Every year during the August Bank holiday, West London hosts the largest colourful street festival in Europe. For three days the streets of Notting Hill are literally crowded by near one million people from all over the world attracted by the colourful costumes, the sound and the food of Afro – Caribbean culture and all to enjoy the playful atmosphere that makes the Notting Hill Carnival one of London’s most exciting annual events.
If for most people it’s just a great party along the streets, the Notting Hill Carnival has deepest reasons. The event has its origin in 1959 as a response to the racial violence against immigrants from the British colonies invited to UK to live and work after Second World War. Claudia Jones, a journalist born in Trinidad, is considered the Mother of the Carnival. Thanks to her political and anti-racial activism, she became the voice of hundreds of people and organized the first celebration whose slogan was: “A people’s art is the genesis of their freedom.” Until 1966 the Carnival was celebrated indoor. The first outdoor event was organized by Rhaune Laslett, a community activist, to promote cultural unity.
The Carnival is a way for Afro – Caribbean communities to celebrate their own culture and traditions. The event is still featured by the traditional music like Calypso and Soca as well as the steel pan bands. Calypso is the most ancient and has its own roots in the sugar plantations of Trinidad where African slaves worked. These songs were the only way they had to talk to each other. Soca music has been created later (around 1963) and its sound is a fusion of Calypso and Indian musical instruments. Its success was related to the sexual freedom expression of dancing in a time of sexual repression. Finally steel pan is a musical instrument originating from Trinidad. A first version of it was made of bamboo wood and people used to beat it on the ground and sing. In a second time object like spoon or bottles were used to create different tones.
Although the tradition is the heart of the event in the latest years the Carnival has changed a little bit its essence since it has been blended by contemporary sounds: the last year more than 40 sound systems, placed around Notting Hill, play different kind of music from reggae, hip hop, jazz, swing and blues to drum ‘n’ bass.
We hope this upcoming August you’ll be visiting London and don’t miss the chance to be part of this party. As for your accommodation, we would love to have you staying with us in any of our Palmers Lodge Boutique Hostels. But hurry up coz August is a busy month!!!