Claudia Jones

Learn about one of the pioneers behind Notting Hill Carnival

By Notting Hill Carnival

Claudia JonesNotting Hill Carnival

Who was Claudia Jones?

Claudia Jones was a feminist, black nationalist, political activist, community leader, communist and journalist. She has been described as the mother of the Notting Hill Carnival. The diversity of her political affiliations clearly illustrated her multifaceted approach to the struggle for equal rights in the 20th century.    

Notting Hill CarnivalNotting Hill Carnival

In 1955 she was deported from the US and given asylum in England, where she spent her remaining years working with London's African-Caribbean community. She founded and edited The West Indian Gazette which despite financial problems remained crucial in her fight for equal opportunities for black people.

Royal Festival Hall Performance (1992/1992) by UnknownNotting Hill Carnival

Claudia Jones' lasting legacy is undoubtedly the Notting Hill Carnival, which she helped launch in 1959 as an annual showcase for Caribbean talent. These early celebrations were held in halls and were epitomised by the slogan 'A people's art is the genesis of their freedom'.

A firm believer that “a people’s art is the genesis of their freedom”, she utilised the opportunity to uplift the community by celebrating its culture and heritage with the launch of a special showcase for Afro-Caribbean talent. Originally dubbed Claudia’s Caribbean Carnival, the first event took place at St Pancras Town Hall on 30 January 1959 and was televised by the BBC. The following six years would see the annual celebration staged in local town halls and community centres, where people would get together for a comparatively low-key version of the street extravaganza we indulge in today.

Notting Hill Carnival (2011)Notting Hill Carnival

“Our Carnival symbolises the unity of our people resident here and of all our many friends who love the West Indies,” Jones wrote in a souvenir brochure. Today, that message rings true to the millions who fill the streets of Notting Hill to immerse themselves in the vibrant spectacle that is Carnival. 

Claudia JonesNotting Hill Carnival

Jones died aged 49 in 1964 as her struggle with tuberculosis reached its peak, but her legacy as a force for change and instrumental role in liberating Britain’s Black community lives on eternally.

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