The Notting Hill Carnival returns to the streets of London after a hiatus

LONDON — The annual Notting Hill Carnival has returned to the streets of London for the first time since 2019, with more than 1 million people expected to enjoy the music, spectacular parades, dancing and food at the biggest street party in Europe on Sunday and Monday.

The carnival, which celebrates Caribbean culture at the end of August each year, had to be held online for two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The carnival traces its history back to 1958, when Trinidadian human rights activist Claudia Jones began organizing a gathering to unite the community following a series of racially motivated attacks on West Indians in the Notting Hill district of west London.

The event grew from a festival attracting a few hundred people to a huge annual street party with tens of thousands of performers in the colorful parade and more than 30 sound systems.

The celebrations began on Saturday night when more than 1,000 people gathered to watch a steel band competition in west London.

Crowds of whistle-blowing toddlers danced in the streets with their parents on Sunday, traditionally a more family-friendly day than Monday. Some children stood on the doorsteps of their houses and waved Jamaican flags.

Pepe Francis heads the Ebony Steelband Trust, which has been involved in the carnival for decades.

“Since the band started, I’m fifth generation people and there’s been a lot of changes,” he said. “But our members look forward to the carnival every year and training runs regularly year after year.”

“A lot of people were waiting for him to come back,” Francis added.

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