Notting Hill Carnival and its Crichlow connections

I pulled out this Evening Standard article ‘Girl on the Run‘ because I’ve been an avid fan of Lenora Crichlow ever since she starred in ‘Sugar Rush’ and ‘Material Girl’ – two of my favourite programmes.

Carnival in Salvador, Bahia © MisBeee Writes

She then went on to act in the successful drama ‘Being Human’ before becoming the first Black actress to play the lead in British film ‘Fast Girls’. The film, which was inspired by Olympics, was released weeks before London hosted the Games.

But what I didn’t know about this accomplished actress is she is the daughter of the late Frank Crichlow. Crichlow senior was an influential member of Notting Hill’s West Indian community.

He helped to establish the world-famous Notting Hill Carnival, which is staged every August Bank Holiday in London.

Frank hailed from Trinidad and married Lenora’s English mother Lucy Addington. He was a man for the people and campaigned for housing, civil rights and social justice in his local community.

The following snapshot from Richard Godwin’s Evening Standard article, published on Tuesday 8 May 2012, typifies just how influential he was.

“From the late Fifties he ran the El Rio café on Westbourne Park, a “university for hustlers” where the likes of John Profumo and Christine Keeler rubbed shoulders with Nina Simone, Sammy Davis Jnr and whoever had just got off the boat from the West Indies, Africa or the Indian subcontinent. In 1968 he opened the Mangrove restaurant on All Saints Road, home from home for black performers arriving in London, from Jimi Hendrix to Diana Ross, and the site of repeated police raids (they never found anything – friends joked that he was the only Trinidadian who didn’t smoke ganja).” 

Crichlow died of prostate cancer in 2010 but his legacy is not forgotten and lives on in London’s celebration of our mixed cultural history at carnival. At his funeral, roads were closed and there were floats, steel bands, a thousand people in the streets from Rastafarians to people representing the Nation of Islam and coming from across the UK, Godwin writes. A blue plaque commemorating his work can be seen on the former site of the Mangrove.

By Kirsty Osei-Bempong

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