Deighton Carnival

Getting together has never been more important. I’ve known Howard Belafonte for many years now, and what he doesn’t know about running a community carnival, just isn’t worth knowing!

Read on to find out how this vibrant community event started, and continues to go from strength to strength.


Tell us a bit more about what you do and how you’re involved with those organisations.

Let’s start with the carnival. I was part of the original committee that set up the Deighton Carnival and that was in 2002.  The Deighton Carnival was set up off the back of the DBI Initiative where the aim was to regenerate the area, so parts of the Ashbrow Ward, Deighton and Brackenhall mainly.  They sold off some of the land to private developers and housing associations and the money was to be ploughed back into the community or to be spent in the area, so hence the Deighton Carnival began and at that stage it was only supposed to be a one-year celebration Carnival came off. That was only supposed to be a one-year celebration.

That first carnival was held at the Deighton Centre in the top car park and we had about 200 people attend.  The theme was ‘Deighton by the Sea’ so we brought in big bags of sand to create the seaside effect and we only had two performances, the Huddersfield Crusaders Majorettes and another dance group.  There were about three stalls, if that, and it was in August on a hot sunny day.  The feedback was excellent, word spread around to people who didn’t attend about this celebration event and about how great it had been.


At the evaluation meeting after the carnival, we decided that due to its success we wanted to make it an annual event and do it every year. So we had the committee and going forward, we started putting in funding applications.  We planned it for June 2003 so that we could get schools involved.  We moved it from the car park to the fields and we got more numbers attend, maybe about 1000 people, which was a good turnout and then year after year we incorporated more sports activities with the carnival. We had sports activities, working with Deighton into Sport,  that happened on the fields and inside the centre, including five aside football, netball, basketball and over time, table tennis became part of it as well.


The idea was that it would be an annual carnival on the last Saturday of June.


We had quite a few of the local schools involved and in 2003 we had a  carnival procession that was only about three floats. It just grew from there!  it just took on a life of its own.  The committee changed over the years, different people came on board and people left, and the same with the schools.


Throughout the lifespan of the Carnival, all the schools in the Ashbrow ward have been involved at some point and then schools from surrounding areas as well.


I have been involved every year; I lead the carnival. As soon as the carnival finishes in June, I start putting in the funding bid for the next one. I write all the funding bids for the carnival, applying for the funding to various different pots of money and I start that process in July annually.



Has there ever been a year where you have thought ‘I’m not doing that again!’?



I have given myself a length of time – I am going to do it for a certain amount of years and then hopefully pass it down.  This year is the 21st anniversary and I am trying to get to 25 years and hand it over – that’s my plan!


Since we started we have only missed two years, and that was 2020 and 2021 due to Covid and we did a virtual carnival instead.


Over the years the carnival has grown so we have the funfair and we apply for funding to try to make as much as possible free to be involved.  We realise that it can be expensive for families so we try to alleviate that cost.  We will, for example, employ face painters, arrange a climbing wall, cosmetic tattoo artists etc and this is all free to people who attend.


In around our third year we started hiring the big stage, to offer stage show performances, which showcases local talent. Some years we have had a headline act, if budget allows, but the aim is to promote local talent – dancers, rap artists – giving local young people that platform to perform.


Each year we have a different celebrity, or somebody of standing to open the carnival and this year we have Bob Cryan of The University of Huddersfield who grew up in Deighton and went to Deighton High School.  He was really honoured when we approached him to open it. In the past we have had council officers, school headteachers, local footballers who are now professional players, various people and we are always looking for somebody outstanding.


This year’s theme is ‘Deighton Celebrates’ – it is a global celebration, everybody is coming out of lockdown and this is celebrating that we are having an outdoor event, celebrating the Ashbrow ward coming together, the talent within the ward and celebrating the local people.


The carnival day is usually around 12 midday to 6/7pm.  The sports activities starts about 10/11am in the morning and we officially open the Carnival at one o’clock. The procession sets off around the Ashbrow ward and that usually gets back to the Deighton Centre for around 2pm and then the stage show starts which runs through until the end of the carnival.  As the stage show is taking place there are activities on the fields – 5-a-side football, sports activities, the fun fair and the stalls.  There is also the marquee where we invite local organisations to have a stand to showcase what they are about and get themselves out there.


In 2019 we had about 10,000 people join us, that was the really hot year.  We have had a mixture of weather over the years – there is only one year that we had a continuous downpour, but it never stops people coming!  It’s a good family event and everybody from the different wards enjoying themselves and it is really friendly atmosphere!  The sports can get competitive, people want to win!  One year the Police entered a team, they did ok but they didn’t win, but that was great for challenging local misconceptions.  This carnival is all about celebrating and highlighting the positivity of the area, which is different to what is often covered in the media.


