BlaqueXplosion - Leeds International Festival

3 May
Various times


Header image credit:
Getty Images

Celebrating Black culture and the origins of Black sound with Frank Bruno MBE, Jermain Jackman and JoJo.

Black Health Initiative brings Leeds a day of discussion and celebration, showcasing the richness and vibrancy of Leeds’ Black British culture.

Exploring Black community through music, BlaqueXplosion will explore how music impacted the settlement of those of the Windrush community who adopted Leeds as their home. The day will carry on exploring, looking at how this fusion of cultures impacted on fashion, spoken word, health and politics

Listen to the impact of music on mental health in the public eye with Frank Bruno MBE, who’ll share his experiences. The Voice’s Jermain Jackman will also explore his entry into the public eye through politics and his musical journey, as well as providing vocals on the day alongside Black Health Initiative’s #Unsigned Acts. Enjoy all of this and so much more, including stalls selling authentic arts, crafts and jewellery.

The day transitions into night with internationally renowned Sound System Iration Steppas and guest DJs, combining the songs of yesteryear with contemporary beats, giving a festival feel to this unique, diverse, fun and informative celebration of Black Britishness here in Leeds.

Schedule from 1200 – 1630

12.00 – 12.10 – Carnival Troupes
12.15 – 12.30 –JoJo and Heather Nelson introduction
12.35- 13.00 –JoJo – Panel Introduction and Brief Interviews
13.00 – 15.00 – Frank Bruno, Jermain Jackman, Graft, Macka B – Panel discussion and Q&A
15.05 – 15.25 –Khadijah Ibrahiim Poetry & Spoken Word
15.30 – 16.30 – #Unsigned with Jermain Jackman and Graft – Music Performance
*Please note, these timings are subject to change
Event partners

All Day Access - Standard Ticket

Friday 3 May 12:00 - 23:00
L19 Cube @ The Village

All Day Access - Concession Ticket

Friday 3 May 12:00 - 23:00
L19 Cube @ The Village

Additional Information:

Age restriction – Only 16+

Last entry – 16:30


JoJo Kelly is best known as JoJo and has been broadcasting on Breakfast Radio across Yorkshire for the past 22 years, which is no mean feat. Famed for her daft sense of humour and nuclear laughter she has had the privilege of waking up the county since February 1997 on radio stations such as, Kiss 105, Galaxy 105 and Capital Yorkshire. She recently announced that she would finally be getting a much needed lie in as she was to move to a later slot in favour of an all new National Breakfast Show. JoJo can now be found broadcasting on Drive time on Capital Yorkshire 4pm – 7pm  (from 15th April) with radio broadcasting partner Adam O’Neill.

JoJo is originally from Leeds and went to Intake High School, a normal comprehensive renowned for its Theatre Arts course.  There she thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of performance, including contemporary dance and drama. So enthralled by this life she went on to gain a place with the National Youth Theatre and then did a Classical Acting Diploma at LAMDA (London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art).

After graduating from drama school JoJo was left feeling all kinds of dejection as her dreams of being the next Judi Dench weren’t really happening, so she left London to return to her beloved Leeds where she undertook a variety of jobs – helped run a club night, nearly became a pop star and even waitressed in a vegetarian café.

But in 1996 an opportunity to be on the radio arose and she decided to go for it. Up until then JoJo had had no ‘live’ broadcasting experience only a bit of voice over work under her belt, so she didn’t think she would get a job. Fortunately for her the management of Kiss 105 radio decided to take a chance on her, the risk paid off and she’s not looked back since.

Famous boxer, then TV personality and actor, Frank also loves music, from Bob Marley to Mary J. Blige to Sammy Davis Jr. His well-documented bipolar disorder put him in the public eye, where he used media attention to help others, as well as setting up the Frank Bruno Foundation. “Let me be Frank” was published in 2017.

Image credit: Getty images

24 year old Singer & songwriter Jermain Jackman is one of the UK’s most innovative, interesting and unique performers, He was crowned winner of BBC’s The Voice UK in 2014.

Blessed with a beautifully rich baritone, Jackman’s renditions during The Voice UK of, ‘House is not a home’, ‘Wrecking Ball’ and ‘I’m telling you’ (which have had over 10 million views online) where simply stunning, showing off his incredible range as a singer.

In addition to being an incredible vocalist, there are many other facets to Jermain. Whilst working with chart topping producers he’s pursuing his role as a political activist. He was tagged a being the ‘Singing Politican’ by Sir Tom Jones and referred to as Britain’s first Singing black Prime Minister by Leading Tabloids.

Former chair of Islington’s Fair Futures Commission and currently chairing Hackney’s Young Futures Commission while studying Politics at Leeds University and he is determined to project himself beyond the pop charts in order to use his voice as a tool for social change. This Altruistic musician who seamlessly balances his musical aspirations with his political ones, this talented, ambitious and driven young man truly wants to affect change.

Whether expressing himself musically or politically, Jermain is a charismatic, thought-provoking performer and politician-in-waiting. He has gone from strength to strength and released his self-titled Debut Album in March 2015.

