Mon | Dec 11, 2023

Leeds-based Out of Many Festival extended to summer 2023

Published:Tuesday | March 21, 2023 | 1:13 AMSamatha Walker/ - Contributor
Performers in full flow from the West Indian Front Room Party, part of the Out of Many Festival in Leeds.
Performers in full flow from the West Indian Front Room Party, part of the Out of Many Festival in Leeds.
Susan Pitter
Susan Pitter

LONDON: The Out of Many Festival celebrating Jamaican culture and its impact on Leeds and the UK has been extended until June 2023.

Launched in May last year, and organised by the Jamaica Society Leeds, the festival takes its name from Jamaica’s motto, ‘Out of Many, One People’, and also marked Jamaica’s 60 years of Independence. It was due to end in February, but now the festival has added a host of eagerly anticipated events to its schedule and will run until the summer.

A pop-up exhibition from April 4-29 at Compton Library will showcase a selection of exhibits from the hugely successful Rebellion to Romance exhibition which ran at Leeds Central Library last November.

Thousands visited the carefully curated mementos, fashions of the day, music and stunning photographs which documented the lives of second-generation West Indians who came of age in the 1970s and 1980s and the impact of Jamaican culture on them. The acclaimed ‘story of a generation’ also featured the work of iconic photographer Vanley Burke, and was visited by King Charles III. The mini pop-up exhibition will then move on to the Reginald Centre in Chapeltown in May.

Also in April will be an online panel discussion, ‘Our Art, Our Story’, led by internationally renowned Caribbean art expert Susanne Hendricks. Bikkle Roots, in partnership with the British Library, will also see food heritage discussed in an online panel session.

The ‘Writer as Researcher’ will see the British Library and Leeds Libraries partner with the Out of Many Festival for this event, looking at the author’s approaches to research for their historical writing.

The much-anticipated For King, Country and Home exhibition opens on Thursday, April 28, at Leeds Central Library and runs until June. The exhibition looks at the lives of Jamaican WWII veterans of Leeds and includes photography, keepsakes and memories gathered over the years by the families of those who, pre-Windrush, unwittingly formed the beginnings of the city’s black community.

That’s a Wrap Reggae Party on May 27 will be the only way to end a year-long festival dedicated to Jamaican culture and a fitting celebration, with special international and local guest artists and performers from the worlds of music, literature and more. The reggae party is supported by Arts Council England and Leeds 2023.


Out of Many Festival director and the curator of both the Rebellion to Romance and For King, Country and Home exhibitions, Susan Pitter, said: “Being part of a festival which helps to showcase Jamaican culture, and the importance it has had on Leeds and beyond, has been a privilege and one I am thrilled will continue a little longer than expected in 2023.

“The response we have had to the Out of Many Festival programme so far - from grass-roots community events to the excellence of icons, pioneers and artists at the top of their game - has been wonderful, and rightly recognises the global impact Jamaican culture continues to make.

“The festival has showcased the culture that is steeped in our Jamaican roots and has significantly shaped wider black British culture, while bringing together people from all walks of life through music, literature, heritage and the arts.”

Four artists, Leeds-based poet Kayo Chingonyi, illustrator Malachi Lawrence, visual artist Rosanna Gammon and digital artist Natasha Cunningham, Jamaica, have created beautiful responses to the Jamaican national motto, ‘Out of Many, One People’, with their works due to be installed at the home of the Jamaica Society Leeds, Jamaica House, and shared online.

Previous events include Jamaican music history shows Rebellion to Romance and Road to Trojan at Leeds Playhouse, poetry icon Linton Kwesi Johnson in conversation with Gary Younge at Howard Assembly Room, and Jamaica’s Poet Laureate Olive Senior in conversation with the UK’s Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, at the same venue.

The poetry superstars were part of Out of Many Lit, a five-day literature festival which brought together lauded writers of Caribbean heritage, including Sara Collins, Tanya Shirley, Courttia Newland, Roger Robinson, Kerry Young, Raymond Antrobus and Alex Wheatle, as well as Kwame Dawes, co-founder of Jamaica’s famed Calabash International Literary Festival.

The festival also put the community at its heart with Pass It On, which saw young people showcase their responses to conversations with first-generation West Indian elders as well as the Out of Many Community Choir, which performed reggae classics at a pop-up West Indian front room party at Victoria Gardens in August and on stage at the Playhouse.

The Out of Many Festival is made possible by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, and Arts Council England, as well as other generous funders and supporters.