With 2 million people having attended the 2019 edition, Notting Hill Carnival is arguably the biggest event of its kind in the world. Despite the spectre of Covid-19, Carnival director Matthew Phillip tells Access that he is building on the success of its first digital edition while preparing for the event’s real-world comeback.
Notting Hill Carnival has been the UK’s biggest and brightest street party since the mid 1960s. An explosion of spectacular costumes and pumping rhythms against a backdrop of colourful Caribbean culture and cuisine; the inimitable event was sorely missed in 2020.
For the event’s executive director Mathew Phillip (pictured), the sights and sounds of Carnival have been ingrained in his upbringing from an early age. For him, and his family, the event has long been much more than a two-day party over the August Bank Holiday weekend.
Phillip’s father was a co-founder of one of the oldest and most popular mas bands in London, the Mangrove Masquerade Band. Mas is short for masquerade, and the steel band, with players characteristically bedecked in eye-catching costumes, has been a prominent feature of Carnival for more than four decades.
Phillip made his Carnival debut at the age of two, in a pushchair, but his first recollection of being there was aged eight; dressed up in a flamboyant costume and immersed in the energy and atmosphere of the party.
“A lot of my memories involve the preparation, the steel band rehearsing on All Saints Road, the ‘mas camp’ where the costumes are made. I gradually went on to learn to play in the steel band and many years later took over as its manager in 1993,” he says.
The Mangrove Masquerade Band is based at The Tabernacle in Powis Square, a Romanesque former church that has become the hub of Carnival creativity and planning. The building is operated by Carnival Village Trust on behalf of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. As well as being executive director of Notting Hill Carnival, Phillip is also the CEO of the Trust.
In the build-up to Carnival, The Tabernacle is one of many venues to be transformed into a ‘mas camp’ as work is carried out to furnish the Mangrove band’s requirements for the big day.
Read the feature in full in the January edition of Access All Areas here.
Subscribe to Access All Areas for free here.