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Carnival: A living tribute to the Windrush Generation

CELEBRATION: Notting Hill Carnival

IT’S THAT time again. Notting Hill Carnival is coming - one of the greatest events of its kind in the world and second only to Rio in legendary status.

This bank holiday weekend will see commerce, culture and history fuse together amongst a melee of masqueraders that Peter Minshall described as a Dionysian explosion of feathers.

Notting Hill Carnival means the windfall of the summer for traders, and for the capital’s economy. Yet valuable beyond measure is Carnival’s place in the UK’s identity. Europe’s biggest street festival is a diamante-studded celebration of British Caribbean cultures, free for all to join in.

My passions have always been culture and the arts, alongside politics. I have wanted, always, to shine a light on to people’s experiences. Last year I was honoured to play a part in the guiding of Carnival back towards its roots.

As a Trustee of the Carnival Village Trust and Chair of the Advisory Council of Notting Hill Carnival Limited, with deeply personal connections to its history, I wholeheartedly believe that such changes are vital to protecting the spirit of the weekend.

Carnival started out as a reminder of home, for the hundreds of thousands of people who travelled from the Caribbean to the UK between 1948 and 1971. It was first cobbled together in a local dancehall. Then, like the Pied Piper, Sterling Betancourt guided revellers away from Rhuane Laslett's Garden Fete and through the streets. Carnival has been thus ever since.

As the event has gone from strength to strength over the years, Carnival at its very core remains a loud, proud, living tribute to Caribbean heritage - and of course, the Windrush story.

It has never been more important to share the tales of our past. The lessons of history must remain at the forefront of our minds. We need such moments and places, where acts of celebration, commemoration and peaceful activism can crystallise.

Alongside my work with the Carnival, I've been serving on the Windrush Commemoration Committee this past year. We have been working hard to create more legacies, like Carnival, in honour of the Windrush Generation. I’m proud that we have recently announced that London Waterloo rail station will be the home for a permanent monument to the story of Windrush.

Many parts of London reflect a deep resonance with the Windrush history. London Waterloo was unanimously selected for its prominence and its unique connection to the stories. Many of our parent, grandparents and their families arrived at the station when coming into the UK, particularly those settling in London.

What is more, Waterloo station provided a central link between British Caribbean communities across London and in Bristol, Leeds, Manchester and beyond. The monument will pay tribute to a national British Caribbean legacy, defined more broadly than the story of those pioneers who arrived onboard the MV Empire Windrush in 1948.

As partygoers wend their way to future Carnivals, it will serve as a reminder and testament to the story of Windrush and the contribution of British Caribbean communities across the United Kingdom.

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