The origins of Notting Hill Carnival


Who declared that 2020 was going to be your year?! Who was going to have an all-out summer and have the Notting Hill Carnival to mark the end of an epic summer?! One global pandemic later, saw the end of that notion, unfortunately.

However allow me to indulge myself with a memory of attending The Notting Hill Carnival in 2012, on the Kids Day which falls on the Sunday.

I went with one of my dearest friends Chonsak and we spent the day dancing, eating jerk chicken, paying a quid to use a toilet (gotta respect the hustle) and catching up over our respective summers.Naturally I came with my beloved Nikon film camera and snapped using my  trusty Ilford HP5 bw 400. 

If you spend your time watching and reading the news, they will lament about how violent the carnival is. It’s such a shame because it’s probably one of the only experiences in London where you can celebrate your blackness fully. The space is so inviting that it welcomes every culture from around the world and up and down the country.

When you look at the origins of the carnival, I wish the news would spend more time speaking about how it started.

The Notting Hill Carnival originally started as a protest in 1958.

The area was a target zone for black people by racially motivated white nationalists. They would make homemade fire bombs to throw into houses where the black residents lived.

After the parliamentary defeat of Oswald Mosley, the West Indian community wanted to show how vast their cultural wealth was.

Claudia Jones who was nicknamed ‘The Mother of Carribean Carnival’ organised the first London Carribean Carnival. It was held in St. Pancras. People from the West Indies celebrated this event until Jones’s death until 1964.

Influenced by Jones’s carnival, The Notting Hill Carnival really began as a British Fete – The Notting Hill Fayre in 1966. Organised by community activist Rhaune Laslett, he saw Notting Hill’s diversity as something to be celebrated. It was a week-long festival, which included food stalls, pageants and ended with a parade at the end of the week.

I find it so baffling that the media has this awful stereotype of black violence, when the carnival started as a protest from the racial violence. Why are we the aggressors, when we are the ones who are aggressed? From a historical point of view to even today?

Do we have regular Carnival goers reading this? What are your thoughts on this?

I have a feeling that once the world opens up again, the next Notting Hill Carnival will break records as the biggest one ever attended.

Aderonke Oke

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