Posted on 10th August, 2016

Notting Hill Carnival: History and Culture

In a couple of weeks hundreds of thousands of visitors will flock to west London for the largest street festival in Europe. Notting Hill Carnival is renowned for its Caribbean atmosphere, costumed performers, steel bands and delicious food, and has been held on the streets of London W11 for the past 50 years, however many people are unaware of how the festival started and what it stands for.

The event originated in 1964 as a way for Afro-Caribbean communities in the UK to celebrate their cultures and traditions, similar to the Caribbean carnivals of the early 19th century. These types of carnivals were hugely popular in Trinidad and were generally a celebration of the abolition of slavery. During the period of slavery, festivals were forbidden, so the residents took full advantage of their new found freedom.

The first ever Notting Hill Carnival was arranged as a showcase to popular steel band musicians who played in Earl’s Court every weekend. The festival music drew residents out onto the streets, reminding many of the Caribbean homes they had left behind. The well-known tradition of elaborate costumes began as an element of parody, mimicking the European fashions of their former masters. Today, this tradition has evolved into 15,000 handmade costumes every year; taking 1 million hours to create and decorate them all!

50 years on from the first Notting Hill Carnival, the August Bank Holiday event now sees up to 2 million attendees gather on the streets of London every year – the equivalent of 11 Glastonbury Festivals! It is an event that should definitely not be missed, and one of the staple events of London’s summer calendar.

If you are planning on attending Notting Hill Carnival this August Bank Holiday, don’t rush to make the last train home, relax and make the most of the unique festival by booking in at the Rembrandt Hotel. A comfortable stay in one of our 194 luxurious bedrooms makes for the perfect base to explore the carnival, just a short distance from Notting Hill and easily accessible by public transport.

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