London's Notting Hill Carnival is one of the largest street festivals in the. This event is a celebration of diversity and was created to help overcome racial tensions, throw a massive party for everyone to dance away their differences, and introduce culture through something everyone can enjoy, music.
Notting Hill wasn't always the upscale and fashionable district you saw in the movie starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts. Until the mid-1980s, it was a run-down and impoverished neighborhood which serves as home to a large population of West Indian immigrants. Racial tensions were high hitting a peak during the 1958 Notting Hill race riots, initiated by a group of working-class whites bitterly opposed to the influx of Caribbean immigrants. Tension situation escalated to critical levels when a mob of 300 rioted through Notting Hill attacking West Indian residents in their homes.
In January of 1959, the Notting Hill Carnival got its humble start at St. Pancras Town Hall. Claudia Jones, an immigrant from Trinidad, had a vision to throw a mixed celebration to repair cultural differences and celebrate diversity. The first event celebrations were held indoors and featured Caribbean music and were considered a great success even though they were sporadic in nature.
In August of 1966, Jones' vision transformed into a hippie-inspired festival when a street party for local children met up with Russell Henderson's steel band. It was the addition of Jamaican-style sound systems which is constituted by ragtag party machines united by a generator, a mountain of mismatched speakers, truck and DJs.
Swayed by the growing party vibe, attendance swelled to more than half a million. And since this is the largest free street festival in Europe, attendees and travelers might need some help finding your way around. Start by looking at a festival map for the year, as the route frequently changes. The event goes on for a full 3 days, starting with the famous steel drum competition on held on a Saturday. The Panorama Competition gets going around 7pm and hosts the best steel drummers from around the island. Sunday is a kids parade with prizes for the best costumes, and despite the following day's raucous activities, it's very family-friendly.
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