This year’s Car­ni­val will be a pow­er­ful trib­ute to Gren­fell

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The NOT­TING hill

Car­ni­val is un­doubt­edly the great­est 48 hours in the Bri­tish party cal­en­dar, not least be­cause the an­nual event – which brings mil­lions to­gether to eat, drink, be merry and dance to bash­ment across the Sun­day and Mon­day of Au­gust bank hol­i­day week­end – has its roots in po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism and a foun­da­tion in the power of com­mu­nity. Founded by Clau­dia Jones, the Trinidad­born ed­i­tor of The West In­dian Gazette, the cel­e­bra­tion of black cul­ture was ar­ranged as a re­sponse to racially mo­ti­vated ri­ots in west lon­don in 1958, five vi­o­lent days and nights that saw ‘Keep Bri­tain White’ mobs bat­tling black res­i­dents, some­thing which seems hor­ri­bly fa­mil­iar in light of re­cent events in Char­lottesville.

Jones’ Caribbean Car­ni­val grew and grew, and by the mid-1970s it had be­come a party of ma­jor pro­por­tions, with floats, sound sys­tems, steel bands and an almighty pa­rade run­ning through the same streets where West in­dian im­mi­grants had set­tled after the Sec­ond World War. it’s an area of lon­don that re­mains pow­er­fully di­verse, with peo­ple from all over the world liv­ing side by side. But as ev­i­denced by gren­fell Tower, it was BME and work­ing-class res­i­dents in the lon­don bor­ough of Kens­ing­ton and Chelsea who were dis­pro­por­tion­ally af­fected by the dis­as­trous re­sults of liv­ing in some sub-stan­dard hous­ing, a damn­ing in­dict­ment of the way cer­tain groups of peo­ple are treated in this coun­try.

To lon­don­ers, Car­ni­val – only ama­teurs say the ‘Not­ting hill’ bit – is a vi­tal cel­e­bra­tion of com­mu­nity, and in the wake of gren­fell, that makes it even more im­por­tant. So when greg hands, the newly ap­pointed Min­is­ter for lon­don, sug­gested that the event be moved from the area it’s so in­trin­si­cally linked with be­cause he thought it would be in­ap­pro­pri­ate for it to take place in the shadow of a ma­jor na­tional dis­as­ter, lo­cals were rightly p**sed off. Thank­fully, all-round ex­cel­lent man and Mayor of lon­don Sadiq Khan had no time for hands’ bulls**t. “Not­ting hill Car­ni­val is a firm lon­don tra­di­tion and in­cred­i­bly im­por­tant to the lo­cal com­mu­nity. it should not be moved,” he tweeted. Yes, the burnt-out shell of gren­fell Tower will be seen by many peo­ple at­tend­ing Car­ni­val. Yes, it will be up­set­ting, and yes, it will be dif­fi­cult – but it’s been a lot more dif­fi­cult for those di­rectly af­fected by the fire. The fact that it’s no longer head­line news doesn’t mean that the vic­tims no longer need their sto­ries told and no longer need help. it’s been two months since the deadly fire and none of gren­fell’s sur­vivors have yet been placed in per­ma­nent ac­com­mo­da­tion, de­spite Theresa May promis­ing that ev­ery­one would have a new home within three weeks of the blaze. Re­ports have also emerged that sug­gest only a small frac­tion of the mil­lions raised to help have ac­tu­ally been re­ceived by the res­i­dents.

There’ll be a minute’s si­lence at 3pm on the Mon­day of Car­ni­val for gren­fell – but don’t for­get the tragedy still needs a lot of noise made about it as well. @leoniemay­cooper

“The vic­tims’ sto­ries still need to be told”

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