It was the Notting Hill Riots and the murder of an immigrant of Antiguan original, Kelso Cochrane in 1959 that later encouraged the West Indian community to unite and celebrate Caribbean culture through the Notting Hill Carnival.
Seeing the festival in a vision, social worker Rhaune Laslett, co-founded the Notting Hill Carnival with the London Free School – “I could see the streets thronged with people in brightly coloured costumes, they were dancing and following bands and they were happy. Some faces I recognised, but most were crowds, men, women, children, black, white, brown, but all laughing.” We live the legacy of many notable womanists of the 60’s, who fuelled the cooperative efforts to unite and build community relations through activism and social action. The value of local initiatives to tackle racial tensions, slumlord exploitation and escalating immigrant profiling by police, were as real then as they feel to many of us today.
50 Years on, after voting for Brexit, this year Europe’s biggest street festival has taken on a different type of resonance. Pertinently these celebrations deservedly pay dues to the spirit of the communities past, while the need to celebrate the vibrancy of immigrant culture carries on through different generations. Still the police will year after year seek to tarnish the reputation of the carnival, issuing reports of arrests and injuries that when contrasted relative to other music festivals are proportionately far less alarming. Repeated calls to include Notting Hill in the Unesco register of “intangible cultural heritage”, are far more deserving of coverage.
2 million people descending into Notting Hill over the August bank holiday weekend, bring the summer to a close with festivities of art, culture, dance and roaring sound systems. The ‘jump up’ is as diverse as Laslett’s vision, and as visually exhilarating when witnessed in retrospect. This year we introduce the photographic work of Leon Thompson, who’s viewfinder shoots off an electric spark of Carnival energy with grit and gusto.