London’s Famous Notting Hill Carnival Is Canceled This Year, But Here’s A Look Back At The Party

London’s Famous Notting Hill Carnival Is Canceled This Year, But Here’s A Look Back At The Party

Since the 1960s, the Notting Hill Carnival, a Caribbean celebration in London, has been held in late August every year. Prior to the pandemic, it regularly drew over 2 million people to London’s streets to celebrate West Indian culture.

Claudia Jones, the founder and editor-in-chief of the West Indian Gazette and a Trinidadian journalist and activist, is credited with organizing the first carnival in the United Kingdom. Notting Hill was in the news in the 1950s for racial intolerance and riots started by the white working class and directed at members of the Black community. Jones saw an opportunity to use revelry to counteract racist violence, so he organized an indoor carnival in 1959.

Leslie Palmer, a young teacher, took over the event’s organization in the 1970s. In 2019, he told Anneline Christie of the media company Ilovecarnivall, “I was a school teacher at the time and wanted to take a break from teaching,” “Carnival appeared to be on its last legs. A meeting for all those interested in carnival was advertised in Time Out. There were only five of us. I shared my thoughts.”

Palmer encouraged people to rent food and beverage stalls along the festival route. He also organized sponsorship for the event and recruited local steelpan bands and other musicians with loudspeakers. Palmer is also credited with broadening the event’s scope to include all members of the Caribbean diaspora, not just those of West Indian descent. The annual event, which draws over a million people, has been plagued by riots in the past. Overall, the festival remains true to its original intent: a joyous celebration of Caribbean culture and life.

“Notting Hill Carnival has always been the highlight of my summer, and because each single year brings with it a totally different experience, it never ever gets tired,” said Nadine Persaud, deputy director of Photoworks, a London-based photography organization, and a UKBFTOG photographer who has been attending the carnival since she was a teenager. “When I was younger, it was purely for the purpose of partying hard, but as I’ve gotten older and become a parent, attending has evolved into something more observant. 2019 was a fantastic year with spectacular weather, and it’s strange to think that no one expected a pandemic to put it on hold for two years. It is a huge party that many people enjoy, but it has a much deeper meaning for the local West London community as well as the larger Black British and Caribbean communities in the UK, so 2022 cannot come soon enough.”

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London's Famous Notting Hill Carnival Is Canceled This Year, But Here's A Look Back At The Party