Leicester Caribbean Carnival and Notting Hill Carnival.
It’s Carnival time! But where did it originate? Why did it come to the UK? And why do we celebrate it?
The celebration of Carnival has a complicated origin, however the roots of the festival are believed to follow the tradition of abstaining from eating meat and consuming alcohol with the belief that it would drive away negativity and misfortune; the word “Carnival” itself is thought to mean “farewell to meat” or “farewell to flesh,” which supports the theory of this belief.
From Trinidad to Tobago, Carnival spread to many other islands, where the traditions of ‘Carnival’ began to fuse with unique local cultures. In Antigua they held Salsa showcases, whilst in Dominica Calypso music became increasingly popular and in Trinidad and Tobago their celebrations were deep rooted within both Calypso and Soca music.
Each and every culture has adopted their own celebration of Carnival, but the overall meaning of the celebration remains the same. In African/ Caribbean tradition the celebrations commence on the street; Carnival is all about celebrating native culture and emancipation through dress, music, and dancing.
During the Carnival period, revellers can be seen parading in bright costumes laced with beads, glitter and feathers, along with masks and dazzling headdresses. It is customary to dance to loud, cultural music and of course play or listen to steel drum performances. The opening of the show is referred to as ‘J’ouvert’ which translates to ‘dawn’ or ‘daybreak’ and is traditionally an early morning celebration at which Calypso/Soca bands and their followers dance through the streets. The festival begins well before dawn and reaches its peak a little after sunrise.
Along with the further celebrations commencing after J’ouvert there is the exciting coronation of the years elected Carnival King and Queen, an extremely high honour to be bestowed with during the celebration period. The elected royalty can be seen wearing the most extravagant, lavish costumes in the parade and are hailed by their carnival followers.
But how did carnival make its way to the UK? To answer that, I must first introduce you to a very inspiring black woman named Claudia Jones. Originally born in Trinidad in 1915, Claudia moved to Harlem, New York with her parents when she was just eight years old. In her youth she became part of the American Communist Party whose ethos was to offer a voice and social equality for individuals fighting for black civil rights. Due to being involved in such activities, in 1948 Claudia was arrested and made to serve the first of four periods in prison. Following a year in Alderson Federal Reformatory for Women, she was deported but denied entry back in to Trinidad and because of this she was granted asylum in the UK in 1955.
There is no doubt that Claudia Jones is a legacy in the history of Carnival, which she helped to launch on the 30th January 1959, beginning as an annual showcase for Caribbean talent. The early celebrations were held in concert halls, but soon manifested in to even larger celebrations, which are still progressing today.
This month we are thrilled to announce that we will once again be taking part in the celebrations at Leicester Caribbean Carnival, something we look forward to every year on the first Saturday of August. This year, we will back even bigger and even better! The exciting theme has been
announced as ‘It’s a Latino Fiesta’ so prepare yourselves for bright colours, vibrant music and even more crafty activities! The best thing is, our arts and crafts services are all for free!
Another event that you will not want to miss out on this August is the infamous Notting Hill Carnival. Join London’s biggest and best street carnival and watch as West London comes alive with Caribbean colours, music and flavours. The event takes place over three days during Augusts bank holiday weekend and offers a range of different activities for all ages. You can watch the carnival parade of elaborate floats and colourful costumed performers, listen to the sounds of live steel bands and calypso music or why not tempt your taste buds with some authentic Caribbean food throughout the day?
The Notting Hill Carnival was first established back in 1966 as a remake of the popular Trinidad Carnival, with the purpose of celebrating Caribbean culture and traditions in London. It takes place on the streets of London W10 and W11, usually around the areas of Notting Hill, Ladbroke Grove, Westbourne Grove, Westbourne Park and Kensal Road.
Initially Notting Hill Carnival only attracted around 500 people, but since then it has become the largest street festival in Europe. Based on previous years, you can now expect to see around 50,000 performers in the parade, dancing to over 30 sound systems, with an average of more than 1 million people attending the event during its three day period.
So what are you waiting for? Put these two amazing dates on your ‘to do’ list! Although Iliffe Arts celebrates culture every day, we still look forward to those special celebrations where people really do come together to celebrate where they came from!