Notting Hill Carnival’ 50th Year – What’s the Story?

Notting Hill Carnival’ 50th Year – What’s the Story?

We’re counting down to the the start of Europe’s biggest street festival – the Notting Hill Carnival. It’s going to be our first year in the midst of the iconic event, our store being off Portobello Road, which is very much a part of the event map, so we’re excited to be a part of it. The buzz is here and Portobello has people busily sewing in final bits of sequins and feathers to costumes and brushing up on those steel band skills.

Carnival runs from Saturday 29th to Monday 31st August this year, turning W10 London into a cultural hotpot, with people pouring in from far and wide to partake of the colourful, vibrant festival bursting with live music, brilliant floats, beautiful people and more jerk chicken and plantain than you can shake a drumstick at.

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Nigerian revellers join in the procession in traditional Iro & Buba outfits


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Come rain or shine, the show must go on!

The energy’s rubbing off on us, so we went off to find out a bit more about the London event. So what’s the story behind this world-famous must-do event that draws interest and press coverage (sometimes unjustifiably negative according to some residents we’ve spoken to) every year it happens?

Here’s a little bit of history: Although officially launching in 1964 by most accounts, the carnival can be traced back to 1959 when, an indoor “Caribbean carnival” was organised in St. Pancras Town Hall by Claudia Jones, founder of the West Indian Gazette and now known as the “mother of Notting Hill carnival”. It was created to lift the community after the Notting Hill race riots of the previous year that happened in response to several racist attacks on the West Indian communities in London.

Elements of a Caribbean carnival were showcased, cabaret style and televised by the BBC, featuring among other things, the Mighty Terror singing the calypso “Carnival at St Pancras”, a Caribbean Carnival Queen beauty contest, the Trinidad All Stars and Hi –fi steel bands, dance troupe and a Grand Finale Jump-Up by West Indians who attended the event.

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The Russ Henderson Trio, steel pan pioneers from the early days

Mrs Laslett’s “jump up”, a street party for neighbourhood children, turned into a carnival procession when Russell Henderson’s steel band trio went on a walkabout. Most of the community joined in. The traditional starting point was Powis Square in nearby Ladbroke Grove and remains an integral part of festivities today.

Today, the Carnival organisation’s vision is to foster the creative development and enhancement of diverse artistic excellence, thus transforming perceptions of London Notting Hill Carnival culture locally, nationally and internationally. Their focus must also include to counter reports of violence and disorder at an event where the vast majority of participants come out to enjoy a uniquely fun, carefree day – and get just that. Thankfully the event still draws in a cross-cultural demographic of visitors. Long may that continue.

Read more here on the event’s long, sometimes difficult and always proud and illustrious march through time, driven by visionary, resilient, ambitious men and women who’s aim has been to celebrate the rich cultural diversity of the West Indies in London against the odds.

Feast your eyes on some of the incredibly gorgeous sights we’re looking forward to enjoying more of this weekend:

Photos: courtesy of The Notting Hill Carnival official page

NOTE: Our store opening times will be Saturday 29th August from 11am to 7pm. We’re closed on Sunday and Monday, enjoying the sights and sounds of the event. Drop by and see us if you’re attending the Saturday events and look out for our Streetstyle camera roving the area for inspiration! Oh, have you checked out our Carnival moodboards on Facebook and Polyvore yet? Not too late to get that look together!

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