Bramley Carnival

by • August 7, 2011 • Bramley, Looking Good, LeedsComments (0)70

Once a year thousands of people take part in Bramley Carnival – which starts as every self respecting Carnival should – in the street with a big noisy procession. Russ Dixon took his camera along to see this year’s celebration, while the organisers told us more about its history and the infamous ‘Bramley Clash’. 

On 17 July 2011, bagpipers, dancers, giant butterflies, two St Bernard dogs pulling carts, a maraud of Viking’s..and a traction engine, wound through Bramley’s streets; on their way to Bramley Park. The Carnival is a big friendly popular event and a huge undertaking by the local folk who organise it. Terence Knapton & Helen Garrand revived the Carnval in 2006, after a hiatus of 10 years, but its history dates back to the 18th Century.

According to Terence & Helen, “..people in Bramley remember the old Bramley Carnivals and continuing it helps people to come together and reminisce about the good times. The carnival also helps to promote a sense of identity, brings the people of Bramley and the surrounding areas together in harmony, and allows for local charities, businesses and organisations to raise awareness of what they do here.”

Social harmony hasn’t always been the case though. In the 1700′s, Friendly Societies emerged to provide a form of insurance and assistance to working people, against the threat of falling sick, being unable to work, and funeral costs. Several Friendly Societies operated in Bramley Town. Each summer, members of the societies paraded through the streets with a marching band, in a procession that usually led to a Church blessing and finished in a knees up – a feast, entertainment, music…good times!

Then the good times hit a snag, when two different friendly societies found themselves marching towards each other on the same day, up the same street, with neither one prepared to back up or move. It’s believed that the two rival bands dug in & battled to play longer and louder, until finally the argy bargy broke out. Once the bruises had faded, the incident, known as the Bramley Clash, sparked a more controlled approach – a one-day celebration for all-comers, including the Friendly Societies, who could process through the streets together & critically – with everyone marching in the same direction.

Photo of the Bramley Carnival procession by Russ Dixon.






This year’s Carnival attracted over 4,500 residents and visitors to Bramley Park, for all sorts of entertainment and food; Viking re-enactments, marching bands, Bollywood dancers, bingo, a climbing wall, craft stalls, a vintage Punch & Judy, staw-bale house-making, burgers, chips and churros.

So what do Terence & Helen look forward to each year? “The best part of the carnival is starting to get excited and nervous when the first fairground vehicle and stall holders enter the park to set up. It is only then that we realise that all the hard work has come together and we pray that it all goes well.”

The Carnival changes a little every year, as you’d expect from an event that showcases the talents of local residents, who themselves change with time, and many of whom (like me) are not born or haven’t grown up here in Bramley. One aspect of the Carnival that many people mention in the area, is the Pram Race, “a prominent part of the carnival in the 1970s and 1980s”. Terence explains that ‘”prams and bugges have changed, so adults would no longer be able to sit in them..” as they used to.

“The parade since we revived the carnival is alot bigger and more varied. In recent years we’ve got the schools, youth service and Bramley Elderly Action involved, so the Carnival has become more inclusive. This year we provided the elderly and disabled with an area in which to meet up and sit down with old and new friends. Seeing the enjoyment of the children and adults on Carnival day makes it all worth it. To be able to get people in Bramley working together for a common purpose is very rewarding”.
Many thanks to Russ Dixon, for photographing Bramley Carnival 2011. To see the full set of photos visit his flickr page here.  Thanks to Helen Garrand & Terence Knapton of Bramley Carnival, for answering my questions. And thank you to whichever genius is responsible for the St Bernard dogs pulling sledges (I can’t describe how unexpected & weirdly brilliant this was!) . Words by Fran Graham.


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