Every August Bank Holiday weekend sees the streets of Kensington and Chelsea filled with Soca music, steel pan bands, sizzling Caribbean food stalls and an array of dazzling costumes and parade floats.
Notting Hill Carnival started as the multicultural street festival, mainly for children, and it grew to become one of the biggest street events in Europe. One of the initiators was Sterling Betancourt, a Trinidadian steel pan musician and pioneer who was heavily involved in the origins of the Notting Hill Carnival in the 60s. He was part of Historic England’s ‘I am London’ exhibition – a photographic project celebrating the city’s unique identity. Sterling Betancourt can be seen here with his steel pan in Powis Square in Notting Hill.
Notting Hill is home to an abundance of listed and non-listed sites that play a pivotal role in the area’s rich history. These include important locations during the race riots in the 60s, vibrant cultural arts hubs and a showcase of innovative architecture and design. Here is a list of 6 historically fascinating sites to look out for during the parade this weekend.
1. The Rum Kitchen, 6-8 All Saints Road, Notting Hill
Previously the Mangrove Restaurant, The Rum Kitchen was opened in 1968 by Frank Crichlow, a Trinidadian community activist and civil rights campaigner. It became a meeting spot for artists, campaigners and intellectuals within the black community, including Jimi Hendrix, C.L.R James, Nina Simone and Bob Marley. It played a significant role in drawing attention to racial tensions within the community in the 60s. The restaurant was frequently raided by police, who claimed that they were carried out on the basis of drug possession – although no drugs were ever found. This led to a protest march in 1970 demanding “hands off the Mangrove”.
2. Trellick Tower, Cheltenham Estate, Kensal Town
Trellick Tower is Grade II* listed tower. It was designed in the late 1960s in the brutalist style by Hungarian born architect, Ernő Goldfinger and many immigrants from the Caribbean settled there after its opening in 1972. Goldfinger designed the entire block freehand and included communal areas and space saving designs with slight variations for each apartment.
This style of architecture became less popular by the time the tower was complete and started to attract crime, vandalism and drug abuse, however, with the introduction of security measures and concierge the apartments became a desirable place to live. In the 90s it mainly consisted of social housing and remains mainly occupied by council flats.
3. The Tabernacle, Powis Square, Notting Hill
The Tabernacle is an impressive Grade II listed building. It was built as a church in 1887 and by the 1970s it served as a community arts centre. Its existence was precarious during the 70s due to funding and the main hall was still largely undeveloped and not in daily use. Today it is still run as a community arts centre and is used as rehearsal space regularly each year in the lead up to the Notting Hill Carnival.
4. The Elgin Public House, Ladbroke Grove
The Elgin is a Grade II listed pub in Ladbroke Grove and was built in the mid-19th Century. It was a mod venue in the 60s and a venue for punk rock in the 70s. The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) that works to protect pub heritage, has included the Elgin on its list of the 265 most intact historic pub interiors in the country.
5. The Electric Cinema, Portobello Road, Notting Hill
The Electric Cinema is a Grade II listed building and was originally called the Electric Cinema Theatre. It was designed by Gerald Seymour Valentin in the Edwardian Baroque style. It first opened on Portobello Road in London in 1910 and one of the first buildings to be built specifically for showing motion pictures. The first film to have been shown here is Henry VIII starring Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree.
6. All Saints Church, Clydesdale Road, Notting Hill
All Saints Notting Hill is a Grade II listed Victorian Gothic Revival stone building. The building of the church began in 1852 by architect William White who worked with Sir George Gilbert Scott – a prolific English Gothic revival architect – and it was eventually completed in 1861. It suffered severe bomb damage during The Blitz where parts were completely destroyed.