Rise Up! Are you ready for a vibrant Caribbean festival of music, literature, dance, heritage and conversation?

27 Mar 2024


Showcasing the vibrant cultural exchange between the Caribbean and Leeds as a global 21st century city, Rise Up Festival will bring more than 20 British-Caribbean and Caribbean intergenerational artists, raconteurs and trailblazers to the Playhouse on Saturday 13 April to create a melting pot of words, music, performance, talks, food and drink.

Presented by Ol’ Man Swanny, Renaissance One and Leeds Playhouse, and Co-Directed and Co-Curated by Omari Swanston-Jeffers and Melanie Abrahams, the glorious carnivalesque festival features a stellar line-up of poets, dancers, musicians, calypsonians and raconteurs from Leeds and around the country, who are inspired by home, diaspora and personal stories.

Performers hailing from, or with heritage in, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Grenada are coming together to celebrate the liveliness, uniqueness and cultural diversity of Leeds through its history with the Caribbean across generations.

Co-Directors and Co-Curators Omari Swanston-Jeffers and Melanie Abraham said: “Rise Up Festival has been created for everyone to enjoy something from the day. It offers a wealth of quality music, spoken word and local history for the curious, and celebrates their history, memories and imaginations through the artists you’ll experience during the weekend.

“The Caribbean was always the ‘new world’ well before the phrase was coined, due to its mix of races, cultures, foods and geography. You’ll find this variety at the festival through the fantastic line-ups of writers and wordsmiths, calypsonians, raconteurs and liming atmosphere that offers live performances.”

The festival celebrates 21st century Leeds and explores the ways it has been transformed by the efforts, dedication and culture of Caribbeans who call it home and have helped to shape it through decades of work and creativity.

The day features live performances by John Agard (winner of the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry), Dr Arthur France MBE, Sharon Watson, Tobago Crusoe, Malika Booker, Christella Litras, Adam Lowe and many more.

Renowned Guyana born playwright, poet and children’s writer John Agard said: “I look forward very much to taking part in the Rise Up Festival organised by Renaissance One and Ol’ Man Swanny with Leeds Playhouse as an occasion for marking Windrush, the Caribbean and their legacies. It is a good thing for Leeds and an occasion where we can honour its Caribbean community and their legacy in the city. It is bridging orality and written text, reminding us of that ancient unpolarised space where the Word joined the flesh of gesture, dance and music into one ritual body of communion.”

Festival programme

Anansi and Me is a family-friendly show featuring the eternal allure of the trickster mythical spider, told through dance, words and music. It explores the value of resistance, carnival, family, heritage and more, and features students from local schools as well as sensational local artists.

Trailblazers pays tribute to the transformative effect British Caribbean people have had on Leeds and beyond, including carnival pioneer Dr Arthur France MBE and dance changemakers Sharon Watson and Namron. It also gives the audience a chance to talk about the trailblazers who have inspired and moved them.

Women Who Run Tings presents an outstanding showcase of British Caribbean women who have helped to shape British culture and who have inspired generations including Khadijah Ibrahiim, Emily Zobel-Marshall, Rheima Robinson and Leeds Black Elders.

Rise Up! Showcase Finale offers a dazzling line-up with a Rise Up band, house DJ and leading performers including Queen’s Gold Medal awardee John Agard, Forward Prize winner Malika Booker, Adam Lowe, Christella Litras, Chris Campbell, Calypso Monarch Tobago Crusoe and many more. As an added act of togetherness, there’s also an audience singalong led by Paulette Morris.

Mahogany Market connects entrepreneurs from the Caribbean and African diaspora with the community through a thriving environment of local and black-owned businesses showcasing diverse products, artisanal crafts and Caribbean cuisine.


    Arts Council
  • Leeds City Council
  • LTB Foundation
  • Principal Partner

    Caddick Group
  • Principal Access Partner

    Irwin Mitchell