How a Trinidadian Communist Invented London’s Biggest Party
The Notting Hill Carnival was canceled last year. But it likely would not exist without the efforts of Claudia Jones.
For Caribbean expatriates living in London, there may never be more than one quiet weekend in August 2020 that the Notting Hill Carnival would normally have seen.
From music in Gloucesterbury to Diwali celebrations in Leicester, there is no shortage of full-sensory festival experiences in England. But there is nothing like visiting Notting Hill Carnival. You step out of the tube station, get off the bus or say goodbye to your bike, and step off the sidewalk and enter the festive indomitable laughter.
What you hear is joint sound Hundreds of steel pans Taking out the calypso; Decently decorated Band floats; Sweet whisperings of woman with boy kisses with African fade; Socially-infected bass Preferred Sound System; The rustle of feathers boasting a peacock’s performance; Ping of bikini strap; Clangs of jerking drums; Thrust of sweet punch; Clapping on the backs of the elders who still consider Carnival as their personal reunion party and the weeping cries of the youth who attend the first appearance.
The nut is heard by more than one million visitors every year at the Notting Hill Carnival, but can also be heard in other parts of the UK, St Pauls, Nottingham and Cardiff Carnival, and cities around the world: Spain’s port with Trinidad And Tobago Carnival; Rio during Carnival; Toronto during the Caribbean; And during the J’Ouvert in New York. Of course, many of these celebrations were canceled in 2020 due to an epidemic ban.
God, we missed Carnival last year.
After the summer where Black Brits were involved in a protest movement – one that could have originated in Black Lives Matter protests in the United States, but which represented our particular struggles with racist violence, including the conclusion in Britain Was prepared to, people are Chances of dying in police custody twice Compared to white people – many of us were desperate for distraction, to lean into parts of our culture, not to move in pain. Carnival has always been that reliable release, a chance to celebrate and reunite the community.
sometimes called “Biggest street party in Europe,” Notting Hill Carnival is centered around the music, food and culture of Caribbean expatriates. But it has its roots as a site of anti-racist resistance and rebellion, right before the founding of the original Caribbean Carnival in 1959, by a Trinidad activist, writer and editor named Claudia Jones.
Jones brought his visit to Carnival to London at a time when people were in dire need of it. The first “Caribbean Carnival” was held indoors in January 1959 in the dead of winter, following a series of protests by Black Brits in areas of England including Notting Hill against police violence. These protests were played against the backdrop of the “Windrush” generation’s migration to England: a widespread wave of non-immigration to Britain in the post-war period. Over several decades, Nearly half a million immigrants Arrived from Caribbean countries. (The name “Windrush” refers to a ship, the HMT Empire Windrush, brought to the workforce in 1948.) The cultural contributions of this generation have led to a creative project from the acclaimed 2004 novel (and later the TV series) : “To Small Island”Small ax, “Film anthology of director Steve McQueen.
Jones was an atypical member of the Windrush generation. Born in Trinidad and Tobago in 1915, she lived in Harlem for 30 years before arriving in London in 1955. Her life’s journey faced many difficulties: She suffered from tuberculosis as a teenager and was imprisoned in the United States. Macran eventually came to terms with his political work with the First Communist Party. Being deported to the UK. One of Jones’s most widely circulated portraits shows him reading a copy of “Page from the Life of an Activist” by American Communist leader William Z. Foster.
After the “lukewarm reception”, Jones biographer Carol Boyce Davis described it, The Communist Party of Great Britain, which was not receptive to Jones’s counter-terrorism efforts, decided to change his formidable organizational skills to uplift the black British community.
Along with activist Amy Ashwood Garvey, Jones founded one of the first major black British newspapers, The West Indian Gazette (known as WIG) in 1958. By January 1959, they had established the Caribbean Carnival, an indoor event in St London. Punchers Town Hall. Sponsored by WIG and broadcast by the BBC, the carnival featured a range of elements including dance, music and a Caribbean Carnival Queen Beauty contest.
“We need something to get a taste of Notting Hill through our mouths,” Jones says Remember by saying At the beginning of Carnival. Later, he gave the famous title for the event “the art of a people is the origin of their freedom”. In the pamphlet she directly mentions that Notting Hill and Nottingham “brought the West Indies together in the United Kingdom as never before”. The carnival ran annually until his death in 1964, after which it was “stopped” in 1965 in his honor before returning to the streets in 1966.
Colin Prescod, a black history archivist and sociologist whose mother, actress and singer Moti Prescod, A close friend of Jones’s, moved to Notting Hill from Trinidad as a child and still lives there. Mr. Presscod’s view that Notting Hill had an area-wide anti-apartheid consciousness made it a fertile ground for the development of Carnival.
