Leslie Palmer and Russell Henderson to be honoured


To commemorate and recognise Leslie Palmer and Russell Henderson’s major contributions to the development of the Notting Hill Carnival, its ‘pioneering fathers’ will receive special honours in a double plaque unveiling event marking the official opening of this year’s festival this Friday.

It will follow up on last year’s event recognising two of the carnival’s ‘mothers’ and was organised by the Nubian Jak Community Trust’s Plaque Heritage Scheme working to keep alive the legacy of black figures that helped shape Britain’s history.

Henderson is credited with planting the seed that would transform the then Notting Hill Fayre, a small multi-cultural event, into a street parade. In 1965, taking the initiative when performing in his pan-around-the-neck band, he set a trend by leading his fellow musicians on a walk through Notting Hill playing their instruments.

In 1970, Henderson introduced steelpan into English schools when he began teaching the instrument in schools in Croydon, south London. He was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 2006 for his contribution to music in England.

Leslie Palmer’s decisions as the director of Notting Hill Carnival from 1973-1975 played a key part in shaping the carnival into its modern form. To market the festival to a wider audience, he made a controversial decision to invite local Jamaican sound systems and black music bands to play at the festival. By the time Palmer left carnival in late 1975, the event was attracting more than 500,000 people.

Palmer also encouraged traditional masquerade, and 1973 was the first time costume bands and steel bands from the various islands took part in the street parade. The following year stewarding and stalls were introduced, and first Radio London then Capital Radio began broadcasting from the event.

The organisation of the unveiling of the Russell Henderson and Leslie Palmer Heritage Plaques has been supported by London Notting Hill Carnival Enterprise Trust, the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, the UK Centre for Carnival Arts, and Carnival Village and will take place on Tavistock Road (also known as Carnival Square), London W11 1AR on Friday 24 August at 1pm. The ceremony will be followed by a reception at the nearby Carnival Village, Powis Square, London W11 2AY.

Berny Torre