For the second year running Boiler Room have worked with Notting Hill Carnival and Guiness to visualise a campaign against the negative media perception of the event.
Through posters, animations and apparel, this year designed by Braulio Amado, the team look back to the positive and promising roots of the cultural event. The Boiler Room team’s enthusiasm and thoughtful approach in representing Notting Hill Carnival is palpable in the campaign. “We’ve worked hard to research and create content that presents the genuine human face(s) of Carnival, from costume designers to dancers to sound system owners,” they explain.
In an animated short voiced by Roots Manuva, with a soundtrack that features original field recordings of Carnival in 1985 and music by Ahadadream, Boiler Room explain the political beginnings of the event. Harking back to England in the late 1950s, it illustrates how the Notting Hill race riots of 1958 led to a Carnival organised by activist Claudia Jones to appease the community. Later in 1964 a street party was organised “to foster cultural unity around Notting Hill,” before combining with the earlier event in 1966 when “Carnival was born”.
Below, we speak to artist and director Margot Bowman from the Boiler Room team on how this years campaign developed and what Notting Hill Carnival means to them ahead of this weekend’s celebrations.
What does Notting Hill Carnival mean to Boiler Room?
A lot! It’s our favourite time of year. Carnival is an iconic example of how the power of music and dance can unite people, how communities can come together through hard work and a DIY attitude to make something amazing. Those are qualities that Boiler Room really aspires to, so Notting Hill Carnival is kind of like hanging out with a hero.
Which creatives have you collaborated with for this year’s carnival?
We commissioned NY-based Braulio Amado to work on the core art direction for the project. We love the energy, chaos, celebration and straight up vibes in his work. He keeps it visceral and alive; and for us, that was so key.
Carnival is a cultural moment that has people at its core and communicating that human fingerprint is so important. Even when we scale up communicating that to the Boiler Room audience of 175m+ it still needs to feel human. For me that’s one of the biggest challenges in turning something so rich and so complex in real life into the same feeling on screen.
Notting Hill Carnival is the kind of place where you walk around the corner and anything could be waiting for you. That’s what Braulio’s world feels like; every image is a different party.
Can you talk us through the process of working with an entity like Notting Hill Carnival?
This is the second year we’ve worked with BASS (British Association of Sound Systems) at Carnival. We’ll be broadcasting from eight sound systems – Channel One, King Tubby’s, Aba Shant-I, Rampage, Saxon Sound, Nasty Love, this year’s new entry Rough But Sweet and our own with Benji B’s Deviation and Disya Jeneration. The process is inspiring because you really see how much of people’s free time after hours, outside of work goes into making this happen every year. How driven and passionate people are and yet how their efforts are under-funded, continuously miscommunicated by mainstream media and misunderstood by those unaware of the event’s rich and complex history.
Seeing all of this, and the openness and trust that we’ve been shown by the community has made the project precious. The tragic events at Grenfell only magnify the importance of this weekend. This community has been through a lot this year and this weekend should be a time for some good things to happen.
This year we were able to focus on a deeper kind of storytelling that lifts the lid on so much of what goes on at Carnival. We were able to profile a few of the many previous unrecognised champions within the Carnival community, the stories behind the iconic sound systems and an animated short history of the event itself.
The press coverage of Carnival fixates on crime stats and depicts the crowds of dancers as a faceless mass. That bullshit is over. We wanted to use Boiler Room as a platform to share the stories behind the party; the context and community that make this celebration what it is.
What are you looking forward to this weekend? Regular staples or new additions?
So many elements of Carnival are a must: the floats, the jerk, the rigs. This weekend sees the return of our sound system collab with Benji B’s Deviation and Disya Jeneration with guests floating in and throughout. All the sound systems we’ll be broadcasting will bring a different flavour that’s intrinsic to Carnival.
We also urge all Carnival-goers to wear green marking the #GreenForGrenfell campaign, in solidarity with the Grenfell community and all those affected by June’s tragic fire.
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