Notting Hill Carnival – bank holiday

Thousands of vibrant costumes dance through the streets; an elaborate blend of green, red, blue and yellow masquerading to competing sounds of pan, calypso, soca, and sound systems. Scantily-clad dancers in plumed head-gear keep smiles in tact while being hugged and mobbed by crowds of revellers in endless photo-shoots. Along the 3.5 mile route, barbequed jerk chicken wafts through the party atmosphere as enterprising folk set up street stalls to sell rice and peas, cans of Red Stripe, whistles and horns.

Am I in the Caribbean? No, this is Notting Hill Carnival, Europe’s largest street festival held every summer in west London. At the 2009 carnival on 31st August over 400,000 visitors joined the main procession featuring dozens of decorated floats and thousands of performing artists.

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History
A festival for everyone – of socially and ethnically diverse backgrounds – that pulls all Londoners and visitors together in one big street party, its origins stem from Trinidad. Following immigration to London and tough conditions in the 1950s, Afro-Caribbeans sought a means to celebrate musical traditions and cultures together, and – influenced by the Trinidad Carnival of 1833 celebrating the abolition of slavery – held the first carnival in west London in 1964. Its goal was two-fold: to uplift spirits and encourage all Londoners to free-expression in the street and embrace Caribbean culture. Still continuing the tradition of dressing up in costumes or mas (masquerade) it is estimated that over a million hours are put into creating the flamboyant outfits for the Notting Hill Carnival every year.

Togetherness
Streets are tightly packed but – in the spirit of togetherness – people help each other out to move along with the dancing, cacophonous, flow. A strong police presence blends into the background leaving party-goers to enjoy the festivities in the hot, summer sun.

My forehead burns in temperatures reaching almost 30°C – I’ve forgotten my sun-cream. Is this really London? Or the Caribbean?

Clear Cut Entertainment

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More:
~ Notting Hill Carnival photos

~ This entry featured in the Turks & Caicos Weekly News:

Click on the “fullscreen” icon (bottom right of article) to read in full view

BBC TV centre tour

Had a really fun tour behind the scenes at the BBC today with the London School of Journalism folks.

We got to see some props like this prosthetic chest cavity used in Holby City

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…and the ornamental dog that killed Dirty Den in Eastenders

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I volunteered to ‘present’ Newsround and read off the auto-cue – all good fun (though the interactive features of the National Media Museum are way better and more engaging).

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More photos:
~ BBC and White City photos
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National Media Museum – Bradford, March 2009

RAA Summer Exhibition 2009 – Making Space

I visited the Royal Academy of Arts’ Summer Exhibition 2009 for a second time today, with other London School of Journalism students.

The 2009 exhibition features around 1,200 works in all styles, forms and media, including – for the first time – film. This year’s theme is Making Space which has been belittled by some critics. But just how would you label the world’s largest open-submission exhibition with works of established and unknown artists, comprising paintings, prints, sculptures, architectural models and creations, photography, digital art and film? Now in its 241st year, this is the most diverse Summer Exhibition ever.

Stepping into the gallery on a hot summer’s day, the light, bright, white coolness serves to calm, and Anselm Kiefer’s serene, snowy forest scene in mixed media (through 3-D branches) sets the mood. In contrast to the spacious, thoughtfully laid-out main rooms, the Small Weston Room – crammed with Mick Rooney’s collection of almost 300 pieces – has the intimacy of a packed pub on a Friday night. Dancing around each other to get close to the pieces (including a deserted Woolworths shop-front, a sign of the times) serves to engage in passing conversation and comment with others.

This year’s highlights include Basil Beattie’s No Known Way (which gives the sense of a road-trip, seen through a windscreen with several views as snapshots in time); Ann Winder-Boyle’s The Dealer (a man and boy exchanging something at night in the style of a Rupert Bear children’s illustration); Richard Wilson’s Joint’s Jumping (Battersea Power Station outlined in orange neon at a displaced angle giving an impression, when lit at night, of leaning); Richard Wilson’s film showcase (19 film-works shown on a tilted, ripped-out room wall) and top-of-the-bill Tracey Emin’s touchingly simple Space Monkey (a bemused-looking, space-suited monkey stepping forward into space).

More:
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Royal Academy of Arts website