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Notting Hill Carnival 50 Years On: An exploration of territorial destabilisation

Part 1 Dissertation 2015
Caroline McArthur
University of Cambridge | UK
The Notting Hill Carnival appears today to be a shadow of its former self, homogenised and controlled to the point where it no longer performs the functions of a carnival. While it still plays an important role, in both Notting Hill and the wider spheres of race politics and urban policy, it continues to succumb to commercial pressure. Its ability to enact the ephemeral and dramatic change which characterised the early Notting Hill Carnival and catalysed more permanent restructuring is increasingly limited.

Despite the dilution of its subversive character, the Notting Hill Carnival continues to protest the gentrification and division of Notting Hill, to an extent. The Carnival acts as a vehicle for the continued cultivation of Afro-Caribbean identity in Britain, allowing this community to periodically reassert its historical claim on present-day, white, middle-class Notting Hill. Furthermore, dialogue and communality—usually restricted by a hierarchy of social and urban divisions—are temporarily encouraged by a festive blurring of boundaries.

In this essay, the consistencies and rifts that have emerged over the Carnival’s lifetime are analysed in an exploration of the broader social, political and spatial developments taking place across the last half-decade in Notting Hill.

Caroline McArthur

Alex Dougherty
Ingrid Schröder
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