Children’s Play Group Street Party, 1965
Rhuane Laslett was a community leader and former Social Worker living in the Notting Hill area of London. She was born in London in 1919 to a Native American mother and Russian father. She founded the Children’s Play Group at her home at 34 Tavistock Crescent. During the summer of 1965 she organised a street party for local children. The aim of the street party was to bring together children from different races and backgrounds and was never intended to have Caribbean culture at the centre of it. The street party took place on Tavistock Crescent, tables with food were set up in the street with bunting, some of the children wore fancy dress and a clown and donkey had been hired to entertain the guests. Rhuane Laslett also invited the steel pan band The Russell Henderson Trio to perform at the party. The trio at the time was made up of Russell Henderson, Sterling Betancourt and Ralph Sherry. During the street party, The Russell Henderson Trio began an improvised Carnival march around the streets of Notting Hill taking the donkey with them. The march left Tavistock Crescent and headed towards Bayswater Road via Queensway before returning to Tavistock Crescent. During the march they were joined by local people which eventually became a large crowd, dancing to the sounds of steel pan music in the streets of Notting Hill.
Caribbean Carnival Fete, 1966
In 1966, Students at the University of Leeds organised a Caribbean Carnival Fete at Kitson College on Woodhouse Lane (Now Leeds College of Technology).The Caribbean Carnival Fete was organised by Frankie Davis from Trinidad and Tony Lewis from Jamaica. The Fete included a troupe of dancers dressed as Native Americans, a traditional Trinidadian Mas costume. The troupe was organised by Trinidadian Marlene Samlal Singh. The troupe included Frankie Davis who wore his costume on the bus from his home in the Chapeltown area of Leeds to Kitson College in the City Centre. The entertainment was provided by Soul group Jimmy James And The Vagabonds lead by Jamaican singer Jimmy James. The band had formed in 1960 and had relocated to the UK in 1964. They released the single ‘Shoo Be Doo (You’re Mine)’ in 1965 followed by ‘I Feel Alright’ in February 1966. Among the guests was Ian Charles from Trinidad. He had arrived in England in 1954 and would later be a key player in Leeds West Indian Carnival. A small procession took place between Kitson College and the British Council’s International House, off North Street, where the party came to an end.
London Free School Fair, 18 – 25 September 1966
In March 1966 Rhaune Laslett was made the president of the London Free School, organised by local activists including John ‘Hoppy’ Hopkins, John Michell and Michael X. It was at a meeting at 26 Powis Terrace in 1965 that the Free School came up with the idea of a free festival. The main aim of the festival was to bring the various culture groups of the area together and become familiar with each other’s customs. The Fair had been in the works since June or July 1965 and the Mayor of Kensington and Chelsea, Alderman Fisher had shown his support and had become a patron. However, by July 1965 Alderman Fisher had withdrawn his patronage due to Michael X’s involvement. At one meeting Michael X suggested asking The Beatles manager Brian Epstein to become a patron and holding Carnival fund-raising concerts at Porchester Hall but nothing came of either idea. With no financial support, Rhaune Laslett set about organising the fair with help from the local community. She borrowed costumes from Madame Tussaud’s, local hairdresser did hair and make-up for free, stallholders from Portobello market donated horses and carts and the gas board and fire brigade donated floats. The Notting Hill Fayre and Pageant or The London Free School Fair was held over a week from 18 September 1966. It was later described by Rhaune Laslett as “a celebration of poverty”.
The week-long fair included a ‘Portobello parade’ on Sunday 18 September. The parade included a man dressed as Elizabeth I and children dressed a Charles Dickens characters. The parade also included Irish girl pipers, a West Indian New Orleans-style marching band, Ginger Johnson’s Afro-Cuban band, a fire engine and Russell Henderson’s Trinidadian Steelband. The parade began and ended at Acklam Road. From Acklam Road the parade went down Ladbroke Grove, Holland Park Avenue, Notting Hill Gate, Westbourne Grove and Great Western Road before returning to Acklam Road. Some film footage of the parade still exists today and photographs were taken by The West London Observer. The newspaper reported on the Fair on 22 September under the headline ‘Jollity and Gaiety at the Notting Hill Pageant’. After the parade, an International Song And Dance Night was held at All Saints Hall in Powis Garden and The West London Observer reported that it was “a complete sell out”. It was also reported that due to the success of the Fair the Free School had decided to make it an annual event. Other events, including a Jazz and poetry evening, Charles Dickens amateur dramatics, and ‘old tyme music hall’, were held throughout the week. Poet Michael Horovitz wrote about the parade in his 1966 poem ‘Carnival’. He wrote:
Children – all ages chorusing – we all live in a yellow submarine – trumpeting tin bam goodtime stomp – a sun-smiling wide-open steelpan-chromatic neighbourhood party making love not war.