The Notting Hill Carnival – a vibrant expression of multiculturalism
The Notting Hill Carnival (NHC) is an annual event that has taken place on the streets of Kensington & Chelsea since the early sixties. Since 1991, Westway CT has provided minibus transport to the local community during Europe’s largest street party.
The NHC is not just about steelpan bands and calypso music and is especially significant for one of the Westway CT regular Minibus Drivers, Fred-E Kwafo.
In 1977, Fred-E formed ‘The Players Associated’ (TPA) an amalgamation of 2 discos. The TPA had a straightforward aim said Fred-E, “If we DJ’s, could come together, we could Keep our Music Alive”.
This coalition was extended to include Musicians. A symbiotic relation was created, and collectively they set about the task of ‘Keeping their Music Alive’.
In 1983, TPA hired the space under the Westway, and this was used as a stage to celebrate their music. This event was a huge success.
The area they hired is where Westway CT Offices now reside. The main image above is a collage of photos from that event.
So where does Westway CT fit into the Carnival?
Since the 70’s the Carnival has progressed, the steel bands have grown in size and stature, the range of music has diversified, and the crowds have expanded.
Steelpan bands use Minibuses (provided by Westway CT) to drive alongside and behind the carnival floats, carrying supplies and offering a much-needed seat to people who need refreshments or get tired of dancing and playing steel pan in the procession.
Westway CT is always there in the background, supporting the community, and it will continue to do so for as long as the NHC continues.
History of how the carnival was born
See the timeline below, posted initially on http://www.thelondonnottinghillcarnival.com/
Notting Hill Carnival is born
Mrs Laslett’s “jump up” a street party for neighbourhood children, turned into a carnival procession when Russell Henderson’s steel band trio went on a walkabout. Most of the community joined in. The traditional starting point was Powis Square in nearby Ladbroke Grove.
The Fair Strengthens Community Cohesion
Community cohesion was strengthened, as a variety of multicultural art forms such as poetry, music and masquerading united approximately two thousand hippies and other Britons with West Indians. A transformation of the repulsive atmosphere within the community occurred for the day as the vibrant activities suppress the mundane political issues.
This dynamic change which ignited cultural radiance also saw the introduction of a youth steel band, brought together by Selwyn Baptiste. To also highlight the diversity of the participants, the dancing Carnival Queen that year was a Norwegian girl masquerading as Marie Antoinette with men and women from the American Airforce, based in High Wycombe. They were dressed as Noblemen and Ladies.
More steel bands join the fair
Although the Festival was called by the Neighbourhood Service the ‘Carnival of the Poor’; as shops and store owners refused to offer financial support as they did in the past two years, another steel band joined Russel Henderson on the procession route. They included the following ten players on a float: – Peter Andre Joseph and Billy Carpenter on treble guitar – Miguel Borrados, Lennox Lanton and Tevor Cumberbatch on tenor – Fred Totosow and Pancho Dalpino on double seconds – Bassa (Barbadian player), Russel Valdez on bass.
Birth of ‘People’s Free Carnival’
A dramatic turning point with significant consequences for the carnival emerged. Mrs Laslett and her committee gave up the event due to racial tension. One incident was the violent confrontation between the police and black demonstrators, protesting against continuous police raids on the West Indian restaurant Mangrove run by Frank Crichlow.
The trial was the longest and most expensive held at the Old Bailey. Despite this confrontation and Mrs Laslett’s absence, The ‘ Peoples Carnival ‘ was organised by Merle Major, Granville Price, Selwyn Baptiste and Andre Shervington. The carnival atmosphere was evoked as steel bands along with Ginger Johnson’s African drummers led the procession. This parade concluded at Powis Square featuring the American band Sacatash, Mataya, Stackhouse and James Metzner.
Carnival an Expression of Resistance
Merle Major rallied people to get involved as she chanted ‘Power to the People’. Emerging from St. Luke’s road, Metronome Steel Band, joined the ‘People’s Carnival’ procession. It was also a period when a hint of static sound was a gramophone attached to a lorry, as recalled by Anthony Perry, the first director of the North Kensington Amenity Trust.
Ebony Join the Procession
Merle Major, Selwyn Baptiste with the support of Westway Trust was involved in the coordination of the carnival. The procession commenced at the Adventure playground on Wornington Road. Merle presented her masquerade band which was accompanied by Panam North Stars steel band. Ebony steel band also joined the procession.
January 1, 1973
Trinidad and Tobago Carnival transforms the Fair
Seven weeks before the carnival and there was no one to organise the ‘Jump-up’ for the West Indians (since Merle Major was pregnant). Lesley Palmer responded to an advert in a ‘Time Out Magazine’ placed by the Amenity Trust. At the interview, his idea of bringing all the carnival disciplines and West Indians together was supported by Anthony Perry from the North Kensington Amenity Trust. Hence he was invited to set up the first Carnival organisation based at No. 3 Acklam Road. Palmer and his committee members Bigga Hamilton from Tobago, Lawrence Noel and Peter Minshall as well as a representative from different areas, was able through fundraising to obtain £700 within seven weeks.
They were supported financially by West Indian Embassies and traders who sold to West Indians. Tony Soires from Grass Roots Organisation also supported the event within four years using Trinidad and Tobago’s carnival as a medium, and the event was completely transformed in structure and content. Sunday being identified as Children’s day to pay respect to the procession Mrs Laslett developed for the Children during the London Notting Hill Fair.
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