“I think the North Kensington area entered the Black-Lives Matter movement,” he said of the area in the late 1950s. These sentiments were further strengthened after the May 1959 assassination of Carleso Cochran, an aspiring law student from Antigua who was stabbed by a gang of white people in Notting Hill.
“Notting Hill Carnival was one of the most beautiful means of protest,” said Fiona Compton, A trinidad Historians, photographers and carnival ambassadors are based in Britain. Jones “saw many different ways of trying to bring about change in society and he felt that Carnival is the way it is because it shows that we are enjoying ourselves.”
Jones was a naturally charismatic man. “She smokes, she drinks, and she was an extrovert,” said Francis Anne Solomon, a director who is Currently making a film About jones. “She loved to party.” Ms. Solomon explained that despite living with tuberculosis, which would eventually claim her life in 1965, Jones had a personality that attracted people, so she could get people to do anything. . Everyone loved Claudia. “
With Carnival, Jones sparked a wave of solidarity among Black Brits. His forward thinking towards organizing the community through celebration still resonates in recent efforts. Kala Bliss as a function of resistance and flexibility.
From these beginnings, the carnival evolved into an inclusive annual street party, thanks to the artists and organizers who led Jones. In 1966, Ron Lanlet, a community leader in Notting Hill, revived the festivities as Notting Hill Fiery, which brought Russell Henderson’s steel-pan band to the streets, in an improbable performance called We Started a Carnival Procession is. today. Leslie Palmer, an activist from Trinidad, introduced Jamaica’s sound system to Carnival in 1973, which drew large crowds and opened the festival beyond the traditions of the eastern Caribbean islands.
Mr. Presscod said that, at the time, there was a “real confrontation, great argument” about the inclusion of the sound system, including shows built around the ascending style of reggae, which played on elaborate amplification systems. But the sound system stuck, he said, because “this is what suddenly, more people are brought to” for Carnival.
Prescod also reported that, “Carnival has received two sets – it’s two feet. One leg here in Britain and the other in the Caribbean.”
In fact, the Notting Hill Carnival was modeled at carnival celebrations in the Caribbean, which itself was an “intervention of libertarian Africans”, said Atilah Springer, a writer and activist. Enslaved people in the Caribbean and particularly in the regions of Trinidad, took elements of European masquerade balls and distorted them, using their own rituals and traditions to find freedom in adopting masquerade – or “making a mess” – And became different characters.
After the liberation, many of these traditions were merged into carnival celebrations, including Je’Vart, a pre-dawn ritual of abandonment that often features ravels dipped in mud and oil. “For many (myself included) J’Ouvert is the most important part of the celebration,” Ms Springer said. “It is dirty and dangerous and anonymous. It is also highly spiritual and unitary political. ”Ms. Springer called Jones” the ultimate joyist “… positioning her within the consciousness of the transformational nature of those pre-dawn hours.
In 2020, those festive days at Notting Hill, for the first time in decades, remained silent. This was a particularly difficult setback, given as another heat of protests for racial equity and an epidemic in Britain. Black discontented British Caribbean community. As the Notting Hill Carnival now takes place in August, there is still hope that the Carnival may take place in 2021. But either way, its spirit gets a boost. For Black Brits, this is “our Mecca”, in the words of Ms. Compton, or “Our Christmas”, as a friend told me on Twitter.
At Notting Hill Carnival for the first time as a young child in my dad’s arms, I remember that I wanted to climb barriers and join the beautiful women who hit the road at the beat of a drum. I remember a woman flapping her wings at me. I cast her in a high regard that I only ever held for princesses before.
Last year was a quiet one and a difficult one. But the carnival will rise once again. And when it happens, I have no doubt, with the knowledge in our hearts that Carnival can be a political space and a celebration of resilience and renewal, we will return to the streets as Claudia Jones as the energetic and radical Would like to
Charlie Brinkhurst-Cuff is a journalist, podcast host and editor in chief Gal-Dame magazine. He is the editor of two anthologies, “Black joy“And”Mother Country: Windrush Children’s Real Stories, ”And lives in London.
Produced by Veronica Chambers, Marseille Hopkins, Dahlia Kozloski, Ruru Kuo, Antonio De Luca, Adam Sternberg, Dodai Stewart and Amanda Webster.
Photo and video credits: Group 1, Christopher Pilitz / Getty Images; Richard Bean / PYMCA, Universal Image Group, via Getty Image; ITN, via Getty Images. Group 2, Monte Fresco / MirrorCarix, via Getty Image; Holton Archive via Getty Image; Daily Mirror, GettyFix with Getty Images. Group 3, Daily Mirror / MirrorCarics, via Getty Images (Stills); British Movietone / AP (video). Group 4, PYMCA / Universal Image Group, via Getty Image; ITN, via Getty Image; Steve Easton / Holton Archive, via Getty Images. Group 5, PYMCA / Universal Image Group, via Getty Images (Stills); ITN, via Getty Images (video)