‘We start planning from the day after’: Meet the team who work tirelessly all year long to create Notting Hill Carnival
We spoke to the Notting Hill Carnvial Board to understand just how much planning goes into Europe’s largest festival
Interview by Thomas Kingsley for My London with Linett Kamala – 11 March 2020
Notting Hill Carnival is one of the largest street parties in the world. For two days in August two and a half million people descend on Notting Hill to celebrate the very best of West Indian culture.
What came from a place of discrimination and tension within London’s 1960s Caribbean community is now a celebration that attracts visitors from across the globe.
For many carnival goers, though, those last two days in August are all the carnival they think about.
The same can’t be said for Linett Kamala and her team who oversee planning of the Notting Hill Carnival all year round, as she told me. As early as the very next day after the event ends, the planning starts again for the following year.
“The planning is continuous,” Linett said.
“I wear three hats – the carnival board director hat, carnival themed street art coordinator hat, also my sound system member hat.
“From the sound system point of view there’s a lot of debriefing straight after carnival. There’s a lot of stuff we process.
“Then the board has an immediate post carnival meeting from the next day to plan how we can improve for next year.”
‘Carnival is a constant thread that holds people together’
As a carnival director and pioneer of static sound system group, Disya Jeneration, who perform live music sets at the event, the planning and organising is non stop for Linett.
Notting Hill Carnival is unique in the sense that it’s a free event led by the community and hosts millions of people looking to party. Linett said: “Carnival is largely supported by volunteers and it’s a free event also so we have to figure out how to fund it which is a challenge.
” There’s time that has to be put in. I teach, I run an arts company, I do workshops and we have to put aside the time to plan carnival as well.”
Along with that comes attending shows to check out up and coming DJs, meet new collaborators and continuous planning on the carnival board.
It doesn’t stop at Linett, however, dancers performing on the float, for example the Brazilian Band, are currently rehearsing for carnival with some six months to go. Additionally, some groups even perform year round at other events and carnivals – one being the Trinidad and Tobago Carnival happening next week.
‘We have more in common than divides us’ TEDxLadbroke Grove shines a light on the power of the community
The TEDx talk brought together a host of inspiring speakers
Article in My London featuring Linett Kamala – 20 November 2020
When the first Notting Hill Carnival took place in 1966 amid tensions following the racially fuelled murder of resident Kelso Cochrane, few people would have thought it would become the biggest community-led event on the planet.
An audience of Ladbroke Grove locals and other Londoners were powerfully reminded of this truth at the first ever TEDxLadbroke Grove.
The event, centred on our interconnectedness, inspired the strength of the togetherness in overcoming tragedy.
TEDxLadbroke Grove took place on Friday (November 15) at Notting Hill community hub The Tabernacle, and boasted a strong community feel throughout.
‘What if we viewed carnival arts as medicine?’
Linett Kamala, a director of the Notting Hill Carnival, vibrantly took the audience on a journey through the tragedy and pain that birthed the Notting Hill Carnival and how the street party took her from a rebellious student to one of the first female DJs to grace the event.
The carnival sees more than two million visitors gather in West London over the August Bank Holiday for a weekend filled with fun, colour and unity. The event brings in over £100 million a year but started as a small indoor party in St Pancras Town Hall.
Since then, it’s completely exploded and Linett believes that in the arts there is a real opportunity to bring people together and heal broken communities: “I see culture and arts as an amazing way of bringing people together. The arts are universal and therapeutic – it goes beyond language.
“With recovering from Grenfell, when we know and look at the stories of people who have overcome in the past – stories such as the Notting Hill Carnival – we can take inspiration from that and come up with solutions to tackle today’s challenges.”
“Why Notting Hill Carnival embodies what it means to be black and British”
Interview with Linett Kamala for Stylist Magazine – August 2019
Notting Hill Carnival is an unabashed celebration of everything it means to be black and British – and in divided times, it can feel like a life raft, writes Meena Alexander.
