The beginning of London's Carnival

Claudia Jones, a Trinidadian human rights activist based in London, put on a BBC broadcasted indoor ‘Caribbean Carnival’ at St Pancras Town Hall back in 1959. She is widely credited with sowing the seeds for carnival in the UK by doing so.

An appetite for the indoor Caribbean carnival was fed by Trinidadian husband and wife booking agents Edric and Pearl Connor who along with many partners including The West Indian Gazette began promoting indoor events in halls dotted around 1960s London.

In 1966 the first outdoor festival took place in the streets of Notting Hill.

A local resident and Social Worker Rhaune Laslett – a Londoner of Native American and Russian descent – organised an event for local children. As an established community activist with a history of addressing and easing inter-cultural tension in the area since the violent race-riots of the 1950s, she set out to include the local West Indian residents in her event.

Rhaune invited well-known pan player Russell Henderson, who was accompanied by his pan band members Sterling Betancourt, Vernon “Fellows” Williams, Fitzroy Coleman and Ralph Cherry.

In 1966 the first outdoor festival took place in the streets of Notting Hill.

Today's Notting Hill Carnival

Notting Hill Carnival is still proudly a very community-lead event, however its ever-increasing popularity over the last 5 decades has seen it swell to become the huge, wonderfully diverse and electrifying event it is today.

With over a million visitors expected over the August bank holiday, it's second only to Brazil's Rio carnival in size, and one of the globe's largest annual arts events.

Whilst Notting Hill Carnival is rooted in Caribbean culture, with its Windrush-generation influence remaining strongly evident, it is at the same time uniquely London – today's London.

London's Carnival is the only full-scale Carnival in the world to feature static sound systems – a feature introduced in 1973 by new organiser Leslie Palmer.

There are live performances too. The first stages were organised by Wilf Walker in 1979, chiefly featuring reggae and punk bands. Wilf's early live stages featured performances from emerging talents Aswad and Eddie Grant, who both went on to become two of the UK’s biggest musical exports. In following decades hip hop’s Jay Z, Lil’ Kim and Busta Rhymes all gathered an NHC stage to perform live in the same year.

Carnival attracts and appeals to people from all over the world, from small children to the elderly.

The tradition of Carnival has many meanings to many people, but everybody can agree that what it definitely means to all is unity – togetherness.