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28 October 2014

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You are in: London > Entertainment > More Entertainment > Out & About > Carnival's roots

Carnival woman

Carnival's roots

The Notting Hill Carnival actually began in St Pancras and moved around until it found its home. From town halls it has now grown to a huge event and gets royal approval

Carnival's roots date back to the Abolition of Slavery Act in 1833 when the first Caribbean carnival was held in Trinidad.

Black Caribbeans took to the streets for their own carnival party, with song, dance and costumes.

Over the next century, carnival developed into a strong Caribbean tradition, particularly in Trinidad, where the five disciplines of carnival were established.

When the first significant numbers of West Indian immigrants came to the UK in the 1950s, they brought their musical traditions.

But what began with harassment of individual black men by white gangs blew up into a full-scale riot in August 1958 which continued for weeks.

The following year, carnival's first British incarnation took place in St Pancras Town Hall, organised by West Indian Gazette editor Claudia Jones.

For several years it was held in various halls but settled in Notting Hill in 1964, thanks to the vision of local social worker Rhaune Laslett.

As other West Indian immigrants and white locals joined the festivities year on year, carnival grew to its current huge proportions.

It even got the Royal seal of approval when Notting Hill performers began the parade on the Mall which represented the finale of the Queen's Golden Jubilee celebrations.

It still retains a strong Caribbean flavour, with colourful costumes and the pulsing sounds of calypso and soca.

But it now has everything from hip hop, house and salsa to West African drumming, costumed masquerade bands, floats, steel bands, static sound systems, and two enormous live stages.

For many people the Notting Hill Carnival has become a celebration and reflection of London's uniquely multicultural make-up.

last updated: 11/08/2008 at 16:01
created: 25/07/2005

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