The Notting Hill Carnival, a Caribbean celebration in London, has been held every year in late August since the 1960s. Before the pandemic, it often drew more than 2 million people to the streets of London to celebrate West Indian culture.
The UK’s first Carnival is credited to Trinidadian journalist and activist Claudia Jones, who was the founder and editor-in-chief of the West Indian Gazette. In the 1950s, Notting Hill was in the news for racial intolerance and riots emanating from the white working class and against members of the black community. Jones saw an opportunity to fight back with revelry against racist violence and organize an indoor carnival in 1959.
In the 1970s, a young teacher named Leslie Palmer took over the organization of the event. “I was a school teacher at the time and wanted to take a break from teaching”, he told Anneline Christie from the media company Ilovecarnivall in 2019. “Carnival seemed to be dying. There was an ad in Time Out for anyone interested in carnival to attend a gathering. There were only five people. I gave my ideas. “
Palmer encouraged people to rent food and drink stalls along the festival route. He also recruited local steelpan bands and other loudspeaker musicians and organized sponsorships for the event. Palmer is also credited with expanding the event to everyone in the Caribbean diaspora and not just those of West Indian descent. The event, which draws more than 1 million people annually, has been the subject of riots over the years. But overall, the festival remains as it was intended: a jubilant celebration of Caribbean culture and life.
“Notting Hill Carnival has always been the highlight of my summer, and because every year brings a totally different experience, it never gets tired,” he said. Nadine Persaud, the deputy director of photo works, a London-based photography organization, and a UKBFTOG photographer who has been going to the carnival since her teens. “When I was younger it was purely a chance to party hard, but as I got older and older the attendance has evolved into something more observant. 2019 was a great year with great weather, and it’s strange to think that no one had any idea that a pandemic would put it off for two years is a huge celebration loved by many, but it has much deeper meaning for the local community in West London and the wider black British and Caribbean communities in the UK, so 2022 can’t come soon enough.”
We looked back on more than five decades of joy.