Notting Hill Carnival returns to the streets of London for first time since pandemic began

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Millions of revelers are flocking to London’s Notting Hill neighbourhood this weekend, to attend its famous carnival – the first time the event has taken place in person since 2019.

The carnival, which celebrates Caribbean culture, has been held online over the past two years due to the COVID pandemic, but now the huge street party is back, with music, dancing, parades, and extravagant outfits.

Pepe Francis, a member of the Ebony Steelband Trust, which has been performing at the event for decades, says a he’s been eager to play at this year’s carnival. 

“Our members look forward to carnival every year, and practice takes place regularly from year to year. A lot of people have been waiting for it to come back,” he said. 

Notting Hill Carnival is the second largest carnival of its type in the world, and the largest in Europe.

Its origins date back to the 1950s when Trinidadian human rights activist Claudia Jones began organizing gatherings after racially motivated attacks in the area.

The festival has since become a “part of the very fabric” of London, according to the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan.

This year, organizers are planning a 72-second silence to remember those who died in the Grenfell Tower fire

The blaze in the apartment block on 14 June 2017 – close to Notting Hill – began in a faulty freezer, and quickly engulfed the building through its external cladding. 

Many of the victims in the fire were immigrants, or had minority backgrounds. 

The 2022 Notting Hill Carnival is is also marked by the cost-of-living crisis, as organisers claim that some people were unable to afford the extravagant costumes which are traditionally seen at the event; while some bands were not able to perform due to the costs involved.