23 MAY 2008


1 Portobello Carnival Film Festival 2008
2 Lord Holland’s Slavery to Work Scheme
3 The Notting Dale Gypsies
4 Portobello Busker Parades
5 1966 London Free School Michaelmas Fayre
6 1968 Interzone International Times Fair
7 1977 Two Sevens Clash Punky Reggae Party
8 1983/4 Aswad Live And Direct Carnival
9 1995 Hugh Grant Mas and Mayhem

‘1977 Two Sevens Clash Punky Reggae Party

In 1977, after the Clash ‘White Riot’ tour took the ’76 Carnival riot backdrop around the country, causing a series of mini-riots, there was another full-scale Carnival riot. This one was attended by Bob Marley, who was on Acklam Road at Lloyd Coxsone’s sound-system; and reporters from International Times who recorded the end of peace and love in their ‘Fear and Loathing in W11’ ’77 riot special:
‘But through it all, slicing through the crowds like shoals of baby sharks, came the kids, the forgotten ones, using their irrelevance to maximum effect, moving in packs of up to a hundred, fast and determined, grabbing everything they passed… Karma. The dark side of anarchy, mutant children generating panic for the hell of it and sharing the same mind-blistering sweetness in the results. Some of them were only 10 years old. It was the revolution. Unplanned, uncaring and without generals, the black kids were having a revolution. No surprise. In the towerblock prisoncamps of the working-class, white punks are Xeroxing nihilism with their ‘No Future’ muzak turned up full blast. In the ghetto, when the Carnival slips the leash, black punks tear up the present.’
Along Portobello on the first night, IT reported on the scene outside Finch’s (the Duke of Wellington): ‘Kids were kicking in the shutters of the pawnbrokers, across the road, outside the pub, a hundred tippling hippies watched with nervous interest. The kids ripped down the shutters, and smashed the glass until the shop hung open like an empty chocolate box and rings and bracelets disappeared into the night. There was a long lull as the crowd gathered round the broken theatre waiting for the next act. And then it came. To the derisory applause of the mob the police arrived under the glare of NBC TV lights to take their positions like an amateur chorus.’
On the second day, the Kensington Post reporter Neil Sargent wrote: ’As reggae music belted out from speakers stacked on the north side of Acklam Road, the latest punch up began to move underneath the flyover to a patch of land which usually houses a happy hippy market.’ In the IT report: ‘The kids had gathered at the Westway, scene of last year’s victorious battle and by 9 O’clock it had become a maelstrom, sucking in curious whites and spitting them out, robbed and battered. Darkness fell and roaming camera lights turned the packed heads into a macabre spot-dance competition in the ballroom of violence. Police blocked all but one exit road and lined the motorway and railroad that swung overhead. Wall-flowers at the dance of death. By the time the PA system shut down the screaming roar of the riot had made it irrelevant.’

1978 Forces of Victory Carnival
The reggae poet Linton Kwesi Johnson made the early Carnival route expansion proposal: ‘We’re di forces af vict’ry, an’ wi’ comin’ rite through, we’re di forces af vict’ry, now wat yu gonna do, wi mek a lickle date fi 1978 an’ wi fite an’ wi fite, an’ defeat di State, den all wi jus’ forwud up to Not’n’ Hill Gate.’ At that year’s Carnival Darcus Howe’s Brixton mas band’s militant theme was ‘Forces of Victory’. Lion Youth’s was ‘Guerrilla completing Shaka’s task’, an interpretation of the Zulu leader Shaka’s struggle in South Africa.

1979 Post-Punky Reggae Party
In 1979 Wilf Walker presented the first Notting Hill Carnival stage, on Portobello Green beside the Westway, to include alienated black youth and punks in the event. Aswad topped the post-punky reggae bill also featuring Barry Ford from Merger, Sons of Jah, King Sounds and the Israelites, Brimstone, Exodus, Nik Turner from Hawkwind, Carol Grimes, the Passions and Vincent Units. In an attempt to keep the riot zone under control, proceedings were wound up at 8 and Portobello was fenced off; but to no avail. In spite or because of the new riot control measures, enforced by 10,000 policemen, at the Monday closedown there were further disturbances.
Viv Goldman reported in Melody Maker: ‘The cans and bottles glittered like fireworks in the street lights, then shone again as they bounced back off the riot shields. The thud thud thud of the impact rivalled the bass in steadiness, suddenly the street of peaceful dancers was a revolutionary frontline, and the militant style of the dreads was put in its conceptual context.’
Wilf Walker went on from the Carnival and Acklam Hall, to promote Taj Mahal, Abdullah Ibrahim, Gang of Four, an Aswad benefit for the Tabernacle at Porchester Hall, and Black Productions at the Commonwealth Institute on Kensington High Street featuring Curtis Mayfield, Gil Scott Heron, Aswad, Abacush, Spartacus R and the Dread Broadcasting Corporation. Wilf has since taken real reggae into the 21st century from his Harrow Road office, promoting the likes of Toots and the Maytals, Maxi Priest, Mighty Diamonds, Culture, Misty in Roots, Burning Spear, and the All Saints Road festival.

