UK – Trinidadian activist and journalist Claudia Jones shot like a comet through London’s grey skies. Her all-too-brief life blazed a trail that others have followed ever since. Notably, she laid the foundations for what was to become Notting Hill Carnival.
The Notting Hill race riots of August and September 1958 had created a toxic atmosphere that needed to be washed away. Along with her colleagues on the West Indian Gazette, Jones organised a ‘Caribbean Carnival’ at St Pancras Town Hall. This was to be a showcase for everything positive and creative that the Caribbean community was bringing to the capital. It had to be held indoors, of course – no sane person would take Carnival on the road in January in Britain – but it contained all the elements of the real thing, from mas to calypso and steelpan. It was a huge success and became an annual event, stopping only when Jones’s brave heart gave out on Christmas Eve 1964.
Now we are facing more challenges and sometimes it seems as if negativity is winning the day. The media narrative (except in Soca News, of course!) too often demonises Carnival as a crime scene and a safety risk, ignoring its heritage and trivialising its artistry.
With that in mind, a new pre-Carnival event, in the comfort of a theatre, will “showcase the creativity, heritage and artistic excellence of Carnival”.