Notting Hill Carnival 2020: How to celebrate virtually now it has been cancelled

Updated: Sep 24

Since the pandemic, lots of events have been put on hold, unfortunately, including Notting Hill Carnival. For the first time in its 54-year history, the Carnival has been cancelled as a result of Coronavirus. But we do not want this to stop you from celebrating in style and having a crazy weekend full of colour and fun.


Black History 365 Know Before You Go: Notting Hill Carnival 2018


Notting Hill Carnival is one of the biggest cultural events in the UK and the world’s second-largest street festival after Brazil’s Rio Carnival and eleven times bigger than Glastonbury Festival! Yes, eleven times bigger, so there is a reason to make a fuss about this, over Glastonbury. As well as being a carnival that brings together diverse multicultural communities for a free-for-all party in the British capital, London. Who does not want to be involved in a carnival-like that?


The Carnival annually sees more than two million people descend on the West London borough over the August Bank Holiday weekend. However, the Coronavirus pandemic has meant that this year's weekend event has been called off, in line with the World Health Organisation’s guidance regarding mass events. Notting Hill Carnival Ltd said in a statement that the decision was made ‘after lengthy consultations with our strategic partners and our advisory council’.


LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 28: Young performers take part in the Notting Hill Carnival on August 28, 2016 in London, England. The Notting Hill Carnival, which has taken place annually since 1964, is expected to attract over a million people. The two-day event, started by members of the Afro-Caribbean community, sees costumed performers take to the streets in a parade and dozens of sound systems set up around the Notting Hill streets. (Photo by Jack Taylor/Getty Images)


Let us talk a bit about how Notting Hill Carnival came about as it is extremely important to know its history. It originated in 1964 as a way for the West Indian community in the UK to celebrate their traditions and culture. It all began in the summer of 1958 in West London when racial tensions grew in the Afro-Caribbean community. Riots went on for 3 days with over 100 people getting arrested over the bank holiday weekend.


In 1959, the human rights activist, Claudia Jones (known as “the mother of the Notting Hill Carnival”) who was also a Trinidadian journalist, decided to organise an indoor Caribbean carnival to bring all the communities together. That’s when the concept of the Notting Hill Carnival came about, with numerous indoor events taking place throughout London in 1960. In fact, the first-ever Notting Hill Carnival was showcased in Earl’s Court with the most popular steel band musicians performing at the event.


LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 26: Courtney Rumbold (2ndR) and Leigh-Anne Pinnock attend the Red Bull Music x Mangrove truck at Notting Hill Carnival 2019 on August 26, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for Redbull)


The media has covered a lot of stories about Notting Hill Carnival over the years and there is always an emphasis on the arrests made during the event. It is sad to hear but at the end of the day, this is only the minority of people who are trying to ruin it for others. These unfortunate incidences do not define the festival. The carnival embodies love and gratitude for all religions and people. Showing appreciation to the people you love and recognising their differences and likenesses, to eventually feel united together in a celebration of peace.


The weekend usually consists of vibrant colour, music-filled glory and fancy dress with lots of feathers and patterns. The carnival allowed people to feel empowered by dressing up in there most outrageous outfits and not feel judged, but united with others. There is a certain vibe you feel at the carnival: it does not seem like you are on a random street in London packed with strangers, you are celebrating amongst people with love and joy, all in unison with great music and dancing. All ages and cultures. All types of costumes and colours. You can be anything you want to be on that day and feel it, that’s the joy of the carnival.


The carnival definitely delivers every year and this summer we want you to still celebrate Notting Hill Carnival in an even louder – and more spectacular – experience. As a result of the lack of being able to celebrate on the streets in large crowds because of coronavirus, we think this is the perfect opportunity to reach out to loved ones and show your appreciation and love for each other.


For the first time ever, Notting Hill Carnival is moving online, it is called NHC 2020 Access All Areas. A press release from the organisers reads: 'Notting Hill Carnival was founded to bring people together during trying times, and that legacy will continue.’ With plans to organise an alternative ‘celebration of Carnival culture and arts,’ its organisers stated in May: ‘We hope [the celebration] will bring the Carnival spirit to people from the safety of their homes, and make them feel connected and engaged.’


The carnival will be streamed for free over four separate channels from 6 pm - Midnight August 29, 9 am - 11 pm Sunday and Monday, August 30-31. Details on how to register can be found here. Exclusive sets will come from the likes of Volcano, Arts-A-Light, Disya Jeneration, Gaz's Rockin Blues, Seduction City, KCC & The Rockin Crew, King Tubby's, Love TKO, Mark Ross, Rampage, Rough But Sweet, G T Flex Roadshow, CMC Matrix and Solution Sound.


The Carnival's official afterparty will be hosted by BBC Radio 1Xtra. Spotify is the Carnival's official 2020 sponsor and will be hosting a Spotify microsite this month to celebrate the importance of the event. The site will feature playlists, podcast episodes on everything from Notting Hill Carnival’s history to issues facing the Black community, and guest takeovers of some of the UK’s biggest dancehall, reggae, soca and afrobeat playlists. The newly announced artists include Grammy Award-winning, soul-legend, Koffee, the newest major artist in Jamaica’s music scene Protoje, Conkarah who collaborated on ‘Banana’ featuring Shaggy, Afrobeat icon Davido who is moving Nigerian music in the US, the multi-faceted and heritage artist, actor, producer Janet Kay, Akelle Charles, Haile and Louis Rei AKA west London collective Wstrn and one of the best artists in Nigeria right now Tiwa Savage for highlighting her country’s rape crisis.


To see the full list of artists and entertainers, click this link. So you will not have to miss out on any of the music and still feel the power of the carnival vibe.


Ottoman Hands: Notting Hill With Ottoman Hands: the carnival


After months of enforcing two-metre social distancing, the UK government is now allowing small groups of people to spend time outdoors, including private gardens and other outdoor spaces, as long as social distancing is followed. The NHS staff had previously stated that given the nature of the Carnival - which sees partygoers take up space in tightly-compacted areas - it would make it impossible to maintain social distancing, as outlined by the government. Although that does not mean it is impossible for you to create your own social distancing Notting Hill Carnival, perhaps in your garden, living room or local park with friends and family. Or if you are still isolating or have a local lockdown, why not have a virtual party over zoom or skype and tune in to NHC 2020 Access All Areas. Be creative and use your imagination, jazz up your living room with some colourful accessories, and get all your friends to dress up and have a dance together. We have all become so used to this new way of socialising virtually, it seems logical we can still celebrate momentous events such as Notting Hill Carnival online together.


It has been a testing year, we all deserve to let off some steam, step back from the seriousness of life and have some fun- safely obviously. By celebrating this festival you are allowing yourself to overcome the barriers we are currently facing and use this precious event to celebrate diversity and different cultures.


Notting Hill Carnival 2020 Online: https://nhcarnival.org/

Notting Hill Carnival App: https://nhcarnival.org/app

Notting Hill Carnival Mission: https://nhcarnival.org/our-mission

Donate to Notting Hill Carnival: https://aaa.nhcarnival.org/donate.html


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