The Notting Hill Carnival, a Caribbean festival in London, has been held every year in late August since the 1960s. Before the pandemic, over 2 million people often took to the streets of London to celebrate West Indian culture.
The UK’s first Carnival is credited to Trinidadian journalist and activist Claudia Jones who was the founder and editor-in-chief of the West Indian Gazette. By the 1950s, Notting Hill had been on the news for racial intolerance and rioting originating from the white working class and directed against members of the black community. Jones saw an opportunity to frolic against racist violence by organizing a carnival in the hall in 1959.
In the 1970s, a young teacher named Leslie Palmer took over the organization of the event. “I was a school teacher at the time and wanted to take a break from teaching,” he said in 2019 to Anneline Christie from the media company Ilovecarnivall. “The carnival seemed to be dying. For all those interested there was an advertisement in Time Out Carnival to take part in a meeting. There were only five people. I contributed my ideas. “
Palmer encouraged people to rent food and drink stalls along the festival route. He also recruited local steelpan bands and other musicians with speakers and organized sponsorship for the event. Palmer is also credited with expanding the event to include everyone in the Caribbean diaspora, and not just those of West Indian ancestry. The event, which attracts over 1 million people annually, has struggled with unrest over the years. But overall, the festival remains as it was intended – a jubilant celebration of Caribbean culture and life.
“The Notting Hill Carnival has always been the highlight of my summer, and with a different experience every year, it never gets boring,” said Nadine Persaud, assistant director of Photoworks, a London-based photography organization and a UKBFTOG Photographer who has participated in the carnival since she was a teenager. “When I was younger it was just a chance to party hard, but as I got older and became parents, attending has become more attentive. 2019 was a great year with great weather and it’s weird to be believe.” Nobody there had any idea that a pandemic would put them on hold for two years; it’s a huge party loved by many, but it has a much deeper meaning to the local West London community as well as the broader black British and Caribbean communities in the UK, so 2022 can’t come soon enough. “
We looked back over five decades full of joy.