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

1995 Hugh Grant Mas and Mayhem

In the run-up to the 1995 Carnival, Mas Café at 6-8 All Saints (formerly the Mangrove, now Ruby & Sequoia) was the scene of a scuffle involving Hugh Grant, in which the actor was ridiculed over the Divine Brown affair and generally roughed up. An onlooker said: “It all happened so fast. Hugh went pale and was frightened. He was OK but he had a bit of blood on him. I don’t think he’ll be back.” For me, the highlight of the first Lilt Carnival in ’95 was seeing Nick Cave refused access to Basing Street by a policeman.

1996 Lilt Carnival
The Carnival peaked on the 30th anniversary of the London Free School Fair, when the second Lilt Carnival of 1996 overtook Rio as the biggest gig in the world, according to the Standard. The 2 million plus attendance included Ice-T, Jamiroquai, the Jungle Brothers, Chaka Demus and Pliers, Montell Jordan and Nu Colours, appearing on the two main stages, Radio 1 at Portobello Green and Kiss in Kensal, while Powis Square gardens became the South Africa Square world music stage.

1997 William Hague Baseball Cap Carnival
What have William Hague and Hugh Grant got in common? They both acted like twats in Notting Hill. 1997 was the notorious William Hague baseball cap Carnival, which the Tory leader ordained “the biggest cultural event of the nation.” Aside from the Notting Hill Tory appearance, entertainment was provided by Soul II Soul and Wyclef of the Fugees in Kensal, and Jay-Z (at the time of ‘Hard Knock Life: Ghetto Anthem’) on Portobello Green, accompanied by a crowd crush and a shooting.
The following year, on the first anniversary of the death of Princess Diana, the Independent joked: ‘None of us could easily forget the sad scene captured on television screens and in newspapers across the country, no, not the flowers at Kensington Palace, but William Hague in a baseball cap at Notting Hill Carnival. Many have found it hard to erase the image from their mind of that desperate bid to curry favour with what was thought to be Cool Britannia, and the tear-jerking self delusion that must have led the smiling Mr Hague to believe that anyone might fall for it.’

1998 Who Let The Dogs Out Carnival
In 1998, the year of ‘Who Let the Dogs Out’ (by Jonathan King), the Carnival was sponsored by Virgin Atlantic after the original backers Nescafe pulled out over hot coffee spilling fears. Then Kiss followed suit and Radio 1 took over the Kensal stage.

1999 Destiny’s Child Carnival
The last Carnival of the 20th century featured Destiny’s Child and Damon Albarn of Blur/Gorillaz in Kensal, but not the Radio 1 DJ Tim Westwood after he was shot at during the Carnival run-up in an unrelated incident.

Y2K UK Garage Summer Of Love/Radio 1 Gangsta Rap Murder Mayhem
The Y2K UK garage ‘summer of love’ Carnival, featuring De La Soul, Shola Ama, Lonyo, the Architechs and MC Cole, turned into murder mayhem media, largely blamed on the Radio 1 gangsta rap stage at Kensal. Into the 21st century proceedings on the original Portobello Green stage were scaled down, back to local events like the Portobello Film Festival, Jazz on the Green and Moroccan festivals.
As Clare Holder was suspended as Carnival chair and the latest committee took over, the Queen’s golden jubilee procession contained a Carnival section. The 2002 lads yardie drug deal revenge comedy Lava is set during a Carnival. Sharleen Spiteri’s ‘Carnival Girl’ video was shot on Portobello at the Tavistock Road junction, with prop rubbish, before the 2003 Carnival.

2006 Lily Allen LDN Carnival
‘Sun is in the sky, oh why, oh why would I want to be anywhere else?’ Lily Allen’s ‘LDN’ video, filmed in the run up to the 2006 Carnival, captured the Heaven W11/Notting Hell contrast featuring Rough Trade on Talbot Road as ‘Tough Grade’, the Romeo and Juliet/domestic dispute scene on Tavistock Road, and the final scenes under Trellick Tower in Kensal. During the Carnival, Lily (the daughter of Keith Allen of Roughler local previous) appeared at the Yo Yo Carnival club night at the Notting Hill Arts Club at Notting Hill Gate, where she made her debut earlier in the year.

2008 Ladbroke Grove Mini-Carnival Konnie Huq Olympic Torch Grab Tibet Protest
Earlier this year, the Olympic torch was grabbed from the former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq by a Tibet protester at the snowbound mini-Carnival on Ladbroke Grove by the Elgin (the site of the start of the 1976 Carnival riot). Further up Ladbroke Grove the torch was extinguished by another Tibet protester.
Tom Vague. May 2008. For more writing by Tom see www.historytalk.org

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