Notting Hill Carnival made its grand return last summer after the pandemic meant it was called off two years on the bounce – and it’s safe to say it was a hell of a party.
Maybe you’ve been going since the London Carnival in 1959, or Notting Hill’s first outdoor year in 1966; or maybe the grand reunion was your first outing at the celebration of Caribbean culture that gathers literal millions every year. Whatever your relationship with the carnival is, you have Claudia Jones to thank for it being a thing.
Known as the “founding spirit” of the annual Notting Hill Carnival, Claudia Jones is set to be honoured with an English Heritage blue plaque outside her former London home in Vauxhall.
Jones, an activist, feminist and political journalist, was born in Trinidad in 1915, and came to the UK in 1955. She put on the first London Carnival in 1959, which came as a response to the Notting Hill race riots in 1958, where are series of racially motivated attacks were carried out by groups of white people in the area.
Claudia Jones’ carnival was an indoor event, and televised by the BBC — put on to show people the joy of Caribbean culture through calypso dancing, singing and the crowning of a carnival queen. Notting Hill Carnival held its first outdoor event in 1966, and the influence of Claudia Jones, who passed away in December 1964 at the age of 49, is clear.
New blue plaques are put up by English Heritage every year to champion people who have made up London’s history, and are based on suggestions from the public. Other recipients this year include two suffragettes: Emily Wilding Davison and Princess Sophia Duleep Singh.
A plaque celebrating the life of Claudia Jones will be put up on her Vauxhall Home, where the idea for the London Carnival was born.
If you have a suggestion for a Londoner you think should receive a blue plaque, you can put their name forward here.