As London winds down from the success and excitement of the London 2012 Olympic Games, the city is working hard to ensure that the summer continues to offer cultural diversity and festivities. London’s Notting Hill Carnival is one of the most popular events of the year and one of the most famous carnivals in the world. Celebrated over the annual August bank holiday weekend, the Notting Hill Carnival brings together people from many different cultures and backgrounds and is a fabulous opportunity to appreciate and learn from the cultural diversity it offers.
Carnivals and Lent – What’s the Connection?
In the Christian Catholic tradition, the Carnival is typically the period leading up to the forty days of pennitency, or Lent, that prepares believers for Easter. These celebrations are common in countries with Christian Catholic traditions and beliefs and are often a significant influence on traditional costumes and rituals. Although carnivals were traditionally connected to religious events, over time many countries have adopted and adapted the celebration in a more secular way. As such there are many countries with celebrations they refer to as ‘carnivals’ which tend to have diversions, parades, masquerades, costumes or krewes.
London’s Notting Hill Carnival is not in any way connected to Lent. It was introduced during the 1960’s by members of the Caribbean communities that live in the area as a response to the racially-motivated riots that had rencetly taken place in the neighbourhood. Their reaction of unity and integration continued for many years and gradually evolved into one of London’s more important events. More than a million people attend every year generating over £93 million. The renowned London Notting Hill Carnival is now a dynamic and colourful event consisting of two days – one mainly targeted at kids and one for adults. Led by the Trinidadian and Tobagonian British population, it has become an event to celebrate London’s cultural diversity.
Every Carnival is a Different Event
Carnivals are usually cross-cultural events made up from a number of different nationalities. The optimistic and festive atmosphere is open to many different kinds of celebrations, values and customs so that everyone feels welcome and integrated in the event. To a certain degree, these festivities can work as a barometer indicating the cultural wealth of a city or a country. The group of diverse people that takes part in the celebration makes the carnival an altogether different event depending on where it is celebrated.
Looking at the most famous world carnivals we can appreciate important differences between them such as different attitudes to time and space, approaches to rules, degrees of collectivism, different perceptions of hierarchy, use of humour and so forth. In Rio’s Carnival, for instance, cultural diversity is an essential characteristic. Brazilians give particular attention to the African-rooted ‘samba’, staging massive choreographies that spread all along the city and the party extend untill dawn. In contrast, Berlin’s Carnival of Cultures enhances diversity by giving more importance to performing arts and organised shows that take place in a part of the city under a more restricted timetable. In Spanish carnivals the ‘comparsa’ contests, the election of the Carnival’s Queen and the ‘Bury of the Sardine’, tend to play a crucial role while in Venice everyone becomes equal by wearing masks as the nobles used to remain anonymous during the Renaissance and take part in smart and exclusive parties.
Not only Feathers…
London’s Notting Hill Carnival is not only a very colourful event with beautiful costumes and feathers, but a real opportunity to meet people from everywhere and get to know a bit more about the different cultures that inhabitate the city. From deeply rooted music genres such as as Calypso, which had its roots in the sugar plantations where it was created by the slaves to mock their masters, to a wide range of different and tasty food products from different and exciting parts of the world, the Notting Hill Carnival has something for everyone. Join the Carnival this weekend and find yourself in several global locations in one day.
The 40,000 volunteers that make this event possible have developed their intercultural skills to a high degree which enables them to work effectively with counterparts from other cultures achieving breathtaking results. Any global organisation might benefit from this approach to cultural diversity. The many advantages of a diversified workforce can boost any business and highly increase its possibilities of success. However, some challenges might arise when promoting multiculturalism in the workplace and cultural diversity training may help. Either way, the feathers probably won’t be necessary in the office.
© Communicaid Group Ltd. 2012