art, music and more

Over 30 years of celebration

Leicester’s Caribbean Carnival was first held in 1985 and has since gone on to become one of the largest Caribbean Carnivals outside of London. The idea to host a carnival of Caribbean culture in Leicester first began in the early 80s. It was hoped it could be a tool that would inspire artistic expression and cultural understanding for the people of Leicester.

One of the founders was Elvy Morton, who was born on the Caribbean island of Nevis and moved to Leicester around 1961. She went on to study catering and teaching which led to her being involved in outreach and community work at Moat College.

Elvy and a small group of other Caribbean people founded the Carnival to promote togetherness and integration for all the people of Leicester. The Carnival is held on the first Saturday in August each year to commemorate the emancipation of slaves in the West Indies which took place on the 1st August 1834.

People enjoying the Carnival, 1986

Education and creation

Running alongside the Carnival each year are a number of workshops, group projects and other educational schemes. Many of these are provided for young people, aiming to give a deeper understanding of black cultural history and personal identity within the diverse, multi-cultural city of Leicester.

The main attraction of Leicester’s Caribbean Carnival is the incredible costumed bands and floats on parade, which is led by the Leicester Carnival Queen. The queen is selected each year at the East Midlands Caribbean Carnival Arts Network (Emccan) Queen, King, Prince and Princess Competition.

The creativity and tireless work that goes into designing and making the elaborate costumes is simply staggering. Troupes from Leicester and across the UK come to perform at Leicester’s Caribbean Carnival in front of the over 80,000 people that line the parade route every year.

The Carnival parade reaches Humberstone Gate where most of the crowds are gathered, 1991

Fun, food and freedom

For over 30 years the Caribbean Carnival in Leicester has gone from strength to strength. Year on year it’s increased the number of performers, attendees and activities. The parade travels to the city centre and back to Victoria Park which is transformed into the ‘Carnival Village’.

Each year the Caribbean Carnival chooses a different theme for its celebrations. The local performance groups then do their research to come up with ideas for their troupe presentation on carnival day, which reflect the overall theme for the event. Themes have included ‘It’s a Latino Fiesta’, ‘A Combination of Cultures’ and ‘The Americas’ as well as many more.

Leicester Caribbean Carnival is an inclusive celebration of Caribbean culture and freedom where anyone can enjoy dance, art, music, workshops, traditional food stalls, a fun fair, and much more.

This history has been written in collaboration with the Leicester Caribbean Carnival organising committee.

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Roman Leicester

(47- 500) A military fort was erected, attracting traders and a growing civilian community to Leicester (known as Ratae Corieltauvorum to the Romans). The town steadily grew throughout the reign of the Romans.

Medieval Leicester

(500 – 1500) The early years of this period was one of unrest with Saxon, Danes and Norman invaders having their influences over the town. Later, of course, came Richard III and the final battle of the Wars of the Roses was fought on Leicester’s doorstep.

Tudor & Stuart Leicester

(1500 – 1700) The wool trade flourished in Leicester with one local, a former mayor named William Wigston, making his fortune. During the English Civil War a bloody battle was fought as the forces of King Charles I laid siege to the town.

Georgian Leicester

(1700 – 1837) The knitting industry had really stared to take hold and Leicester was fast becoming the main centre of hosiery manufacture in Britain. This new prosperity was reflected throughout the town with broader, paved streets lined with elegant brick buildings and genteel residences.

Edwardian Leicester

(1901 – 1910) Electric trams came to the streets of Leicester and increased literacy among the citizens led to many becoming politicised. The famous 1905 ‘March of the Unemployed to London’ left from Leicester market when 30,000 people came to witness the historic event.

Early 20th Century Leicester

(1910 – 1973) The diverse industrial base meant Leicester was able to cope with the economic challenges of the 1920s and 1930s. New light engineering businesses, such as typewriter and scientific instrument making, complemented the more traditional industries of hosiery and footwear manufacturing.

Modern Leicester

(1973 – present day) Industry was still thriving in the city during the 1970s, with the work opportunities attracting many immigrants from all over the world. While industry has declined in recent years, excellent transport links have made Leicester an attractive centre for many businesses. The City now has much to be proud of including its sporting achievements and the richness of its cultural heritage and diversity.

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