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Stories from Notting Hill Episode 1 of 5

The writer and actor Kwame Kwei-Armah has regularly attended the Notting Hill Carnival since the 1970s. This year, before he gets ready to dance in the streets of West London, he sets out to explore the history of the festival and to meet some of the key people who make the event happen.

The Notting Hill Carnival is the biggest multicultural festival in Europe. It's generally accepted that the event started somewhere between 1959 and 1965 as a community-strengthening celebration of Caribbean culture. But for decades the carnival community has been divided over precisely when the festival started and who should be credited with laying its foundations. For some people the first Carnival was organised by black American Civil Rights campaigner Claudia Jones in January 1959, as an indoor event. Eyewitnesses describe evenings of calypso, steelband and costume competitions, staged as a reaction to the race riots that had gripped Notting Hill.

Other witnesses are certain that the festival started much later, in August 1965, by the white community worker Rhaune Laslett who created a multicultural festival aimed at bringing together the poor communities living in Notting Hill. Experts and surviving witnesses take Kwame through their private archives to shed light on this early period.

Presenter Kwame Kwei-Armah is famous for his role as a paramedic in the BBC drama, Casualty. He is also an award-winning playwright and has recently been appointed Artistic Director of Baltimore's state theatre, Center Stage.

Producer: Pam Fraser Solomon
A Culture Wise Production for BBC Radio 4.

Release date:

15 minutes

Last on

Mon 22 Aug 2011 15:45

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