The “Notting Hill Carnival” is an annual event, which takes place every August Bank Holiday on (Sunday and Monday) Historically Sunday is known as kids day and Monday as Adults day.
Notting Hill Carnival is organised and led by members of the British West Indian Community and attracts around one million people annually this makes it one of the worlds largest street carnivals and a significant event in the Black British Community. In 2006 it was voted onto the list of icons of England.
The beginnings of the carnival began in the 1960’s and initially had two separate but connected strands. The first was a “Caribbean carnival” which was held on 30th January 1959 in St Pancreas Town Hall, that was a response to the problematic race relations at the time. With the Notting Hill race riots that had occurred the previous
year, the carnival was held indoors and televised by the BBC.
In 1959 Claudia Jones, the Trinidadian journalist and activist, organised the carnival initially, she is often referred to as the mother of Notting Hill Carnival! Together with Edric Connor they showcased elements of a Caribbean carnival in a
cabaret style. It featured Might Terror, The Southlanders, Cleo Laine, The Trinidad All Stars and Hi-fi Steel bands Dance Troupe and finished with a Caribbean Carnival Queen Beauty Contest and a Grand Finale Jump-Up by West Indians who attended the event.
The second was a “hippie” London Free School inspired festival in Notting Hill that became the first organised event started by Rhuane Laslett. This festival event was more diverse and based in Notting Hill, which was aimed at promoting cultural unity in response to the Notting Hill riots. It featured a street party for neighborhood children that then turned into a procession when Russell Henderson’s steel band went on a walkabout!
Over the years Notting Hill Carnival has grown tremendously and by 1970 it now consisted of 2 music bands the Russell Henderson combo and Selwyn Baptiste’s Notting Hill Adventure Playground Steel band and 500 spectators.
As one of the organisers and directors Leslie Palmer was credited in gaining sponsorship recruiting more steel bands, reggae groups and sound systems – he also extended the route and encouraged traditional masquerade. In 1973 he also introduced costume bands and steel bands from various different islands to take part in the procession. Leslie also made the decision to introduce stationary sound systems, creating the bridge between the two cultures of carnival reggae and calypso.
Today Notting Hill Carnival attracts around one million people every year and is reminiscent of Jamaican dance hall sessions due to the sound systems involving cultural and personal associations for listeners by creating a space or a home for the populations of the Black Atlantic Diaspora and a celebration of Caribbean and black diasporic cultures.
Celebrate carnival with us at our Notting Hill branch, where we will be joined by Blackwell Rum who will be supplying us with lots of amazing rum! Enjoy great Caribbean music from our very own sound system and dance, eat and drink the night away till your hearts content! See you there!
By Natalie Schroeter