Notting Hill, London
Saturday 24th August 9am - Monday 26th August 10pm
Notting Hill Carnival started, as all good things should, in order to establish peace and harmony. The event’s infancy began in 1959 and was organized by the Trinidadian activist-journalist Claudia Jones as an indoor Caribbean Carnival spurred into existence by the 1958 Notting Hill Race Riots, and, the intensely charged atmosphere that had built up to them. After the Second World War Britain experienced an influx in Afro-Caribbean immigration. With Britain economically less stable thanks to its War-Debt, and, rationing still a recent memory, Britains white working classes were becoming increasingly disgruntled and unruly. With the help of far-right groups led by the likes of Oswald Mosley, the working classes of Britain were slowly being convinced that their plight was being directly created by the Afro-Caribbean immigrants.
In 1958 the underlying current of racism became a raging torrent which burst its banks. The sparking point was an argument between a white Swedish women (Majbritt Morrison) and her Jamaican husband (Raymond Morrison). White onlookers who tried to intervene became entangled with some of Raymond Morrison’s black friends and a fight broke out. The next day Local Teddy Boys recognized Majbritt and both physically and verbally assaulted her for being the wife of a black man. That evening, over three hundred Teddy Boys along with other white middle-class locals returned to Notting Hill, the predominantly Afro-Caribbean neighbourhood in which the Morrisons lived, and began attacking the houses of Afro-Caribbeans. This continued on for a month until over one-hundred and forty, mostly white, youths had been arrested.
In order to bring peace to a highly fractured neighbourhood, Claudia Jones lead an inclusive and yet openly Caribbean event, intended to show the local white population that the new influx of Afro-Caribbean culture was a positive change for London. Broadcast by the BBC the event was a success, and in part, tensions somewhat defused. Within ten years the Carnival had merged with several others and become an outdoor celebration of Afro-Caribbean culture in London, with music, floats, and dancers being introduced over time.
Unfortunately, while the event developed in size and organisation, race relations did not develop quite so smoothly. For the next twenty years, the event was refused permission by the City of London and was treated by the Police with hostility. Tensions between the black community and the London Police force were high throughout every Carnival and on many occasions, the yearly Carnival descended into rioting. However, in 1987, thanks to mounting pressure from well know supporters such as Prince Charles, the event was finally given the official go-ahead by the City of London, and, so began the slow process towards what we have today - Europe’s largest street party.
Now, every year on the August Bank Holiday, the whole of London revolves around Notting Hill. Busses from North and South run like arterial lines to the beating heart of the Carnival. The streets are alive with Caribbean food, music, dancing, and guys and girls in some of the most incredible Carnival Costumes you can imagine. Float after float wend their way through the streets of Notting Hill with live DJ’s and MC’s performing to the crowds of millions. Just the smell of Jerk Chicken is enough to put you in a good mood, however, what makes the event truly special is the feeling that you’re part of a giant community that just wants to have a good time. The whole thing is one huge boost to your endorphins, and, your body image - because if there’s one thing you can take away from Notting Hill Carnival it’s that it doesn’t matter if your 6ft4” and chiselled by Zeus himself, or, you’re a larger mother with two kids in tow. As long as you’re willing to try, anyone can shake it.
The Carnival Officially starts on Saturday (24th) and ends on Monday evening (the 26th), however, the locals will tell you to book Tuesday off work - the after parties go on all night and you’re going to have one hell of a hangover.
Kids - If you’re looking for the most family-friendly experience make sure to attend on Sunday 25th. There’s far more for the kids to do and the atmosphere will have mellowed compared to the initial pent-up explosion of Saturday.
Dancing - The Caribbean style of dancing is fun and friendly. It is common for strangers to take each other for a spin on the dance floor, either as a pair, or, in a group. The dancing is very hip and bum focused, with plenty of twirling, bumping, and a fair amount of grinding. If someone comes over for a dance (they may enter the situation bum first) and you’re not keen, don’t be offended, just politely decline and they’ll find someones else (you’re not that special). And know that - as you see on the pic above - if you do want to have a dance but feel a bit uncomfortable with the opposite gender, it's completely acceptable for girls to dance together!
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