‘I was in a state of shock’ – Notting Hill Carnival legend launches Crowdfunder

The man behind one of the longest running features of Notting Hill Carnival is running a fundraiser to secure involvement in the event this year, after his funding proposal was rejected for the first time ever.

Notting Hill Festival

The man behind one of the longest running features of Notting Hill Carnival is running a fundraiser to secure involvement in the event this year, after his funding proposal was rejected for the first time ever.

Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues sound system first appeared at Notting Hill Carnival in 1982 and has been a prominent feature of the annual Caribbean festival ever since.

Yet despite “putting in the best proposal” to Arts Council England earlier this year, according to Gaz Mayall, the man behind the project, the proposal was rejected – without enough time to reapply. This year’s Carnival is currently due to be held in just over two weeks’ time.

“By the time [Arts Council England] got back to us,” Gaz explains to whynow, “it would have meant that if we’d reapplied with the small timescale we had, we couldn’t have committed ourselves to it – because we would have found out whether we got it or not on the week of Carnival itself. And we would have let down so many people and committed so much money that I would have had to sell my flat to cover it.”

Gaz at Notting Hill

Gaz at Notting Hill.

Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues has been such a staple of the annual event, which draws in crowds of up to two-and-a-half million people each year, that an exhibition at Fulham Town Hall last year featured much of his work and memorabilia, in recognition of his commitment to the festival.

After hearing of the rejection for funding this year, Gaz admits to being “in a state of shock” before eventually deciding, along with the help of his team, that crowdfunding would be the best option.

“I was initially thinking we wouldn’t do Carnival this year. I couldn’t see how we could. And then people were saying that’s not an option, [I’ve] got to be there.

“At first, I was so reluctant to do [crowdfunding] because it’s such an embarrassing thing for me; it’s like begging, I just don’t want to be asking for money… But the response has been really good.”

Notting Hill Carnival

So far, Gaz has raised almost £8,000, nearly half of the £20,000 target. That’s been achieved despite Gaz’s Facebook and Instagram accounts having been previously hacked, thereby losing him thousands of followers to who he could spread the word.

With the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and cuts to cultural development funding, those applying for funding have found it increasingly challenging.

What’s more, earlier this year, Arts Council England was told by the UK government that it must reduce its funding of London-based events and activities by £24 million per year by the end of the 2024/25 financial year, as part of the government’s ‘Levelling Up’ strategy.

As a result, Gaz says, “lots of people this year, in different carnival arenas, are all suffering the same way.”

Notting Hill Carnival

“We’re doing our best to make things work. People are rallying around, but it’s more emotionally supportive rather than financially supported because I don’t think they’ve got money to shell out either, so everyone’s racking their brains for ideas as to how to do this last minute.”

“I’m not complaining about Arts Council [England] because they have been supportive over so many years. I’ve never done never considered crowdfunding before. And so we’re just going to go with it and see how we get on.”

In response, Arts Council England says it “supports a vast range of different artists and organisations to produce work as part of Notting Hill Carnival, such as performances and workshops.

“We do not directly fund or have ring-fenced funding for the annual event and our support instead comes through a range of our funding programmes, notably our open-access fund National Lottery Project Grants.

People at Notting Hill Carnival

“Applying to National Lottery Project Grants is a highly competitive process. Although the Arts Council cannot comment on individual applications, we receive many more good applications than we can support across all artforms and, as a result, we have to make many difficult decisions.”

For more information on Gaz’s fundraiser, and if you wish to donate, click here.

Notting Hill Carnival is taking place between 27 and 29 August.

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