Arthur France MBE, one of Leeds community heroes, is the leading figure in the creation of the Leeds West Indian Carnival.
After arriving in England from Nevis of St Kitts-Nevis in 1957, Arthur decided that Leeds should have its own West Indian Carnival to celebrate Caribbean culture. Arthur saw Carnival as a chance for the people of the Caribbean community to come together and celebrate their heritage. Through sharing stories, music, dance and culture, he hoped it would help to heal some of the feelings of homesickness that many of them felt and provide a way to express themselves and their culture even whilst living in Leeds.
In 1964, with a group of friends, family and students from the Leeds University Caribbean Society, Arthur began his plans to create the very first Leeds West Indian Carnival. It was difficult for Arthur and his group, and they faced many challenges, but they overcame them and the event finally took place in 1967. It was the first authentic Caribbean carnival in Europe. From then on, it has taken place every year and gone from strength to strength, increasing in size, status and popularity.
For Arthur, the Leeds West Indian Carnival has always been about the local community coming together to celebrate Caribbean culture, and everyone is invited to take part in the celebrations and learn more about the roots and culture of Carnival.
History – Black History; Local Study (study of an aspect of history dating from a period beyond 1066 that is significant to the locality); Literacy, ICT, Geography
History – Local Study (Significant historical events, people and places in the locality); Literacy, ICT, Geography
Aim of resources:
The resources on this page give children an understanding of the life and achievements of Arthur France, the original organiser of the Leeds West Indian Carnival, and an inspiring citizen of Leeds.
- Knowledge of Arthur France, a key individual in the creation of the Leeds West Indian Carnival, and a significant individual of black and Caribbean culture both nationally and in the Leeds community.
- Understanding of Arthur France’s achievements, and why he is an important British Caribbean figure who has dedicated his life to improving representations of Caribbean culture both in schools and in the wider community
- Skills – research, poetry writing, diary writing, role play, comparing and contrasting.
- Why was it difficult for Arthur when he first arrived in England? What contributed to his feeling of homesickness?
- What parts of his life in Nevis do you think Arthur missed the most? What would you miss if you were in a different country, away from home?
- How did creating Carnival help Arthur and the West Indian community to celebrate their heritage and culture? Do you think Carnival helps people outside of the West Indian community to understand more about this culture?
- Read Arthur France’s profile from the Inspire Leeds website (
see 'Related Links' at the bottom of the page), in which Arthur talks about his life, and about the struggles he faced when first moving to England from Nevis. Then read the message from Arthur on the Leeds West Indian Carnival website, paying close attention to how the creation of the Leeds West Indian Carnival both helped with this feeling of homesickness, and developed a stronger link between people in the Leeds Caribbean community.
Write a poem with the title: ‘Broken heart’, which explains Arthur’s feelings of homesickness, and why Carnival helped Arthur and the West Indian community of Leeds to feel closer to their heritage.
- Using the Arthur France Timeline
(see 'Download' link below) pick two different dates that you think are the most important, and write two diary entries, pretending that you are Arthur! Using all the information you know about his life, make sure to include lots of information about where you are at this time, how you are feeling, and what your hopes are for the future.
We know that Arthur is from Nevis, the smaller of the two islands of St Kitts-Nevis in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, and that when he moved to England, he suddenly found himself in a very different environment! Find the similarities and differences between Nevis and Leeds, looking at population size, the geographical size of Leeds compared to the size of Nevis, the weather, the types of buildings, landmarks, native animals and landscapes.