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