Notting Hill Carnival kicked off today, August 25, amid scorching temperatures and bank holiday festivities.
However, as an estimated one million people flocked to the west London streets, the festival fell silent for 72 seconds to honour the 72 people who died in the Grenfell Tower tragedy in June 2017.
Grenfell Tower, which is still wrapped in cladding following the fire two years ago, stands within half a mile of the carnival’s parade route. The route was also adorned with hand-painted tributes to Grenfell.
This is the second year the carnival has held a 72-second silence at 3pm for the victims of Grenfell.
As Matthew Phillip, the carnival’s executive director who added the 72-second tribute, told The Guardian: ‘Grenfell Tower is in our community so we feel it’s important to show our support’.
— Sagila (@SajilaSagila) August 25, 2019
Speaking to The Voice, Phillip explained further:
Following on from the respects paid last year to those lost in Grenfell, we have once again been speaking with representatives from Grenfell United, and we ask that all participants and spectators of this year’s Notting Hill Carnival respect the 72 seconds at 3pm on both Sunday and Monday to honour the 72 people who died.
We are working with our partners to ensure the message of the silence is clear throughout Carnival, but we ask the community and beyond to please spread the message of the silence through their own social media channels using #GrenfellSilence3pm or simply reposting Notting Hill Carnival’s official channels.
As well as remembering the victims of Grenfell, a tragedy which highlighted the social and economic divide felt throughout many parts of Great Britain, Phillip believes Notting Hill Carnival can go some way to uniting people once again.
On both days of Carnival in Notting Hill All the sound systems will be turned off to hold a 72-second silence at 3pm on both Sunday and Monday, in honour of the 72 lives lost in the Grenfell Tower fire just over two years ago. #justice4grenfell 💚 https://t.co/vnhXNBToEH
— XR Kensington & Chelsea 🍃 (@xr_kensington) August 24, 2019
As he said:
Carnival was brought to us by the Windrush generation. It was that influx of people which created carnival in the first place. It was a chance for the diverse community of Notting Hill to come together and celebrate the fact that we’ve got a lot more in common with people than differences. That’s still relevant today.
The carnival is in its 53rd year, and is the second largest in the world behind Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
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Charlie Cocksedge is a journalist at UNILAD. He graduated from the University of Manchester with an MA in Creative Writing, where he learnt how to write in the third person, before getting his NCTJ. His work has also appeared in such places as The Guardian, PN Review and the bin.