The Story Behind Notting Hill Carnival

It's the late August Bank Holiday and that can mean only one (two) things - The Notting Hill Carnival (and rain in Brighton, of course). It seemed only fair to dedicate this week's blog to the history of the carnival and obviously throw in a few pictures of the awe inspiring costumes.

Where it All Began

Following the Notting Hill riots of August 1958, Claudia Jones (sadly not my namesake) saw the need to clear the air. She was able to organise a carnival for the British black community in the Saint Pancras Town Hall in January 1959 with the help of the West Indian Gazette - a publication that she had founded on her arrival in the UK.

Claudia Jones, Founder of the West Indian Gazette

Claudia Jones, Founder of the West Indian Gazette

Several celebrations and carnivals took place over the following years, until Rhaune Laslett organised the first Notting Hill Fayre in 1964. This carnival was put together for children to be able to celebrate the cultures and traditions of their African-Caribbean heritage and inspired by a dream that Laslett had of people of different colour dancing in the streets with one another. By 1966 Laslett's fayre had turned into the street party that we know today, a celebration of the communities that made West London their home.

Kensington Post from Carnival 1966

Kensington Post from Carnival 1966

Notting Hill Carnival Now

The carnival is the second largest in the world, dwarfed only by Rio. It retains the title of the largest street festival in Europe, with around 2 million attendees each year, that's equivalent to 11 Glastonburies. 

Sequins, diamante and feathers on one of 2017's costumes

Sequins, diamante and feathers on one of 2017's costumes

Notting Hill Carnival is famed for its music and costume. Mas camps use elite Trinidadian craftspeople to create each carnival costume. Around 15000 costumes are on display every year, with every single one hand made. They are adorned with 30 million sequins and 15 thousand feathers. The total work time for one year's worth of costumes? About 1 million man hours.

Notting Hill Carnival