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Published on August 6th, 2013 | by leslie palmer

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1973 Remembered Celebrating the Birth of the Notting Hill Carnival as we know it today…

Without the active assistance and personal intervention and encouragement from Anthony Perry the then Director of the North Kensington Amenity Trust (forerunner of the Westway Development Trust), today’s Notting Hill Carnival would most probably have died a natural death.  Being a local resident himself, he knew that the West Indian Community had been struggling to maintain a tradition of an August Bank Holiday celebration in the streets with its origins in the playgrounds of North Kensington started by Rhaune Laslett in 1965/6.

In 1971/72 he made Portobello Green available as the central assembly point to the then organizers as well as donating initial funds for the hire of a truck to transport the musicians through the streets.

With 7 weeks to go before the 1973 August Bank Holiday weekend and no organizers coming forward to prepare (the previous one, Merle Major was pregnant), he advertised in Time Out magazine for a meeting under the Westway asking for the participation of the residents and for their response regarding whether they wanted the event to continue or not.  It was a Sunday afternoon and only 5 persons turned up – Leslie Palmer a local resident and Carnival lover was one who did.

The event used to take the form of volunteer steelband players forming a band which traversed the streets of the North Kensington community.    Although this had been happening since 1965/6 there was no increase in the number of bands or participants.  Semi-professional Trinidad steelband players normally made up the band membership and a mixture of the West Indian community attending.

At the meeting referred to above, Leslie convinced Mr. Perry of the need to include the participation of the other Islanders and in particular, the inclusion of the live music bands and sound systems beloved of the youth.

Mr. Perry provided an office at his Head Quarters at 3 Acklam Road and lent his organization’s charitable status which Leslie used to raise 700 pounds to launch the event which attracted 50,000 persons who came to see and hear 6 steelbands, 6 reggae/soul bands and 6 sound systems, dotted beneath the Westway and the surrounding streets.  Three costume bands also made an appearance, signalling the beginning of the costume tradition as well as stalls selling West Indian food on the Trust’s lands.

The event received front page coverage on national broadsheets and tabloids and in the Spring of 1974 Leslie exhibited the photos and slides of the event for 2 weeks on the walls of the Westway Information Centre on Ladbroke Grove.

The Carnival’s template was therefore decisively drawn on that historic day and it is for that momentous occasion that we want the Trust and our community to join us, the pioneers in acknowledging and celebrating.

It is also interesting to note that Leslie Palmer was 30 years old on that memorable weekend and his 70th Birthday on this year’s August Bank Holiday is a fitting addendum to the occasion!


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