How do you work with the schools that are involved?

We have workshops leading up to the carnival in the schools and this is showcased on the day of the carnival.  This year has been difficult, we won’t have as many schools onboard as we would like due to covid, it was only December/January where we were confident that it will be going ahead. Next year, 2023 it is Kirklees Year of Music and Deighton Carnival is going to be one of the activities. So we are trying to get all the local schools involved for that next year. We have got two good years to really look forward to.


As a child, do you remember going along to carnivals and community events?  What are your memories, and do you try and build those experiences into that you do now?

I went to Huddersfield Carnival every year, and other carnivals throughout the UK –I have been to every UK carnival.  When I was a child, there was only Leeds and London.  I remember the vibrancy and the atmosphere – the stalls, the smell of the jerk chicken, so many things!


What sort of funding do you need?  What are the barriers?

For both the carnival and Conflict Resolution which is a community programme that I run –  I have to apply for funding for the initiatives to continue.


What inspired you to start Conflict Resolution?

In the country, young people turn to crime or getting involved in crime/gang activity and there is a lot of talk about it and it didn’t seem like professionals really had any idea of how to work with them.  Nobody was engaging with the young people and I have been there, I know the challenges and I know that the choices some young people make aren’t always the right choices but professionals and adults don’t always understand.


We started Conflict Resolution, going into schools and it took off because every school needed it, and then we did two Youth Crime Conferences at the University of Huddersfield. But what was unique about these was that we had young people in the room with the professionals, working alongside each other – usually at conferences such as this there aren’t young people in the room, we were different.  Basing the conference at the University was partly due to us wanting to raise aspirations for these young people.


I applied for funding, went to the schools and the selling point was that we could offer the workshops at no cost to the school – every school took it up, because there was not budgetary impact.  The feedback was good, schools passed it on between themselves – we did assemblies, classroom work and some schools asked us to work with individual pupils over a 6/8 week block.  We have been in all schools in Ashbrow, Royds Hall High School and Colne Valley High School.  All schools have issues, regardless of where the school is based.


When we are in schools, we talk to the pupils – we tell them we aren’t their parents or their teachers, but we offer them good advice and talk about how every negative action will have a negative consequence.  So, peer pressure can take you in the wrong direction, trying to impress your friends can take you in the wrong direction – we give them an overview of what being in prison is like, only one hour out of your cell a day so basically 23 hours by yourself every day – no freedom to pop to your friends, to pop out to the shop.  We speak to them honestly about the impact of their decisions and how those decisions could end up with them being in prison.  We speak about culture and diversity and about making positive choices.


We have to offer young people an alternative, activities that they can get involved with and we have set things up for them to join and attend and their parents are really grateful that they are being shown other options.


I have had individuals who can remember the sessions and when I bump into them they are happy to share that they have gone on to an apprenticeship, or made another positive choice.  We aren’t trying to change the world, just trying to give young people the time and knowledge to help themselves.


What are the biggest challenges for Deighton Carnival and Conflict Resolution?

Funding – we need funds to continue what we are doing.  Over the years we have had sponsorship from local companies, which has been great.  For a lot of the bigger funding organisations you have to jump through hoops to get a little bit of money, but if more people realised what can be done with just a little bit of funding and what a difference can be made, it could be a different picture.


What would your three top tips be for someone wanting to set up a community event, similar to Deighton Carnival?

  1. Be in that community. If you aren’t in that community, you have to get yourself into the community to find out what their needs are, what kind of things they want and how you can make a difference.
  2. Practice bid writing or get a bid writer. Get a good bid writer because it takes up a lot of your time and then when you get rejected it is very disheartening.
  3. The hours involved are big! If you want to do it properly then you are going to be spending a lot of hours working on it – it isn’t a 9-5 job.  If you are passionate and you like what you do, you don’t mind it and you learn to balance your time,             with the resources that are available.  Time management skills are essential!         You can’t get involved in everything, and you need to know this from the beginning as you can’t stretch yourself that much.
  4. An extra top tip! Find like-minded people as that will make your life easier –          you can train community workers to work with you, train young people to work with you who have potential and can progress work with you.


What is the best way for someone to contact you if they want to get involved or support you?

Get in touch!


What is the best thing about being involved in the Ashbrow community and your organisations?

The positivity!  Seeing the end result of an initiative, event or activity and working with young people to achieve that end result.  The end of the Deighton Carnival day when everyone has had a good time, that means more than anything.



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