Published: 24th Feb 2016
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The Leeds carnival

Leeds has a self-starting, enterprising culture that makes it home to numerous social organisations, from Europe’s first Carribean carnival to the UK’s first affordable co-housing project. Here’s 10 of the best in the city:

1. Responding to multiple and complex needs: Barca Leeds: Celebrating its 21st birthday last year, Barca began as a small charity addressing the needs of local people in the Bramley and Rodley areas. Today it employs over 130 people to deliver a range of joined-up, people-centred services. In particular it responds to multiple and complex needs, helping families deal with a range of issues from financial advice to substance misuse and mental health problems.

2. Creating social cafes to tackle food waste: The Real Junk Food Project: It has now travelled across the UK, Europe and the US, but the Real Junk Food Project began in Leeds in 2014, when Adam Smith decided to tackle the growing problem of food waste. A trained chef, he opened a social café in the Armley area of the city, cooking with food that supermarkets would have thrown away and feeding people on a ‘pay as you feel’ basis.

3. Europe’s first Caribbean festival: Leeds Carnival: The Leeds West Indian Carnival began in August 1967, and was the first formally organised Caribbean festival in Europe. It’s founder was Arthur France, who had arrived in Leeds from the island of Nevis 10 years previously and was suffering ‘crippling homesickness’ for the culture he left behind. He brought together a team of people and after numerous battles with authorities launched the carnival, later helping the Notting Hill Carnival get up and running. He describes the carnival today as ‘about creating a cultural and artistic legacy for the UK – with carnival arts as a platform’ and ‘the best way I know to secure unity and harmony’.

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Together for Peace’s school graffiti project

4. Building bridges between people: Together for Peace: Two of the 7/7 bombers came from the Leeds area of Beeston, but news of the attacks strengthened the resolve of Together for Peace, a Beeston-based organisation formed in 2002. It ran its second city-wide festival in 2005 and has gone on to organise a range of programmes from Den Building workshops to Participatory Conversations.

5. A partnership for community-led social change: Locality Leeds Consortium: Fifteen development trust organisations came together in 2014 to accelerate social change across the city. With 452 years of combined service in Leeds between them, they have strong stakes in the city’s neighbourhoods. Their joint work so far includes commissioned work on social prescribing. The consortium includes the LS14 Trust, Tiger 11 and Bramley Baths.