The power of carnival culture
For Linett Kamala, a director of Notting Hill Carnival and one of its first female DJs, who attends every year with four generations of her family, the carnival is all about community.
Her parents were among those who travelled from Jamaica to London in the 50s, and they experienced firsthand how carnival played a key part in bringing people together.
“Carnival is a time to be loud and proud in a society that so often shames us for it”
“It’s important to keep carnival culture alive in Britain because it recognises the contribution, in terms of creativity and intercultural relations, that people of Caribbean heritage have made to society,” she tells Stylist. “Carnival is a wonderful example to all because it does this in a positive, artistic, inclusive way.”
Meet: Linett Kamala, President of the Alumni of Colour Association
UAL: University of the Arts London
Linett Kamala graduated in BA (Hons) Graphic Design from London College of Communication in 1991. She was involved in the planning Alumni of Colour Association pilot event and has recently taken up the role as its President.
Linett is an artist and educator whose work enriching the lives of young people spans a period of over three decades. Her previous roles have included Associate Education Director for a multi-academy trust, setting up Chelsea Academy in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, and serving in a voluntary capacity for 7 years as Director and Vice Chair of the South Kilburn Trust, a charity which is part of a £600 million regeneration scheme in North West London.
Currently, in addition to her artistic practice, Linett is an education consultant, team leader for an Arts and Design department in a West London international school and is Director of Lin Kam Art Ltd.
What made you want to take on the role of President in the Alumni of Colour Association?
I love working collaboratively with others and was excited by the opportunity to help create a vibrant community of talented individuals. Furthermore, I enjoy bringing out the best in others and making things happen in a timely fashion.
Can you tell us a bit more about your role as President and what you hope to achieve?
Presently the creative industries are not fully utilising the wealth of talent out there and I hope that our association will play a significant part in changing this. Whether through highlighting exciting opportunities, showcasing new projects or expanding a business idea, I would like to ensure our events and activities add real value to its members.
I also hope that our group will create a supportive environment to network and discuss issues which are particularly unique to its members, regardless of whether they are established in their field or new graduates seeking to make their mark.
I am determined to make sure that our Association is the ‘go to place’ for anyone in the industry who is serious about looking to connect with the wealth of talent within our membership group.
Why should alumni join this association?
Increasingly, being part of strong networks is where you can access the best opportunities. By joining the Alumni of Colour Association you can enhance being a graduate of the University of Arts London’s reputation as a world leader in arts, design and communication education.
If you would like to receive emails sent on behalf of the Alumni of Colour Association informing you of events and relevant news, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Linett Kamala is a London based visual artist and a long-time champion of the Notting Hill Carnival. The Notting Hill Carnival. London. England. GB. 2018. © Alex Majoli | Magnum Photos
Exploring Notting Hill Carnival Through the People That Make it Happen
Magnum photos article featuring Linett Kamala
Alex Majoli photographs the biggest street party in Britain, capturing the crowds, performers, and characters behind the historic London event.
Since the 1950s the Notting Hill Carnival, led by the city’s Caribbean community and celebrating its heritage, has been a key fixture in the capital’s late-summer calendar. Images of Carnival are key icons in the city’s visual identity – from the mas bands and floats, to crowds of revellers turning the usually more staid West London streets into riots of color. Magnum photographers have over the years photographed this, the biggest Carnival event outside Rio, adding to that visual and cultural history. This year Alex Majoli was present to photograph the crowds and performers, as well as those less-sung heroes behind Britain’s most famous party.
Over on Powis Terrace, there is one character whose presence is almost as intrinsic to carnival as the curried goat steadily bubbling at nearby food stands. Throughout her career, Linett Kamala has helped set up schools across London, trained head teachers, and facilitated creative workshops. But very few of her pupils know that she was one of the first women to ever DJ at Notting Hill Carnival, back in the early 80s. “I was a novelty back then,” she smiles, “everyone was taking photos of me.”
