The Story Behind Notting Hill Carnival

Notting Hill Carnival 2020: A virtual reinvention of Europe's biggest street party is on the way.

Notting Hill Carnival has been a monumental part of British culture for half a century, cementing its status as one of the biggest street parties in the world. However, this year’s celebrations will be a lot different due to COVID-19 restrictions. For the first time in its 54-year history, the event celebrating Caribbean culture and heritage will be held virtually to abide by social distancing rules.

Picture Source: Brais G. Rouco/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

‘Notting Hill Carnival: Access All Areas’ takes place over the August Bank Holiday Weekend and will be streamed across four channels that audiences across the world can register to view from the comfort of their homes.

Various other initiatives, including a collaboration with Spotify to launch a special microsite showcasing the importance of carnival to British culture has also been announced, making sure we all get the most out of the alternative experience. On the site, carnival organisers have worked with the streaming giant to not only curate a Carnival playlist but a dedicated podcast series exploring the history and origin of Notting Hill Carnival.

Founded in 1959 by pioneering journalist, feminist and social activist Claudia Jones, the vibrant event which binds together West Indian fashion, culture, music and tradition was an attempt to boost the morale of London’s Caribbean community at a time where racial tension and segregation was rife. Jones believed that “a people’s art is the genesis of their freedom” and after violent riots broke out on the streets of Notting Hill and Nottingham in the summer of 1958, she responded by organising the first ever indoor carnival. Originally named Claudia’s Caribbean Carnival, the event took place at St Pancras Town Hall on 30 January 1959. It was televised by the BBC and saw artists, writers and community leaders come together to celebrate black Brits. Year by year, the event gained more traction and welcomed a growing audience who immersed themselves in the beauty of Caribbean festivities on the streets of West London. Today, it is one of the most important dates on the UK calendar and an integral part of summer in London, attracting millions of tourists and championing the multiculturalism of the capital.

Trinidadian-born Claudia Jones is best remembered by history as
the mother of Notting Hill Carnival

Commenting on this year’s virtual event, Matthew Phillip, Executive Director of Notting Hill Carnival said: “This year we faced the ultimate challenge of being unable to gather on the streets to celebrate our Carnival. But, now, more than ever, it’s important to keep the spirit of Notting Hill Carnival alive, giving an outlet to the thousands of people that spend all year creating incredible costumes and music for Europe’s largest event.

“Carnival is such an important part of people’s lives and key celebration of the multiculturalism of the UK, and we have a responsibility to our community and pioneers to honour that. We also have a responsibility to protect the black community and our elders by respecting social distancing and takin Carnival away from the streets for this year. So, this is a fantastic solution for 2020.”

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