Birmingham City Council

Birmingham Carnival

Photographs taken at the 2003 Carnival by Brigitte Winsor


One of the outstanding features of Black art, culture and entertainment in the City is the Birmingham Carnival which is held bi-annually during the first weekend in August. The Birmingham Carnival was started, by Textflint, in 1984 as the Handsworth Carnival and has continued to be held, ever since. In 1984 the Carnival attracted around 30,000 revellers over a two day period.

Carnival workshop

One of the instrumental figures in the Birmingham Carnival is Alton Browne (Professor Black - pictured in background). He migrated to England in October 1961, from St Kitts where he worked as a tailor. He gained employment at the Foundry. However, he had a great passion for the steel band and started building steel pans in the 1970s. He eventually found part time work as a steel band entertainer.

In 1984 Birmingham's Carnival participants played mass in T-shirts. However, three costumed troupes from London joined in the Carnival activities. Professor Black decided to employ some of his tailoring skills to produce the first Birmingham costumed troupe Cats for the 1985 Carnival. He has been working diligently at this job for well over a decade.


One of the aspects which has helped to keep the Birmingham Carnival alive and exciting is the participation of troupes from outside Birmingham. Participants have come from London, Leicester, Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester to join in the revelry and fun of the Carnival. The Carnival has certainly developed into a major event in Birmingham's cultural calendar.

Susan Green has captured the Birmingham Carnival on film for over ten years. Her images depict the creativity in the design and construction of costumes by local troupes. She has also photographed the parade of masquerades, MAS Bands, steel bands and drummers that perform throughout the two-day event.

Objects relating to the Carnival which were selected by Professor Black can be viewed at the People's Gallery at the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.


More photographs of the Birmingham Carnival
Features on Black History in Birmingham Menu
Black History in Birmingham Libraries
Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery