Saturday, August 23, 2008

Plaques honour carnival founder

The founder of the Notting Hill Carnival has been honoured in central London at a ceremony in which two commemorative plaques were unveiled.

Fifty years ago the late activist Claudia Jones organised Britain's first event celebrating Caribbean culture.

It grew into a street party which in 1964 became the west London carnival.

John S Jeremy, High Commissioner for Trinidad, was among those at the unveiling of blue and bronze plaques at Portobello Road and Powis Square.

Known as the "mother of the Notting Hill Carnival", Ms Jones was born in Trinidad in 1915 but spent most of her adult life in the US.

Celebratory walk

In 1955 she was deported from the US for "un-American" activities and given asylum in Britain, where she founded and edited the West Indian Gazette, Britain's first black weekly newspaper.

Following the 1958 riots in Notting Hill, she organised a walk from Powis Square to Tavistock Square to celebrate positive aspects of Caribbean culture.

Claudia Jones also founded Britain's first black weekly newspaper

A few months later Ms Jones organised Britain's first Caribbean carnival, held indoors at a hall in St Pancras. This continued annually until Claudia and friends established the first carnival on the streets of Notting Hill.

This year's Notting Hill Carnival is expected to attract 1.5 million people to west London from Saturday.

Jak Beula, founder of the Black history organisation Nubian Jak Community Trust, said: "It is wonderful that someone who gave so much to her community, and who stood up for justice and equality, should finally be recognised for giving Britain its greatest symbol of cultural diversity - The Notting Hill Carnival."

Allyson Williams, interim chair of London Notting Hill Carnival Ltd, hoped the plaques would "remind us all of the sacrifices that others have made, so that today we can enjoy the freedoms of a truly multicultural Britain".
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