In the 36 years since, she has helped to run Disya Jeneration, a monumental sound system that plays everything from classic soul and r&b to house and jungle, and still aims to provide a platform for new female DJs. “This is the best time to be in London,” she says. “No one can tell me any different. When people come together on these streets it is historical.” But what exactly makes it so unique? “It’s simple,” says Linett, “you just turn up and be you – that’s carnival.”
It’s these scenes of mass love, unity and celebration – across all age groups and ethnicities – that make Notting Hill Carnival such a unique phenomenon in Britain and such a tribute to the community that makes it happen. As Linett Kamala said earlier in the day, “I get enough energy from these two days to last me right through to next year.”
University of the Arts London Alumni Competition Winner
What made you want to enter the competition?
I was motivated by the opportunity to share my work with UAL’s creative community in a way which would remind them of their area of study as well as inspire potential future graduates. I wanted my design to celebrate the expansion in the range of courses in the disciplines of art, design, communication, fashion, media and performing arts across its six colleges.
What is the inspiration behind your design?
I consider graffiti art to be one of the most far-reaching global art movements to date. It was first introduced into the UK when I was a teenager, only a few years before I started my degree. For me, it was love at first sight. Graffiti has since progressed to what is known as ‘calligraffiti’ which is how I would describe my current style of work. During my LCC interview, I responded with gusto when challenged by a member of the interview panel’s comment “graffiti is vandalism and not art” that I completely forgot I was being interviewed! Thankfully the tutors appreciated my passion and offered me a place.
What were the highlights of your time at UAL?
I remember looking forward to the weekly cultural studies where I was introduced to classic books and films. It opened up my eyes to the depth and theory behind design and also triggered my quest to learn about my own cultural heritage. I became an active member of the student union and made some lifelong friendships.
What made you chose UAL, and LCC, in particular, to study at?
I chose to study at UAL because of its international reputation for producing high calibre graduates, many of whom had gone on to do amazing things within the creative industries. I particularly wanted to attend the London College of Communications because I was a fan of the work of graphic designer Neville Brody, who had been a former student. Back then, I was one of a small number of students from London who got accepted onto the BA (Hons) Graphic Design course that year as it was always heavily oversubscribed, taking in students from across the country and beyond. I remember literally being in shock when I received my acceptance letter! I was also the first member of my family to do a degree, so at the time it was a big deal in my neighbourhood.
How else are you involved in UAL?
Alongside being a visual artist, I am also an educator involved in developing the next generation of creatives through my teaching and collective Lin Kam Art. Over the years I have supported numerous young people with their portfolio preparation for courses at UAL. I am presently part of the founding committee of a new Alumni group which I am very excited about.
Artists you should be following
Virgin online article by Black Blossoms – August 2018
Former location of painting: 6 Somerleyton Road, Brixton, London SW9 8ND
You are enough
Linett Kamala was the 9th subject of the ‘You Are Enough’ series of portraits painted across London. The paintings created by artist Neequaye ‘Dreph’ Dsane were a tribute to his friends who are doing amazing things for their communities and society at large.
Linett has always been passionate about improving the lives of others, especially young people through education and the arts. She has worked tirelessly with organisations across the private, public and not-for-profit sectors.
Some of her contributions include;
- At the age of 14, becoming one of the first female DJs at the Notting Hill Carnival and after 34 years, still being a member of the same static soundsystem ‘Disya Jeneration’. Sitting on the 2018 Advisory Council for the Notting Hill Carnival.
- Setting up the South Kilburn Studios which gave early stage support to many creatives including chart topping band Clean Bandit, design collectives Paint Jam, Oomk and station K2K Radio
- The South Kilburn Studios formed the basis of successful pitches by Brent Council to be named the 2020 London Borough of Culture, as well as secure funding from the Mayor of London to set up The Granville, a new enterprise hub in NW London
- Being a member of the founding cohort of Future Leaders, an organisation set up to train exceptional leaders for schools in challenging circumstances. This organisation has since gone onto grow across the U.K. and is now known as School Ambition Leadership.
- Newly appointed president of the Alumni of Colour Association at the world renowned University of Arts London.