Brixton Revival: London Design Festival, 16-24 September 2017


Brixton Revival is an exploration of the culture, design, craft and communities of Carnival. Journey along the Love Carnival Trail to a range of Brixton venues showcasing the essence of Carnival, and its amazing ability to bring communities together to build bridges across diverse cultures. Brixton Revival is part of Brixton Design Trail (16-24 September), which is part of London Design Festival 2018.

Once a year the Caribbean community in the UK shares Europe’s biggest street festival, with the world – London’s Notting Hill Carnival.

‘Brixton Revival’ celebrates this creative explosion with the ‘Love Carnival Trail’ documenting its journey from the Caribbean to its presence in the heart of Brixton. ‘Brixton Revival’ celebrates the culture, arts, design, craft and communities who make carnival happen. Presenting a visual spectacle through design, exhibition, music and display all inspired by the Steel pans, Mas making and unique sounds of Carnival.

Journey along the ‘Love Carnival Trail’ to visit a range of Brixton venues including Black Cultural Archives, showcasing the essence of Carnival and its amazing ability to build bridges across diverse cultures. As part of the Brixton Revival, Black Cultural Archives will host two distinct sculptural installations in our courtyard and two special events.

Brixton Revival ‘Love Carnival’ Installation by Lyn and Carl Gabriel
16-24 September, 10am-6pm at Black Cultural Archives

Carnival Arts Specialists Carl and Lyn Gabriel present their carnival inspired sculptures as part of the Brixton Revival, part of London Design Week. Lyn’s parents were actively engaged in carnival; with her father a Pan Man, and Mother, a Carnival Queen, she grew up with Carnival in her blood. Carl was involved early on with carnival as a pan player with Ebony Steel Band, and went on to co found Star Dust Mas and create his own Mas Band, Misty Carnival Club. The Gabriel’s specialise in wire-formed sculptures that are presented at Carnivals across Britain as well as other large scale festival events including Diwali in Trafalgar Square and the Mayor’s Thames Festival. Whilst Carl focuses on creating the wire forms Lyn adorns and adds the finer details to the structures. Two of their large scale 3D wire form sculptures are on display at the Black Cultural Archives as a part of the Love Carnival trail.

The Love Carnival installation by internationally renowned Carnival Arts Specialists, Lyn and Carl Gabriel, seeks to connect the viewer to the history, music and craft of carnival; providing a connection to the current Black Sounds exhibition and the array of archive materials contained within the building. 

Carl and Lyn Gabriel specialise in wire-formed sculptures.  Whilst Carl focuses on creating the wire forms Lyn adorns and adds the finer details to the structures.   The courtyard features two of their large scale 3D Sculptural works ‘Mother Earth’ (2008) created with local children from Hill Mead Primary School, Brixton SW9 and ‘Snake Goddess (2014).
Wirebending is a traditional skill used in making mas in Trinidad and Carl is considered the leading practitioner in Britain today.  He is widely esteemed for his work in educational outreach, taking carnival arts to the V&A Museum and Science Museums and continues to develop carnival’s profile around the world.  Their work is presented at Carnivals across Britain as well as other large scale festival events including Diwali in Trafalgar Square and the Mayor’s Thames Festival.
Carl was involved early on with carnival as a pan player with Ebony Steel Band, and went on to co found Star Dust Mas and create his own Mas Band, Misty Carnival Club.  Lyn’s parents were actively engaged in carnival; with her father a Pan Man, and Mother, a Carnival Queen, she grew up with Carnival in her blood from a very young age. 
Carl will be leading a 3D Carnival sculpture workshop at Squire and Partners on Thursday 21st September at 12 noon.  For more details click hereThe installation is part of Brixton Revival Love Carnival Trail which features installations and artists’ interventions at venues across Brixton as part of the Brixton Design Trail 2017.


BCA Commemorating Brother Oxolando Smith
Saturday 16 September, 1.00pm-5.00pm

Brother Oxalando was a distinguished musician and drummer with the Afrobloc group, whose name was derived from the Brazilian Carnival movement in Bahia and London School of Samba. Learn all about his contribution to black music, bans and Pan Afrikan ideals.
Free, book online or drop in.

