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Notting Hill Carnival | © Heather R / Flickr
Notting Hill Carnival | © Heather R / Flickr

The Notting Hill Carnival And The London Riots

Picture of Thomas Storey
Updated: 6 December 2016
The Notting Hill Carnival is one of London’s most celebrated events and Europe‘s biggest street festival; but the 2011 carnival risked being overshadowed by the violent riots which had erupted throughout the city. Culture Trip looks at what could have been a dark moment in London’s history.

The Notting Hill Carnival has been held in the West London streets every year since 1966. It is the largest street festival in Europe and celebrates the heritage and culture of London’s diverse society. It is also one of the most inclusive events in the London calendar and brings together segments of society that would not otherwise mingle to the same extent.

In 2011 however, it was held in an unprecedented climate of fear and suspicion following the riots which blighted the streets of London just weeks before. The police presence dwarfed that of previous years and there was an undercurrent of fear which kept many punters away.

However the carnival was a complete success, those that did make the effort saw and celebrated a side of London which had been obscured by the violence and dread of the London riots. These riots were an expression of the rage and disaffection which many young Londoners felt, while the carnival was the opposite; an expression of fellowship and a meeting of cultures in one of the most multicultural cities in the world. It reflected the neighbourhood of Notting Hill itself, which stretches from the posh enclaves of Kensington to the housing estates of Ladbroke Grove, and includes the thriving Portobello Market.

The quandary for the 2011 Carnival was this; would it emerge as a riposte to the violence and antagonism which had plagued London over the summer; or would it be sucked into the maelstrom of that violence, and emerge as evidence of what David Cameron calls so blithely Britain’s ‘broken society’. In the end it was unequivocally the former, and London was a more harmonious place for it.