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by Lola Christina Alao

For the first time in its 54 year history, Notting Hill Carnival is cancelled in 2020.

After the audacity of 2020 so far, it really had to take carnival from us too. Explaining that “the Notting Hill Carnival has faced many challenges this year”, the organisers released a statement announcing:

“After lengthy consultations with our strategic partners and our Advisory Council, the Board has taken the decision that this year’s Carnival will not take place on the streets of Notting Hill as it has done for over 50 years. This will also mean that Panorama, the annual steelband competition, will not take place. Notting Hill Carnival was founded to bring people together during trying times, and we intend to continue that legacy”.

Notting Hill Carnival has a long standing legacy, originally beginning to release racial tensions and spread cultural tolerance and harmony. In the 1950s, Notting Hill had an influx of West Indian immigrants after the Second World War. There were violent attacks on Black people during this time, by White gangs who promoted racist slogans such as “Keep Britain White”. Violence continued throughout the years and eventually erupted in the form of the Notting Hill Race Riots. And so in 1966, the first major outdoor carnival in Notting Hill was born: organised by activist and former social worker Rhaune Laslet, in an aid to lift the spirits of Black people who had experienced significant pain and sadness. Back then, it was known as the Notting Hill Fayre, a week-long celebration. Today, Notting Hill Carnival is one of the largest street festivals in Europe.

In order to still allow for the magic of Nothing Hill Carnival to be experienced – albeit via cyberspace – Access All Areas is bringing us a huge line-up of exclusive performances. The year’s celebrations will begin with a countdown on the biggest screen in the UK, in Piccadilly Circus. Samsung, one of the official partners, are also releasing a series of mini-films featuring artists performing over the weekend. The films will be a celebration of carnival and it’s beauty through dance, food and music, including prominent figures such as Levi Roots and the UK’s biggest soca star Triniboi Joocie.

The digital carnival will include artists from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Grenada, Africa and the UK. Grammy Award-winning Koffee, who is said to be modernising reggae, Afrobeats icon Davido, west London collective Wstrn and Tiwa Savage, the Nigerian pop star fighting the country’s rape crisis.

“Carnival is so important. It means so much to so many people. It was never an option [to not celebrate it]. We were always going to do something,” says the event’s executive director, Matthew Phillip, for GQ.

“Whenever we do come back to the streets it’s going to be special. Carnival was set up to promote unity and some might say it’s more relevant now than ever before, but I always say it’s been relevant since the first day of Carnival. Every year, Carnival goes to the streets and it’s a statement of unity, of freedom, of Black Lives Matters. All of these things that are at the top of peoples’ agendas, Carnival has been doing for 54 years,” he continues.

The weekend’s digital events will be spread across four channels from Saturday 29 to Monday 31 August, with hosts including BBC Radio 1Xtra’s Nadia Jae and Reece Parkinson, BBC Radio London’s Aurie Styla and more.

Channel 1

On Saturday 29 August at 6pm until midnight hosted by Jason Lewis and Reema Samuel with the Steelband Show, and then the Calypso and Groovy Soca show from 9pm to midnight hosted by Giselle Carter and Coco P.

On Sunday 30 and Monday 31 from 9am to 12pm, hosted by BBC Radio London’s Aurie Styla and The Beat London 103.6FM’s Claire Clottey.

Channel 2

Hosted on Sunday and Monday from 12pm – 8pm by Martin Jay and Giselle Carter, showing J’ouvert, Mas bands, Brazilian bands and more.

Channel 3

Hosted by Capital XTRA’s Shayna Marie and Ras Kwame from 12pm to 4pm on Sunday and Monday; and from 4pm to 8pm hosted by BBC Radio 1Xtra’s Nadia Jae and Reece Parkinson.

Channel 4

Hosted by BBC Radio 1Xtra’s Ace and Remel London from 8pm to 11pm on Sunday and Monday.

NHC may not be happening physically this year, but the organisers have worked tirelessly to bring the vibes to your homes, and it’s definitely not a weekend to miss. As Saloum N’Jie says, “You can lock down the world, but you can’t lock down Notting Hill Carnival.”

Running over bank holiday weekend, Saturday 29th until Monday 31st August, you can get involved online here.

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Glodi Miessi
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