The 2016 edition of the London Notting Hill Carnival — often regarded as Europe’s biggest street party — was held on Sunday and Monday. The carnival is a celebration of the culture and heritage of London’s Caribbean and African populations.
The Notting Hill Carnival is held every year on the streets of Notting Hill and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The festival is staged over two days, with the August Bank holiday occurring on Monday as well as the Sunday preceding it.
Organizers say the festivities attract around 1 million visitors over its two-day period.
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The carnival bands and floats set off at 9 a.m. on Sunday and Monday, and the procession and partying — with participants gathering around the areas of Ladbroke Grove and Westbourne Park — often continues well in to the late evening.
The carnival features the best of Caribbean culture, food, fashion, and music. For the parade, one can see steel bands, masquerades, beautiful ladies in very colorful costumes, and large elaborately designed moving floats. The carnival organizers say participants leave with a feeling of having connected with the rest of the larger African diaspora.
The Notting Hill Carnival traces its roots to 1966, with Claudia Jones, Rhaune Laslett, and Edric Connor as organizers. That year, a street party Laslett organised for children in a neighbourhood soon turned into a carnival procession, and by 1970, the Notting Hill Carnival grew to consist of music bands, playing the iconic Caribbean steel drums, and hundreds of dancing spectators.
By 1975, the carnival had become a major festival with more than 150,000 people attending from the Caribbean and African communities in the U.K.
Leslie Palmer, who served as carnival director between 1973 and 1975, expanded the carnival to include reggae and calypso groups, recruited more steel bands, got corporate sponsorship, and extended the carnival procession route.
In recent years, the carnival has grown to become a significant festival on the British calendar, with many non-Caribbeans in the population regarding it as an important event. The festival has often not been without its challenges, though, with security and crowd trouble, but it continues to offer a platform to exhibit and celebrate London’s multicultural diversity.