Charlestown-Nevis- He proudly states that he is an ‘African’ who was fortunately born in Nevis. He believes in ‘Black Power’ and believes that the black man can achieve as much or more than any others and must receive the respect that they deserve.
As a matter of fact, he boldly states: “As a black man, I don’t beg love. I demand respect.’
His name is Arthur France and don’t for one moment forget the MBE. An honour he received from Queen Elizabeth the second for his committed work in community development in England.
‘When I received the call from Buckingham Palace to inform me of the MBE award, the gentleman at the other end stated: ‘You don’t seem too enthused’. To be honest, I accepted the award because I know it is a very powerful tool and I can use it in my efforts to help the black community to grow and develop. However, I value more, an award I received from the great Mohammed Ali for my work in the black communities of England,” he stated.
He was born in Mount Lily in Nevis but migrated at an early age with many other Nevisians to Great Britain to try to ‘make life.’ He however stated that when they got there, if most of the persons had the money, they would have returned home immediately. He indicated that the weather was extremely cold and a lot of the people there were also very cold and racist, he said.
He however, stayed on to improve his lot by attending college and becoming active in fighting against racism in all of its forms and standing up for his black race and demanding respect.
It was while he was a member of the African, Caribbean and Asian group which focused a lot on dances, that he asked the pertinent question: ‘This is all we going to do?’
Out of that came the idea of starting a carnival in Leeds where he was living but was instantly told that it was a crazy idea.
However, coming from a background in Mount Lily where he had witnessed the Giant and Spear and Nearga Business in action, he was adamant that Leeds would have its first carnival.
After many meetings; countless disappointments and discouragements, he eventually found help in a small committed committee who helped him to plan that first carnival in Leeds.
He stated that one of the big assets in selling the product was that they engaged the services of a very popular black television personality, Mr. Clive Allen, to chair the proceedings.
That first night involved the hosting of calypso show and queen show, which were used as drawing cards to the street activities planned for one week later and which would involve a steel band competition and jamming etc.
France indicated that on that first night in 1967, the hall was packed to capacity but he is convinced that most of the people came with the intention of laughing at him, as he was being referred to as ‘a crazy man.’ However, when the curtains were drawn and Mr. Clive Allen appeared and said: “Ladies and gentlemen”, the crowd was stunned into silence. Add to that the outstanding quality of the show that ensued and suddenly they were all involved and warm to the idea.
That first carnival included a calypso show with three calypsonians competing; a queen show with five participants and a steel band competition with three bands competing.
The calypsonian who won, penned the lyrics:
“St.Kitts is me borning land, I say, I say
But England is me home in every way,
Thanks to Arthur France and co
For bringing carnival to England’.
Carnival in Leeds is now a big thing and goes into its 49th year this year-2016 and there are major plans already afoot for the significant 50th anniversary event, planned for 2017. This will include the production of a carnival ballet and Mr. France is already in talks with Premier Vance Amory, with the aim of getting some of Nevis’ wonderful folklore troupes and personnel, to feature in that festival.
Looking back, Mr. France is convinced that the difficult times that he went through while formulating the idea, were worth it, as other counties have also planned carnivals in England.
His message to the young generation of Nevis is that you have the potential in you to make something good of yourself.
‘I get upset when a black man tells me that he can’t he said.
The planned activities for Carnival in Leeds for 2016 are as follows:
21st August-Prince and princess show
26th August-Queen show
27th August—Calypso Monarch show
29th August-Carnival day