Notting Hill Carnival in London UK is a creature of much evolution. And in this stage of its life, there is a new feature to its existence; an official press launch to help document and witness its future metamorphosis.
The press launch was held at the mecca for Notting Carnival events, The Tabernacle at Powis Square in Notting Hill. Passing through its gates you were welcomed by Moko Jumbie dancers and steel pan music being played. Once registered, stamped and made your way to the space designated for the press launch, you were also met with the sound of pan music. But there was more. In stalls were displayed some of the items you would typically find at carnival; there was a rum stall, a mask/costume making stall. The Police I think had a stall telling about their involvement in carnival. The works of Melissa Simon Hartman (some of her costumes for this year and previous year) and Carl and Lyn Garbriel were also on display.Despite the carnival atmosphere, there was a sophisticated edge to this press launch. Waiters walked through the crowd offering canapes. Some of the members of the press (or it could be other attendees) held long stemmed glasses sipping whilst waiting for the beginning of events.
The launch was opened by Maurisa Coleman performing a dance routine to Beyonce’s ‘Survivor’ wearing one of Melissa Simon Hartman’s costumes. And this was one of the main themes for me that came across from the launch; Notting Hill Carnival being a survivor over the years of various attempts to downsize it, move it, gentrify it. It continues to survive.
Another theme for me of the press launch was that of ‘change’. Notting Hill Carnival has changed leadership and part of the new team is Ansel Wong who introduced what he saw was his three ‘M’s of carnival; mas, movement and music summarising it by using Peter Minshell’s phrase ‘a visual symphony’. He introduced the Mathew Philips, the CEO of Notting Hill Carnival Ltd. who outlined some of the changes:
- There will be a website for Notting Hill Carnival where you can get all up to date information on carnival 2018. This will also be supported by an app.
- Panorama will be held in the same location. However the inside of the park will also be utilised.
- Carnival will be supported by the company Ecotricity in an effort to make carnival more environmentally friendly.
- Emphasis was placed on the prioritisation of children in carnival. To that end, Carnival Sunday will be prioritised for children and adolescents
- There will be a designated media room for the media of Notting Hill Carnival.
- There will be live stages. However the majority of performances will be by youngsters.
- There will be Wilfour Community Stage which will be prioritising the local acts of the community.
- This new leadership will be actively seeking to recruit stewards from within the local community.
There was more detail but the above were fundamentally the changes outlined. There are a couple of points I personally welcome. I like the fact that Notting Hill Carnival is stepping up its use of technology an form of interaction and information giving to attendees of Notting Hill carnival. I love the designated area for media. This reminds me of the designated area for media at Salvador carnival which I was able to use. This leaderships appears to want to engage and include the local community as much as possible which makes me happy. There is an emphasis on giving live music and performances a space. I also like that. The next generation of carnival participants and attendees appears to be very much at the forefront of thinking which is also very good.
Following this there was a video showing some of the participants of carnival of various ages and ethnicities describing why they loved it. There was also a performance by a group of children and by a veteran calypsonian. Towards the end of the launch, press mingled, caught up with each other and took more pics of the audience and costumes.
I like the idea of a press launch. Often press and media are viewed from a negative positioning. This gives the opportunity for us as media to see some of the inner workings of Notting Hill Carnival. And for us to work in partnership with Notting Hill Carnival to help reverse the stigma of it being a ‘Trouble riddled event’ This press launch was well thought out with attention to detail. There was definitely mas, movement and music. The main themes of ‘Notting Hill Carnival as a survivor’, ‘change’ and ‘children’ was very much evident, not just in the present launch but also in the future plans for Notting Hill Carnival. It spanned the age range from the children performing to Maurisa Coleman to the veteran calypsonian perhaps again letting it be known that carnival is for everyone. So, lots of changes, lots of thinking. Much effort has been put into this press launch. Here’s hoping that Notting Hill Carnival also reflects the effort and the wider media are able to note the many beautiful and joyful aspects of Notting Hill Carnival.