Rhaune Laslett Blue Plaque

 

To celebrate the 2011 Notting Hill Carnival a Commemorative Blue Plaque was unveiled, on 26 August 2011, to honour Rhaune Laslett O'Brien who was the creator of the first multicultural street festival in Notting Hill.

In 1965 a community worker and social activist named Rhaune Laslett O'Brien introduced the Notting Hill Street Festival in North Kensington – a multicultural take on an older local fayre. No one could know at the time it would develop into becoming Europe’s largest street festival.

Rhaune Laslett was born in London’s East End in 1919, of Russian and Native American heritage. Laslett lived in West London for most of her adult life, which after WW2 became one of Britain’s most diverse districts. She dedicated her life to helping the poor, fighting for better housing and community cohesion. Her home was opened to the community and her work was supported by luminaries including Muhammad Ali and Marc Bolan. Her motivation for reinventing the Notting Hill Fayre was to give local people a chance to celebrate together the many different cultural backgrounds within the area of Notting Hill. For the first festival she borrowed costumes from Madame Tussauds; a local hairdresser did the hair and make-up for nothing; the gas board and fire brigade had floats; and stallholders in Portobello market donated horses and carts. The festival of indoor and outdoor events lasted an entire week and around 1,000 people turned up, according to police figures.

At the first festival Rhaune invited professional musician Russell Henderson and his group to play the steelpan in her playground. Henderson told Sterling Bettencourt and the other musicians to walk down the street with the pan around their neck. What followed was a procession of people dancing through the streets of Notting Hill behind the sweet sound of steelpan music. The panmen had brought the spirit of Caribbean Carnival to Rhaune Laslett O'Brien’s impressive multi-cultural celebrations.

From 1966 until the early 1970s Rhaune Lasslett worked with the Caribbean community, many of them her friends, to organize the Notting Hill Carnival. In 1973 Leslie Palmer took over running the event and created the
carnival we know today by introducing costume bands and sound systems as well as reaching out to communities beyond Notting Hill.

Rhaune Laslett died in April 2002, after suffering from multiple sclerosis for 50 years. But her legacy of racial tolerance and cultural respect can be seen every August Bank Holiday when people of diverse backgrounds come together to celebrate on the streets of West London. The unveiling of her plaque will officially open up the Notting Hill Carnival Weekend celebration.

Notes

The plaque, organised by the Nubian Jak Community Trust, is supported by London Notting Hill Carnival Limited, the Royal borough of Kensington & Chelsea, the UK Centre for Carnival Arts, and Carnival Village. It was unveiled on the corner of Tavistock Square and Portobello Road, London W11, on Friday 26th August at 1pm, followed by a reception at Carnival Village, The Tabernacle, Powis Square, London W11.

 

Quotes

Councillor Sir Merrick Cockell, Leader of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea said: “For nearly half a century Notting Hill Carnival has been a major event, not just for black Britons, but Britain as a whole. It makes complete sense to recognise the key people in its creation and Rhaune Laslett is certainly one of those.”

Founder of the Nubian Jak Plaque Commemorative Plaque Scheme Jak Beula said: “The Trust is delighted to be honouring Ms Rhaune Laslett with a commemorative plaque this year. As one of the key architects of the Notting Hill Carnival, her vision of a multi-cultural festival inclusive of all, could not be more fitting for the nation’s capital than in 2011.

Joint Chair of Notting Hill Carnival Limited Chris Boothman said: “Rhaune Laslett's contribution to one of London's most important cultural events is far too often overlooked. We hope this recognition will remind everyone that she was every bit as important as all the other pioneers of Notting Hill Carnival. “

Shabaka Thompson Chief Executive of Carnival Village said: ‘It has always been my intention to honour Rhaune Laslett at the Carnival Village, The Tabernacle, especially after we paid homage to Claudia Jones at this venue. It is pleasing to see this eventual realization that I know will not only satisfy her family but bring the desired balance to who were the pioneers of Notting Hiil. It is fair to state that despite all the male interventions over the years with the governance of the Carnival, another woman is being honoured as a pioneer to this London iconic event’

Pax Nindi, Creative Producer for UK Centre for Carnival Arts said: “It is a great honour for Notting Hill Carnival to pay homage to Rhaune Laslett through presentation of the plaque being unveiled in what became her home as one of our key pioneers of this great Carnival. From a one thousand people event to over a million people event, we owe tribute to this great great lady and community leader who would have never ever dreamt that this cultural gem was to become Europe 's biggest street event.”

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©London Notting Hill Carnival 2012
Last Revised:17/08/2012