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Roots of Carnival

Length - 06:00
Published - Oct 2023
Keystage(s) - 3 and 4

Roots of Carnival celebrates London’s annual carnival held in Notting Hill – a perfect resource for Black History Month. It features a host of voices from those who attend the event and those who help organise it. Made in conjunction with the BFI Documentary Residential.

Roots Of Carnival

Zephaniah : Carnival is family.


Khirleasha :Fun. Freedom. Cultural.


Sherma: It's very exciting.

Carnival is part of the roots of Notting Hill. Carnival started because black people who came from Caribbean to Ladbroke Grove, and that is why Carnival happened in Notting Hill and not anywhere else. It goes all around Notting Hill, comes right back around in a circle, goes through Queensway, Bayswater and up to Kensal Rise.


Leslie: Where Carnival celebrates the freedom of the enslaved people - The African people remember the old African traditions and mixed with the French traditional costumery, or characters in the carnival, they express themselves, and after today, it's an expression of freedom.


Sherma: Merle Major is a woman that started Carnival in Ladbroke Grove, and she's also a political activist in the community.


Khirleasha : For Caribbean people, the police were very rough with us and the area was very rough in itself, rough in terms of housing. So the black people did not get any decent housing, although they were invited to come here to fill the labour market gap that was left after the war.

The reason it's important to tell Merle Major's story is because Merle Major had a duty of care to the community where young people really trusted her and they felt safe in her company.

She's like a leading figure within the Ladbroke Grove community. She was well respected in the black community.


Sherma: She wanted to give them that safe place that they could come to and tell her their problems, and she would help them with housing.

For anything that was difficult for them, she was there to help them. So when we had Carnival, Carnival was to help people to make something, be creative, do this, do that, everybody get involved. People started to hear about Carnival. Bigger, more bigger stars started to come over, you know, big bands, and it just got bigger and bigger. And, you know, nobody really wanted to go home. Nobody thought that even Carnival was going to turn out like this.


Khirleasha : Carnival is everything. We live for Carnival all year round. Even right now we're doing a countdown. We're like, "what are we gonna wear for Carnival?" It just means everything. It's like it just brings so much happiness.


Sherma: You wake up and you get this, you hear this music and you think, 'I'm sleeping', and then, "'what is that noise?" And then all of a sudden - you think, "it's Carnival!"


Zephaniah: It's just a big mood. That's all I can call it. Like, it's vibes. It's euphoric and you'll be family.


Sherma: It's made a lot of money. It's brought people together. The whole community comes out now. They sell their food and anything. Their culture is all involved. It's a really beautiful thing.


Khirleasha: To someone who had never been to Carnival before, I would say it's like a big party in the street.


Vaugnie: It's gonna be your best time. You're going to have the time for your life.


Khirleasha: It's like a big festival in the street.

My favourite thing about Notting Hill Carnival is just how different London looks when it's happening.


Corey: I'd say my favourite part about Carnival is the music and definitely the food.


Khirleasha: The way that, all of the streets get boarded up. The fact that the road just looks completely different because there's no cars, people are just walking in the road. It just feels so free.


Zephaniah: I've been to Carnival in London. I've been to Carnivals in Berlin, Germany, and also Trinidad.


Vaugnie: The Carnival is longer in Trinidad. And here (London) it's just two days.


Corey: I'm out with a with a friend from near where I live, but by the time I got there, you know, like you get five minutes in and you've lost them already.


Khirleasha: I fell asleep. I got so tired from the walk in with our mass band that we had like a bus. You know, sometimes there's like floats and buses. So we had a bus going behind us, and my parents just put me in the bus and I just fell asleep, and then I woke up and I couldn't see my parents and they were outside still walking, but I was like freaking out because I was like, "where's my mum, where's my dad?"


Zephaniah: The moment you turn left and turn your head, your best friend, your sister, your cousin, they are gone.


Khirleasha: It was funny because it's just like - the other thing I love about Carnival is it's just full of aunties and uncles. I feel like there's always people there that just want to look out for you.

Jubilee is festival of colour.


You need to make sure you cover your hair because everyone's throwing paint, powder, baby powder, flour. I love Panorama. I love to hear the Steelpans. I can sit there and just listen to it all day. There's all these different groups and they all battle it out. I just love it. I think it sounds so sweet. Like a pan beating. It's amazing. I love it.


Sherma: Caribbeans were like Trinidadians, so Trinidadians were into Calypso. I mean, we all know Jamaicans like reggae, but they also are involved in the carnival now as well. They have Soca. It spreads everywhere now.

For us, it's the masquerade and it's going with the floats, it is the dressing up, it's going in costume and parading for the day, you know what I mean? Like, that's unity.


Zephaniah: I want it to just remain wholesome and be what it is. You know what I mean? I want the message to always be there and just never leave. So it's carried on through my children's children's children's children, you know? I mean, everyone can have fun. You know what I mean? But go and experience the culture and see what it's actually about and you will have a better understanding of what Carnival is and what it stands for.


Khirleasha: That's it.


Zephaniah: Come on, man.


Sherma: Thank you. Thank you.