Notting Hill Carnival

Black British Music wouldn’t be complete without Notting Hill Carnival, Chanté Joseph breaks down the love…

Papa Weasel (1979/1979) by Homer SykesNotting Hill Carnival

Every year, during August’s long Bank Holiday weekend, West London’s Notting Hill completely transforms into an unrecognisable celebration of Black British music, culture and identity. 

Notting Hill Carnival Mas (2015/2015) by Daniel C. SimsNotting Hill Carnival

Floats dominate the narrow roads blaring soca music, and the street corners come alive with soundsystems and alluring food stalls that turn this small part of LDN into a Caribbean hub.

Philmore "Boots" Davidson (1975/1975) by Chris Steele-PerkinsNotting Hill Carnival

However, little is understood about the origins of this event and how it shaped not only London but Britain forever. 

Windrush Arrivals in 1948 (1948/1948) by PopperfotoNotting Hill Carnival

The Britain we know now is incredibly different from that of the 1950s—adjusting to the mass immigration of Caribbean people invited after the war, wider society was unwelcoming and tense. 

London All Stars Steel BandNotting Hill Carnival

Notting Hill became home to many immigrants who stayed in cramped homes of multiple occupancy due to the ever-present racist housing policy that prevented many from finding affordable and adequate housing.

Riots in Notting Hill - Uneasy Standoff (1979/1979) by David HoffmanNotting Hill Carnival

The sudden immigration was met with increasingly violent and racist anti-immigrant rhetoric stoked by political leaders and activists alike.

Rioting on the Streets - The Notting Hill Race Riots (1958/1958) by Getty ImagesNotting Hill Carnival

Two traumatising events led to the celebration we know today as Notting Hill Carnival. The first event was in August 1958, when riots consumed Notting Hill for five days. 

The Riots of 1976 - The National Front (1976/1976) by David HoffmanNotting Hill Carnival

The racist Teddy Boys rampaged through the borough, terrorising innocent Black Caribbean families, sparking fires and starting brawls with a peaceful community forced to fight back. 

Kelso Cochrane protest by UnknownNotting Hill Carnival

Less than a year later, Antiguan carpenter Kelso Cochrane was mercilessly killed by a gang of white youths who set upon him while en route home from the hospital. These events led to a desperate need for community and support amongst Caribbean migrants in and across London.

Claudia JonesNotting Hill Carnival

So, in 1959, Claudia Jones—a Black activist and founder of The West Indian Gazette— launched the first indoor Caribbean Carnival in St. Pancras.

Selwyn Baptiste (1976/1976) by Getty ImagesNotting Hill Carnival

Rhaune Laslett by UnknownNotting Hill Carnival

Drawing inspiration from Jones, Rhuane Laslett, a community activist, launched the Notting Hill Fayre—a week-long celebration that became the Carnival we know today. 

Notting Hill Carnival Mas (2017/2017) by AFPNotting Hill Carnival

Sound SystemNotting Hill Carnival

Mangrove Steel Band (2018/2018) by Robbie JosephNotting Hill Carnival

Notting Hill Carnival has been a part of the fabric of London for over 50 years and has evolved with the changing nature of the city. Long may it live.

Mangrove Community Association (1983/1983)Notting Hill Carnival

This digital work has been produced in collaboration with PRS Foundation and POWER UP. The article first featured in TRENCH x Union Black's Chapter One: Game Changers zine.

Credits: Story

Words by Chanté Joseph
Photography via Notting Hill Carnival
Commissioned by TRENCH

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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