If you’ve ever partied at Carnival, you’ve got Claudia Jones to thank. This legendary activist was the founding mother of Notting Hill’s gigantic annual explosion of colour, joy and Black identity. And now, English Heritage is putting a blue plaque on the Vauxhall house where she was living when she dreamt up the idea.
Jones staged the first London carnival in 1959, as a direct response to the Notting Hill race riots the year before, when hundreds of white youths had attacked the homes and businesses of their Black neighbours. Her carnival was an indoor event televised by the BBC, giving audiences positive images of Caribbean culture through calypso songs, dancing and a beauty contest that crowned a Caribbean Carnival Queen. It wasn’t until 1966 that Carnival became the triumphant outdoor event it is today, but the huge influence of Jones (who died in 1964) on its evolution is clear.
English Heritage is also doling out blue plaques to other groundbreaking Londoners. Violinist and composer Yehudi Menuhin’s Belgravia home will be commemorated. And there’s also a refreshing focus on pioneering women, including suffragettes Princess Sophia Duleep Singh and Emily Wilding Davison, Ada Salter (the first female mayor in London and the UK) and artist Marie Spartali Stillman.
New blue plaques are put up every year, based on suggestions from the public. So if you know of a Londoner who’s made history, then get in touch to propose a plaque. Tragically, you can’t nominate yourself: unless you’ve been dead 20 years, in which case, huge thanks for your dedication to reading Time Out from beyond the grave.