1980 The Clash Let’s Go Crazy Street Parade
At the start of the 80s, the Clash returned to Ladbroke Grove on the ‘One More Time In The Ghetto’-‘Hitsville UK’ local album within the triple ‘Sandinista’ set. ‘Corner Soul’ captures the pre-Carnival tension as the forces of Notting Hill Babylon put the area under heavy manners, asking ‘Is the music calling for a river of blood? Beat the drums tonight Alfonso, spread the news all over the Grove… total war must burn on the Grove… Spread the word tonight please Sammy, they’re searching every house on the Grove, don’t go alone now Sammy, the wind has blown away the corner soul.’
This is followed by some placatory words from a justified ancient mas maker: “I’m entertaining the people and I’m also calling for peace in the Carnival and love and also all of you young generation of today I am begging them and I’m preaching to them and I’m selling my record and I’m selling clothes to help the young generation of England today, black, white, pink, blue, you name it, and all of you millions out there come down, have a nice time, the Carnival is nice, we don’t want no war on this Carnival day, all we want is peace, love, happiness and joyful time.”
‘Let’s Go Crazy’ encapsulates the militant reggae mas and mayhem featuring steel drums, Jah Shaka, sticksmen and ganja namechecks, ‘bricks and bottles, corrugated iron, shields and helmets, Carnival time!… young men know when the sun has set darkness comes to settle a debt… with indiscriminate use of the power of arrest, they’re waiting for the sun to set, you wanna go crazy, then let’s go crazy…’ In Last Gang In Town, Marcus Gray notes that Joe Strummer ‘adopts the perspective of the local black community coming to the Carnival carrying the baggage of a year of oppression and the folk memory of 400 more. The brooding reggae of the former asks ‘Is the music calling for a river of blood?’; the boisterous calypso of the latter seems to be losing itself in celebration, but is in fact answering in the affirmative.’ Then the Clash ‘disappear/join/fade’ into the steel pan dub of ‘The Street Parade’.

1981/2 Punky Reggae Hip-hop Party
In 1981 Eddy Grant was recorded ‘Live at Notting Hill Carnival’ on Portobello Green; as the former Equal, who started out on Portland Road, found solo fame with ‘Living on the Frontline’ and ‘Electric Avenue’, celebrating Brixton’s Railton Road and Electric Avenue, rather than All Saints and Portobello. In Linton Kwesi Johnson’s Carnival update in Zigzag: “U-Creed was put out of business largely because of police brutality and harassment, and a lot of the other sound-systems have had similar experiences but have been able to survive it. Look at the Carnival. We’ve had to wage a political struggle to get Carnival on the streets of Notting Hill. They want to put it in the park, which is against the whole point of the Carnival. It’s a street festival, not something to be contained in a park where the police can swoop in any time.”
The same year, an Italian neo-fascist plot to attack the Carnival with a bomb and/or snipers was reputedly foiled by an anti-fascist mole. So the National Front skinheads had to settle for a rally in Fulham, instead of a race war, that bank holiday weekend.
The first rapper is said to have appeared at the ’81 Carnival under the Westway, on the west side of Ladbroke Grove on the site of the Ion bar, at the time of the Clash punky hip-hop party with Futura2000. ‘The Message’ by Grandmaster Flash arrived via Norman Jay’s Goodtimes sound-system on Cambridge Gardens in the early 80s.
In 1982 Musical Youth appeared at the time of ‘Pass the Dutchie’ on Portobello Green, with the Cimarons and Rip Rig & Panic (featuring ‘the physical exultation and raw sex’ of Andrea Oliver, as the NME’s Don Watson put it), while prag VEC and the Raincoats took to the new second stage in Meanwhile Gardens, alongside the canal. Pictures of the ’82 Carnival appear in the photo book Snap by the actress Jenny Agutter.

8 1983/4 Aswad Live And Direct Carnival




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