Notting Hill is famously known around the world following the success of the romcom 1999 film Notting Hill, starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. It’s a district in West London with beautiful tall townhouses and many celebrities and politicians live in this area. What many people don’t know is it’s also the location of the annual festival – Notting Hill Carnival. People from all around the UK and Europe descend on Notting Hill in the final week of August to get that carnival feeling.
Notting Hill Carnival is a celebration of multiculturalism in London. It’s origins date back to the 1950’s. According to the official Notting Hill Carnival website, it all began with a rather grisly story. An Antiguan born man called Kelso Cochrane had moved to the UK for a new life and he lived in the Notting Hill area but was sadly murdered in a racially-motivated attack. Off the back of this, the Notting Hill community wanted to recognise and remember this attack and so they put together a small fair, where all the community residents were invited.
Sadly this was not the only racially motivated attack during the 1950’s in the UK, in fact it was quite a turbulent time for race relations in London. Claudia Jones, a human rights activist, decided to put together an event in an attempt to improve racial relations within the community.
It was called the “Caribbean Carnival” and was held at St Pancras Hall in London and was even broadcast by the BBC. Similar carnivals took place indoors throughout the years but in 1966, a Caribbean steel band performed on the streets in Notting Hill and it soon became the Notting Hill Carnival that we know today. It has grown in size and popularity and it is currently the second largest carnival in the world after Rio carnival in Brazil.
In more recent years, there is a huge parade that goes through Notting Hill, there are stages where musicians can perform and there are hundreds of food trucks and open bars. The event has become so big that the cost to the local taxpayer for policing and security is around ￡6 million per year, although it also brings in almost ￡100 million to the local community.
Notting Hill Carnival is supposed to be an uplifting event that brings the London community together; however, sadly it can get a little bit rowdy. When the carnival started to gain traction, the media published statistics about increased crime rates and public disorder during the festival. In the more recent years there have been hundreds of arrests each year for assault, theft and criminal damage. A lot of the Notting Hill residents tend to leave their homes for the weekend and even board up the windows and doors.
Notting Hill Carnival is a core event in the UK that brings together and celebrates different cultures and communities. The steel bands, musicians, dances and costumes are bright and eye-catching and bring a smile to everyone’s face.
Sadly the carnival had to turn digital in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic but we all hope that the carnival will return to the streets next year so we can celebrate multicultural London in style.