Tribute to the organiser of Britain’s first Caribbean Carnival
50th anniversary tribute to the organiser of Britain’s first Caribbean Carnival (1958) and pioneer of the Notting Hill Street Carnival.
50 years after the first Caribbean carnival was established in Britain, two commemorative plaques are being organized to pay tribute to one of Britain’s greatest post-war Caribbean personalities, the publisher and activist Claudia Jones – also referred to as the mother of the Notting Hill Carnival.
On 22 August 2008 a blue plaque will be unveiled on Portobello Road, W10 (corner of Tavistock Square) to commemorate Europe’s largest street festival – The Notting Hill Carnival. This will be followed by a bronze plaque to be unveiled 200 yards further down the road at the Carnival Village in Powis Square, W10. The event which is organised by the Nubian Jak Community Trust, is also supported by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, Westminster Council, London Notting Hill Carnival Limited (organizers of the Notting Hill Carnival), Carnival Village and the UK Centre for Carnival Arts.
Claudia Jones was born in Trinidad in 1915 but spent must of her adult life in the United States . In 1955 she was deported from the US and given asylum in Britain, where she spent her remaining years working with London’s African-Caribbean community. She founded and edited Britain’s first Black weekly newspaper, The West Indian Gazette, and also became a prominent feminist and nationalist leader.
Following the 1958 riots in Notting Hill, Claudia organized a walk from Powis Square to Tavistock Square to show off some of the more positive aspects of Caribbean culture. The walk, although containing dancers and steel drum players, was not an official carnival, more a cultural statement. However, a few months later she had organised Britain’s first Caribbean Carnival which was held indoors at a hall in St Pancras. This event continued annually, until 1964 when Claudia, along with some friends, established the very first carnival on the streets of Notting Hill. Claudia’s legacy can been seen every August bank holiday when over a million people turn out on the streets of west London to celebrate Europe ’s largest street festival.
The plaques will be unveiled by Jak Beula, His Excellency John S. Jeremy, High Commissioner for Trinidad & Tobago, the Honourable Joanna Garner, Mayor of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, and Dr Harvey Marshall, .Deputy Mayor for Westminster .
Founder of the Nubian Jak Plaque Commemorative Plaque Scheme Jak Beula said: “It is wonderful that someone who gave so much to her community, and who stood up for justice and equality, should finally be recognized for given Britain it’s greatest symbol of cultural diversity – The Notting Hill Carnival.”
The High Commission for the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago said “We are pleased to be associated with this commemorative event to celebrate the life of Claudia Jones. A true daughter of the soil, Ms. Jones’ efforts to promote our culture and bring recognition to the early Caribbean diaspora and thereby create history in the United Kingdom must be heralded.”
Councillor Merrick Cockell Leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, said: “The Notting Hill Carnival is very much part of the identity of the Royal Borough and it is fitting that one of the most important people involved in its inception is recognised in this way”.
Cllr Colin Barrow, Leader of Westminster City Council, said: “We are proud to commemorate Claudia Jones, who established the very first carnival on the streets of Notting Hill and recognised the power of the arts to bring people from different communities together.”
Paul Anderson, Executive Director of UKCCA said: “The UK Centre for Carnival Arts is proud to partner with the Nubian Jak Trust in celebrating the life of one of the most influential women from the UK Carnival scene. Claudia Jones is an inspiration to everyone who has ever wanted to make a difference.”
Allyson Williams, Interim Chair of LNHCL, said: “As the current guardians of her legacy, the London Notting Hill Carnival board is delighted that Claudia Jones is being recognised in this way. We hope that these plaques will remind us all of the sacrifices that others have made, so that today we can enjoy the freedoms of a truly multicultural Britain.”