Khadijah Ibrahiim was born in Leeds of Jamaican parentage. Hailed as one of Yorkshire’s most prolific poets by BBC Radio, she has appeared alongside the likes of Linton Kwesi Johnson, Lemn Sissay and Benjamin Zephaniah.

She is a literary activist, researcher, educator and Artistic director of Leeds Young Authors. Educated at the University of Leeds, she has a BA Honours in Arabic and Middle Eastern studies and a MA in Theatre Studies. In 2013 she was amongst several poets invited to Buckingham palace, where the Queen and Duke honoured the work of Contemporary British poetry. Her writing has been supported through Inscribe.

Christopher MacFarlane aka Mack B is a British born reggae artist.  Performer and activist with a career spanning 30 years in the UK and Jamaica.

International singer who now is promoting Veganism.

As a Rastafarian Mack B has always eaten clean and healthily.  He now promotes through his own TV Station – Mack B TV vegan cookery, plant based recipes, which utilises the exotic fruits and rootz such as Soursap; Yams; Green Bananas; Dasheen; Goji Berries; Stinking Toe and much more.  Combining his musical talent to promote daily blogs.

Mack B’s daily vegan YouTube updates are presented via Jamaican Limericks

Iration Steppas was originally set up by Mark Iration as a sound system in Leeds, where he played the latest sounds at blues dances, clubs and parties. With a posse of like-minded individuals Iration toured the country absorbing various sounds. With Papa Sam, the sound initially performed under the name Ital Rockers Hi Fi. Notable influences were Jah Shaka and Jah Tubby. Iration acknowledged that he was amazed by Jah Tubby’s collection of original dub plates when he secured his first acetates. A sound system clash in Leeds against Jah Shaka resulted in praise from the legendary soundman, encouraging Iration to continue in the business. In 1993, Iration linked up with Dennis Rootical (under the guise of Kitachi), performing the leftfield dope beat sound. Live appearances by the duo were greeted with enthusiasm, playing festivals and clubs around the UK. They are also acknowledged as being the first to utilize DAT recordings of their own tunes at the High Rise studio in Leeds and to mix them live. With Jack Rouble joining the group, their reputation grew and Iration Steppas released the classic ‘Scud Missile’ in 1993. The single was met with enthusiasm and demand led to the discomix being re-pressed three times before eventually being deleted. The initial hit was followed by the equally popular 12-inch discomix, ‘Mystical Warrior’. Acclaimed by the media as Jah Shaka’s ‘enlightened offspring’, they followed the hit with two 10-inch releases, ‘Reminiscence Dub’ and ‘Killimanjaro’ both of which were featured on their debut album. As Kitachi they released three dope beat singles, ‘Spirit’, ‘Scratch Remix’ and ‘Heavyweight’. The new wave of dub followers can also discover many specials recorded for a variety of 90s-style dub compilations, including Macro Dub Infection, Dubhead Volumes One and Two, Club Meets Dub and Dope On Plastic.

“Hi guys! My names Graft and I’m a music artist from Leeds. I’ve been doing music for 4 years now but music has always been a big part of my life since birth.

Most recently, I was crowned winner of #MOBOUnsung 2018; a competition for unsigned artists. Also, I won the ‘Best Upcoming Artist’ award at the Yorkshire Entertainment Awards last year.

The style of music I produce is very versatile, ranging from, Grime, Rap, Hip Hop to R&B, Dancehall and Soca. When I perform, I try to make it an experience you can’t get elsewhere. I bring loads of energy and love to get the crowd excited!

I’m always fully behind supporting BHI in everything they do because they represent black culture in the same way I see it. I’m a big advocate of what they stand for and will always continue to help and support them.

My goal within the next year is to be biggest solo music artist to ever come out of Leeds. Then I aim to be one of the biggest music artists ever in the UK!”

Team Creative is a non-profit organisation which has a great flair for colour, design, creativity and what can only be described as absolute fabulosity. Team Creative’s aim is to incorporate community cohesion and it’s diversity reflecting the Leeds and surrounding areas, bringing awareness on a wider scale about the rich heritage of the Caribbean carnival. Team Creative have successfully delivered workshops,  master classes, private cinema experiences and a carnival troupe for the past four years. Pulling together a wide diverse group of women, men and children of all ages and backgrounds. Team Creative aims to bridge the gap in our community through costume, performance, dance, music and self-expression for both local and international events. Creating opportunities for all our members and supporters to experience performing on a different platform. Team Creatives aim is to bring to the streets and venues across the UK an explosion of music fun and dance engaging with the audience to deliver a cultural and exciting experience.


AnonyMas is the largest Carnival costumed Band (troupe) in Leeds with 15 years carnival experience and still growing. Inspired by their travels to international carnivals. An inclusive, diverse brand, embracing participants (masqueraders) and artists from all backgrounds, encouraging a feel-good family unit. AnonyMas have been credited with reinventing Carnival costume participation in Leeds.

The team are trained in art, design and project management with Co-founder Lorina Gumbs leading on design, Fenella Gumbs on choreography and fitness sessions and Cherise Hill leading on production and admin. AnonyMas take pride in both the artistry and performance of carnival.