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Javanie Stephens, An Ode to Notting Hill Carnival
Javanie Stephens, An Ode to Notting Hill CarnivalPhotography Javanie Stephens

This exhibition recreates the excitement of Notting Hill Carnival

As the world-famous festival is suspended for the second year running, An Ode to Notting Hill Carnival celebrates the history of London’s most famous street party

Since the mid-1960s, the British August Bank Holiday weekend has meant one thing: the Notting Hill Carnival. Led by members of the West Indian community, this legendary party has evolved over the years to be one of the world’s largest street festivals and a major date in the cultural life of the city. “Over 1.5 million people from different backgrounds, ages, and cultures all gather together to vibe for Carnival,” photographer Rio Blake tells Dazed. “Consequently, it’s probably the happiest weekend you’ll ever experience in London.” 

In response to the disappointment of the carnival being cancelled due to Covid for the second year running, Blake has curated An Ode to Notting Hill Carnival at West London’s White City House. This photographic exhibition celebrates the famous street festival over the decades, bringing together joyful scenes from carnivals of the past and featuring the work of emerging London-based photographers such as Isaac J Cambridge, Holly-Marie Cato, and Stefy Pocket alongside acclaimed chroniclers of British street life Martin Parr and Matt Stuart.   

“The exhibition was an idea I originally had last year, it literally started as a way to ease the pain of the first carnival cancellation,” Blake tells us. “Carnival is important because it champions London for what it is – a hub that celebrates diversity, inclusivity, and community. However, it also enhances these 'Londoner' qualities to the max, as everyone descends onto the streets of West London and gets together to experience the finest foods, sounds, and costumes.”

“While carnival is cancelled, many similar outdoor events have been given the green light to go ahead which is quite a hard pill to swallow,” says Blake. And, while nothing can mitigate what she describes as the “collective sadness” of a second-year without the beloved street festival, An Ode to Notting Hill Carnival does beautifully enshrine some of the special moments from the carnivals of yesteryear.

Recreating the street party atmosphere, the exhibition launch on August 29 will also feature sounds of the carnival in the form of live DJ sets throughout the day. Entry is free and all print sale proceeds raised from the exhibit are being donated to the Grenfell Foundation

Take a look at the gallery above for a preview of some of the works on display.

An Ode to Notting Hill Carnival runs from August 29 until September 1 2021 from 1pm to close on the ground floor of White City House. Entry is free but please RSVP to to attend the opening event