The renowned carnival celebrating Carribean culture and spirit — held in London’s Notting Hill every year since 1959 — did not always look like this. It was born out of race-riots against immigrants in the 1950s, and put on in event halls for its first 7 years.
Notting Hill Carnival (NHC) is now the world’s second largest annual street festival, gathering 1-2 million people across various ages, races and genders to commemorate this heritage.
The festival propagates the message of oneness through its colourful floats, booming sound-systems and performances by black artists. The smell of jerk chicken wafts through the air. Signs saying “Rum love” hang everywhere.
In 2020, however, it is almost impossible to fathom millions of people in such close proximity with each other. NHC 2019 is a different world to June 2020, in ways our pandemic-stricken society cannot even begin to reconstruct.
Although we are 60 years from the festival’s inception, the world still finds itself grappling with racism. Black culture is a matter of celebration, but atrocities towards its people have sustained.
Perhaps it will be some years before the event is back on its feet and honoured with such fervour, if not less. NHC did not always look like this and maybe, it never will again.
Words and Images, Yuvan Kumar @van_tage_point