Most waves of immigration to our shores in the last couple of centuries were as a result of pogroms, religious harassment or the like but the West Indians were encouraged to come after the war to help with re-building Britain and run the London transport system. Racial tensions soon developed and the first stirrings of Carnival began in St Pancras Town Hall in 1959 as an effort to relieve these and at the same time cheer up West Indians who were dismayed to find that Britain was not quite the Shangri-La they had been led to believe it was. Many of them had settled around the Notting Hill / Ladbroke Grove area and it was here that the Carnival we know today emerged in the mid sixties led by homesick Trinidadians. By 2011 we are seeing a second, or even third, entirely British generation on the streets. There were troubles in the first few years but gradually it developed into the biggest, most colourful, noisiest, and indeed the best natured extravaganza in all Europe. Over a million people, of all shades and creeds, turn up every August Bank Holiday weekend to enjoy the wild costumes and the exuberant fun. It all gets the authorities, and the yuppies who have invaded the Notting Hill area, worked up of course, but attempts to organise it in Hyde Park or some other more ‘suitable’ location would surely wreck it completely.
There are Caribbean Carnivals in Leeds, Birmingham, Leicester and Bristol, no less colourful but on a much smaller scale.