Arthur France MBE

Arthur France was born in Nevis in 1935.

In 1957 he came to England with the intention of becoming an architect.  He settled in Leeds where his sister was already a resident and eventually continued his studies at Leeds University.

Over the next decade Arthur France became increasingly active in the local community and founded the “Gay Carnival Steel Band” which was later renamed Boscoe Steel Band. 

However, his most notable achievement is for being the driving force behind getting the first Leeds West Indian Carnival off the ground in 1967, and to strive for its successful continuation.  He wanted to replicate the traditional carnival experience in Leeds rather than participate in an already existing festival. The first carnival was an instant success with steelbands travelling from as far as Birmingham to perform with the local steelbands.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s steelbands were pulled through the streets, by the carnival revellers, on the specially made stands known today as pan racks. It was up to the steelbands to play upbeat and exciting musical arrangements in order to give the people rhythm and the energy to pull the steelbands to the end of the procession. From start to finish Arthur France was visible, whether he was marching alongside a steelband or encouraging onlookers to take part in the revelry.

In 1984 he founded the New World Steel Band (now Orchestra) which was unveiled at the Carnival.  This orchestra was set up in preparation for a new generation of steelpan players as well as to keep the tradition alive. 

Throughout the 1980s and 90s Arthur France continued to be the figurehead of Leeds Carnival through the New World Steel Orchestra and by designing and entering costumes for the Carnival Queen competition.

He has received numerous awards in recognition for his invaluable contribution to the local community and on 14 June 1997 he was awarded an MBE (Member of of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire).

In 2012, he was awarded a Lifetime Community Achievement Award by HAMARA.

In Februay 2015, he recieved the Leeds Award, one of the most prestigious awards that can be given by the city of Leeds, and on 17 July 2015 Leeds University awarded him an honorary degree, Doctor of Laws.

Arthur France remains to be an inspiration to many and continues to play his role in promoting West Indian culture. In recent years he has been a leading light for Black History Month in Leeds whilst continuing to support his New World Steel Orchestra.