Notting Hill Carnival returns with Grenfell disaster tribute

Covid lockdowns and social distancing cancelled the party for two years

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Notting Hill Carnival returned to the streets of London for the first time since Covid-19 introduced lockdown and social distancing — and organisers paid tribute to the Grenfell Tower fire victims, a disaster that happened on the carnival’s doorstep.

The 72 people killed in the tragedy were remembered at the official carnival launch on Sunday but it was also a day to celebrate.

Revellers danced to sound systems in the streets of west London. Small children stood on the doorsteps of their houses, holding Jamaican flags and waving at passers-by.

The sun shone on the crowds and the party returned to normal.

Carina Charles, a nurse from Basildon, Essex, said people were “ecstatic” about the return of the carnival after the pandemic.

“I like the togetherness of the people and the mixture of the culture. My Caribbean music, the soca music, is what I love the most,” she said.

“Everybody is jovial — they are excited after coming out of lockdown after three years. Everyone is ecstatic about the return of carnival after lockdown.”

Millions of people are expected to attend the two-day festival.

Addressing the crowd at the start of the parade, Grenfell survivor Zoe Dainton reflected on this year's five-year anniversary.

She said: “June 14 of this year marked five years since the fire. Five years (and) still no justice, still no charges, not much change.

“And despite what happened at Grenfell and despite endless evidence that came out of the inquiry, those responsible — including the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea — seem to be suffering from amnesia and are acting like it's business as usual.

FILE PHOTO: The spire of the Notting Hill Methodist Church stands in front of Grenfell Tower, destroyed in a catastrophic fire, in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, in London, Britain July 2, 2017.  REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo

“And so here is a reminder to all of those whose memories may have failed them. Our community is one of a kind. Our community is like no other community.

“You just need to look at the history of this area and the powerful people that have come from this community to realise that we won't allow it to be business as usual.”

Dressed in bright green T-shirts with “Remembering Grenfell” emblazoned on the back, members of the Emancipated Run Crew joined the carnival parade.

There was a 72-second silence before the parade began and Ms Dainton cut the ribbon for the runners, marking the official beginning of carnival.

Jules Stephenson, 48, co-founder of the Emancipated Run Crew running group, said: “It is really important that we don't forget, that we mark those lives, and we just remember those lives.

“You can't (go) through this carnival route without being in the shadow of Grenfell.”

The streets along the route were awash with colour as partygoers enjoyed the beginning of the long-standing celebration of Caribbean heritage, which has been running for more than 50 years.

Updated: August 29, 2022, 5:06 AM