Elimu Mas Academy: Its Origins and Artistic Vision
Wednesday 20 September, 7.00pm-8.00pm

ELIMU, Swahili for “Education” or “Knowledge”, originally operated as a community education centre on the Harrow Road servicing Westminster pupils excluded from school or truanting on a regular basis. Since then ELIMU  has gained recognition for its invaluable knowledge of producing award winning costumes for various Carnivals, often in partnership with other artists and artisans.

Learn more about how Elimu has inspired and passed on the heritage of Carnival as Elimu’s Director Ansel Wong gives an exclusive talk at the Black Cultural Archives.
Free, book online or drop in. 

Share and follow @bcaheritage #BrixRevival #CarnivalLegacy

Brixton Design Trail is a collaborative creative network that provides a platform for showcasing a wealth of homegrown talent during the London Design Festival. The Festival’s mission to place design and creativity in the public realm making it accessible for the whole community to enjoy.  The Brixton Design Trail runs from 16th – 24th September as part of the London Design Festival.

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The Brixton Midnight Run

The Brixton Midnight Run

Commemorating 30 Years of Black History Month
Saturday 7 October, 6pm – Midnight

The Midnight Run is a walking, arts-filled, night-time cultural journey through urban spaces. It gathers strangers and local artists together to explore, play and create, whilst the city sleeps. The MNR aims to break down social barriers and provide a platform for established and emerging creatives, bringing moments of genuine interactive creativity. There have been events in Paris, Rome, Berlin, Barcelona, Perth and Aukland to name a few.

The Midnight Run is also a containment for conversation and much has been said about the changing face of Brixton, given its rich and complex history. Commemorating 30 Years of Black History Month, Join Kelly Foster (certified London tour guide and Brixton Historian) in exploring, excavating and discussing aspects of the area, from the Windrush Generation, to Michael Jordan’s visit in 1985, to the riots.

Along the route, Inua Ellams (Brixton resident and Founder of the Midnight Run) will lead imaginative creative exercises on capturing the exhilarating experience in verse.

As always, in typical Midnight Run fashion, expect the unexpected and come to have fun.

Tickets are £10. A limited number of £5 available for under 25s.
Book online

In Partnership with Oval House, The Black Cultural Archives and supported by The Arts Council England.

If you can’t make our run, check out the earlier Brixton Run 23rd Sept 6pm to Midnight at Oval House.

The legacy of Notting Hill Carnival: #BCATwitterHour



On Monday 21 August, we will reflect on the legacy of Notting Hill Carnvial and its origins of community spirit, celebration and tradition.

Join us on Twitter @bcaheritage for a special #CarnivalLegacy Twitter Hour between 7pm and 8pm.

Notting Hill Carnival is an expression of art and culture in Britain. Its legacy is sustained by black people, and despite the opposition it has received since its inception, it still remains to thrive on the streets of West London as a staple in Black British culture, generating around £93 million for the British economy each year. Carnival holds a history of awe-inspiring visuals and a cultural narrative steeped in grassroots political activism, representing the voices of the marginalised. Opposition to Carnival is underlined by a want to discipline the working class and confine people to their ability to produce labour. But despite this state repression of cultural expression, and the limited funding Notting Hill Carnival is consistently provided, it has become the largest street festival in all of Europe. Inspired by Caribbean ‘Mas’, meaning theatre of the streets, Carnival’s purpose is to bring people together and to share culture, and each year its legacy prevails. Notting Hill Carnival represents a rich history of resistance, giving Black Britain a voice and an opportunity to be seen.


“Mas offers the participant an opportunity for transformation, to transcend the condition of daily existence; and the opportunity to be part of a transient but highly charged community of people, to be part of something larger than oneself.” Peter Minshall, source: Midnight Robbers: The Artists of Carnival by Lesley Ferris and Adela Ruth Tompsett


“Carnival is a continuity of what we had been doing before slavery. We brought carnival to Britain in our bones and if that didn’t trigger it off something else would have. Carnival wasn’t a memory, it was an instinct.” Darcus Howe, source: Carnival: a photographic and testimonial history of the Notting Hill Carnival by Ishmahil Blagrove Jr.


