Researcher @ University of East London
Michelle Harewood is a PhD researcher at the University of East London. She is a member of the Association for Narrative Research and Practice. Her research focuses on the experiences of British Caribbean communities and, their use of creative and cultural resources in response to racial and cultural trauma, and oppression. She has 15 years of experience working globally in the fields of international development and human rights with non-governmental organisations.
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Research Area and Interest :
Mediating Carnival Digitalscapes
‘Cultural Adaptations to the Covid-19 Pandemic and the Digital 21st Century: Narratives of Notting Hill Carnival
When Krosfyah sang ‘no rain can stop this Jam’ they alluded to a common Caribbean saying, ‘nothing can stop we carnival.’ However, this definitive enunciation has been called into question with the current Covid-19 pandemic. Following the threat of 24 cancellation, carnivals across the globe were reimagined using new world technologies. Notting Hill Carnival took up this challenge. Having started in 1965, in response to ongoing racism and discrimination it has become ‘Europe’s largest Street festival’, welcoming over two million people over two days. However, out of necessity carnival practitioners attempted to stay true to the carnival’s vision whilst exploring new possibilities. Whilst opening new doors, excitement has been coupled with fear and thoughts of never being able to return to the road. This paper uses narratives accumulated through thirty-five interviews and observations, to examine these recent iterations of Notting Hill Carnival. It explores what the carnival means to those involved in creating it. It holds that virtual spaces offer new and future opportunities to diversify carnivals’ reach. However, carnival is more than just a party. It is a forum for human interaction and cultural exchange. As a site of resistance, it also creates spaces for subjugated voices to be raised and heard. Although creating additions to the physical carnival, online events are unable to replicate all outcomes. Additionally, moving carnival online may also perpetuate the silences and invisibilities that carnival intrinsically resists. Hence, these online events are unable to be viable substitutes for the road.