The History Of The Notting Hill Carnival

Shutterstock / Bikeworldtravel © notting hill carnival

Ask anyone in the world about the Notting Hill Carnival, and they’ll likely mention colourful parades, music, and good food.

Usually held over the last weekend in August, it’s the biggest event of its kind in Europe. Indeed, it regularly attracts more than one million visitors, and is second only to the famous Rio Carnival in size.

And this year, thanks to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s going fully online for the first time.

The new normal

It’s not the first event to go online this year, of course.

The Edinburgh International Book Festival recently announced their latest programme, and cultural institutions like the National Theatre have adapted remarkably well to the current circumstances.

Even the anniversary of D-Day was commemorated virtually.

So will a browser-based Notting Hill Carnival succeed?

notting hill carnival


Come through some tough times

A glance at the history of this phenomenon will give you the answer.

And the answer is a resounding “yes”!

The carnival was born more than fifty years ago, out of a need to bring together the diverse community living in London’s Notting Hill during a time of heightened racial tension.

The (still unsolved) murder of an aspiring lawyer named Kelso Cochrane in 1959 resulted in a wave of protests and a huge increase in activism against racism in the area.

Alongside this, some began to look for ways to ease the febrile atmosphere. Among them was local resident Rhaune Laslett, who began to stage a small children’s fayre, with a lofty aim.

“We felt that although West Indians, Africans, Irish and many others nationalities all live in a very congested area, there is very little communication between us,” she said.

“If we can infect them with a desire to participate, then this can only have good results.”

It was out of this fayre, and this atmosphere of togetherness in the face of adversity, that the modern Notting Hill Carnival came to be.

And while it is rooted in Caribbean culture, it is at the same time very essentially “London” in spirit – the modern, cosmopolitan London.

notting hill carnival


Time to tune in

This year, the Notting Hill Carnival is taking place between August 29-31.

You can register to “attend” by clicking here.

For more on the history of the Notting Hill Carnival, click here.

Click here for more fascinating features from “The People’s Friend”.

Iain McDonald

Iain is Digital Content Editor at the "Friend", making him responsible for managing flow of interesting and entertaining content on the magazine's website and social media channels.