“Carnival is now part of our English heritage, it is about freedom of expression on the streets. Britain would be a very gloomy place without it.” Winston Findlay, source: Carnival: a photographic and testimonial history of the Notting Hill Carnival by Ishmahil Blagrove Jr.


Timeline / Fact File:


1958 Race riots

Black families in Notting Hill were consistently targeted in racially motivated attacks during the 1950s by the “Teddy Boys”, who were incited by fascist groups such as Oswald Mosley’s Union Movement and the White Defence League. The Notting Hill race riots lasted from 24th August to 5th September 1958 when a mob comprising of around 400 of white people violently attacked the houses of West Indians in the area.


1959 Indoor Caribbean Carnivals, Claudia Jones

The first ‘Caribbean Carnival’ was hosted by Claudia Jones, activist and founder of the West Indian Gazette, on 30 January 1959 at St. Pancras Town Hall. She aimed to showcase Caribbean arts and culture, and promote community cohesion. Headliners included: Boscoe Holder, Fitzroy Coleman and Cleo Laine. It was hosted in response to the 1958 Race Riots and the money raised was used to pay for the court fees of the black people convicted of offenses. The event was televised by the BBC. Saddened by the murder of Kelso Cochrane at the hands of racist white youths in May 1959, Jones went on to host more Caribbean Carnivals at Porchester Hall, The Lyceum Ballroom in The Strand, The Coleherne Public House, and The West Indian Student Centre.


1966 Notting Hill Festival, Rhaune Laslett

The first Notting Hill Carnival, known then as Notting Hill Festival, was founded by Rhaune Laslett in August 1966. It was organised to celebrate the variety of cultures in the multicultural area of Notting Hill. The street festival centred the children in the area, and included Caribbean, Irish and Asian performers, most notably The Russ Henderson Steel Band.


1973 ‘Mas in the Ghetto’, Leslie Jones

Leslie Jones was the organiser of Notting Hill Carnival from 1973-76, and introduced formal organisation and formatting to the event. The 1973 Notting Hill Carnival was called ‘Mas in the Ghetto’ to protest the poor housing conditions for the black working class in The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. From this point on, the focus of the carnival changed to emulate the carnival in Trinidad and Tobago, and address the growing racial tensions in the area.


1973 First costume bands, Lawrence Noel

Lawrence Noel, leader of the Trinidad Carnival Club, brought the first costumed band to Notting Hill Carnival in 1973, and the first appearance of Trinidadian ‘mas’. He designed and constructed 40 costumes in his house in Leytonstone under the theme ‘Head Hunters’.


1975 First Jamaican sound systems

The introduction of Jamaican sound systems, and reggae music by extension, largely increased attendance to Notting Hill Carnival, categorising it then as a major festival. The 1975 Carnival introduced a healthy balance between calypso and reggae, as well as an extension to the carnival route.


1976 Race riots

Around 3,000 police officers were assigned to carnival in 1976, which was ten times the usual amount. The 1970s invited more restrictions from the British authorities on Carnival. The increased tension between black youths and the police was due to frequent racial profiling and police brutality supported by the 1894 Vagrant Act, also known as SUS laws. As a result of the aggressive policing and racist local opposition by groups such as the ‘Golborne 100’, riots ensued. In response to what had occurred, Carnivalists formed the Carnival Development Committee (C.D.C) in an attempt to confront the growing police presence and stop the carnival from being banned.


1989 ‘Police Carnival’

The Carnival Arts Committee (C.A.C), formed in the late 1970s, was replaced by the Carnival Enterprise Committee (C.E.C) in 1989. The 1989 Carnival was endorsed by the British authorities, and heavily policed. Described as the ‘Police Carnival’, the 1989 Notting Hill Carnival resulted in misleading inaccuracies being reported in the press regarding crime levels and casualties intended to tarnish Carnival’s reputation. Furthermore, many band leaders and members who frequently participated in Carnival were subjected to police harassment, preventing them from finishing routes and limiting their engagement with the public. In the years 1989-1990, the People’s War Carnival Band, The Association for a Peoples Carnival (APC) and the Notting Hill International Carnival Committee (NHICC) advocated for a ‘People’s Carnival’, encouraging the freedoms of carnival to placed back into the hands of the people.

Words by Kamara Simms.

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