The origins of Notting Hill Carnival are more relevant than ever today
Notting Hill Carnival has danced vibrant colours and unstoppable rhythms through the streets of London for over 50 years. Everyone is up on their feet dancing to soul-soothing music, parading in intricate costumes and bright colours, with the deliciously smoky smells of jerk pits filling the air. It’s an amazing event, and one certainly not worth missing out on!
But it’s more than a seriously fun street party – it’s a symbol of unity, and a celebration of Caribbean culture in London and the UK.
The earliest form of Notting Hill Carnival was actually held indoors, in St Pancras Hall on 30th January 1959. It was a Caribbean Carnival, organised by Claudia Jones, a journalist and activist from Trinidad and Tobago. She felt that the local Caribbean community needed to come together and lift their spirits after the Notting Hill race riots the previous year – which were violent, racially motivated attacks against the area’s black and Afro-Caribbean community.
The January carnival provided the Caribbean community in the UK with a way to celebrate their culture, to stand up loud and proud and come together with music, dance and community spirit.
Claudia Jones went on to arrange several more indoor Caribbean Carnival celebrations, which lived by their slogan "A people's art is the genesis of their freedom."
The first street party
Notting Hill as we know it saw its first event in 1966. It was organised by Rhaune Laslett who wanted to bring all the different cultural groups of the Notting Hill neighbourhood together.
The street processions actually happened by accident – when Russell Henderson's steel band (who had played at the earlier Claudia Jones carnivals) went on a ‘walkabout’!
By 1976, Trinidadian activist & teacher Leslie Palmer had grown the Carnival 150,000 attendees and featured many reggae groups, steel bands and soundsystems as well, of course, as dancers.
Notting Hill Carnival normally sees 2.5 million people get together to celebrate in the streets of London. It requires 40,000 volunteers to run & lasts all weekend over the August Bank Holiday weekend. The last event was held in 2019, so this year the celebrations will be HUGE to make up for the two cancelled carnivals.
So come down and join us with a Reggae Rum Punch or two to get the party started!
Omnia at Notting Hill Carnival!
This summer we are excited to be part of Notting Hill Carnival with our new partnership with Omnia.
Omnia are an incredible team that help produce Caribbean events. With all their founding members growing up in Trinidad and Tobago, Carnival is in Omnia’s blood! They create some amazing costumes and have several floats in the carnival. This year, we'll be feeding Omnia's amazing team during the carnival, and we can't wait!
Click below to find out more about Omnia and their amazing work at Notting Hill!