Black History Month: Notting Hill Carnival director Linett Kamala on why the event ‘means everything’

“Once the Carnival bug bites you, it doesn’t matter who you are, that’s it.”

Linett Kamala is a woman of many talents.

An artist, teacher, DJ and director of Notting Hill Carnival, her work has spanned decades.

Born in Harlesden to Jamaican parents, the 52-year-old is committed to promoting Black excellence and celebrating her rich culture.

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    Speaking to LondonWorld as part of our Black History Month series, she shares her love for the Carnival and the importance of not erasing history.

    Kamala, who is now a board director at Notting Hill Carnival, got her first taste of the festival at the age of 15, when she became one of the first festival’s female DJs.

    Linett Kamala is an artist, DJ, educator and director of Notting Hill Carnival

    “As a teenager, I knew I wasn’t going to be wearing a flimsy costume, it just wasn’t me,” she said.

    “But I still wanted to be involved in Carnival so it was a lovely way to do that.

    “Carnival for me means everything, its life.

    “Once the Carnival bug bites you, it doesn’t matter who you are, that’s it.”

    For Kamala, Carnival represents freedom for the Caribbean community in London.

    Linett Kamala was Notting Hill Carnival’s first female DJ. Photo: Linett Kamala

    Her parents moved to Notting Hill from Jamaica in the late 1950s, when hostility towards the Afro-Caribbean community was high.

    This came to a head during the Notting Hill riots, which took place between August 29 and September 5, 1958.

    “My father fought with those racist Teddy boys on those streets of Ladbroke Grove,” she said.

    “It wasn’t safe for black people just to walk, they had to fight for that right.

    “They fought for that right for all people of colour thereafter to just walk freely around the streets of that part of London without being attacked.

    Kelso Cochrane was brutally murdered in Ladbroke Grove in 1959

    “I’m very proud of my elders for that and for the opportunities they gave us, the sacrifices they made.”

    A keen historian, Kamala is committed to sharing Carnival’s historical roots.

    Carnival was born in the aftermath of the Notting Hill riots and also of the brutal murder of Kelso Cochrane in Ladbroke Grove in 1959.

    Mr Cochrane, 32, from Antigua was walking along Southam Street (now the Edenham estate, including the Trellick Tower) when a gang of white youths attacked and stabbed him with a stiletto knife.

    His murder, outside of the Earl of Warwick pub on Golborne Road, is still unsolved and caused outcry amongst the community.

    Linett is also an artist and youth mentor. Photo: Linett Kamala

    Keslo’s funeral was attended by hundreds of people, both white and black.

    “When you try to piece together the pieces of the jigsaw you get more of a sense of what the actual event means,” Kamala explained.

    “Carnival is a beautiful demonstration of unity and it shows that the racists didn’t win.”

    Along with sharing Carnival’s history, Kamala also performs DJ sets at the event and has started mentoring young people.

    This year, she piloted her Lin Kam Art Sound System Futures Programme, which helps educate and empower young talent to further develop UK sound system culture.

    The Anchor, The Drum, The Ship will be unveiled in Gladstone Park this month

    Between August 15 and 29, nine young DJs and artists learned about the history of Carnival and sound system culture.

    Kamala said: “The young people were just brilliant and for me that’s what the future is.

    “It’s them, just as I started off as a young person.”

    Along with her involvement in Carnival, Kamala is also the founder of Lin Kam Art.

    On October 14, she will be unveiling a new public artwork in Gladstone Park in collaboration with Brent Council commemorating the transatlantic slave trade.

    The Anchor, The Drum, The Ship. a landscaped garden made up of three flower beds in the shape of an anchor, an African drum and a ship will commemorate the history of Black Britons.

    “For me as a Brent resident, to be able to be part of this project to shine a light on this hidden history and do it in a factual and respectful way is a privilege,” she said.

    Black History month for us is in October and it’s an important time where we can shine a light and celebrate.

    “One day we will have this utopian world where racism doesn’t exist and we won’t ever have to have a thing like Black History Month but we’re not there yet.”