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Sunday 23 September 2018
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Palmer awarded MBE

Leslie Palmer with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace for his Member of the British Empire award.

TRINIDADIAN-born Leslie Palmer has devoted a lot of his life to culture and his contribution to culture has been recognised by Queen Elizabeth II.

Palmer was awarded the Member of the British Empire (MBE) by the queen at Buckingham Palace, on October 13 last year.

The “cultural pioneer” is credited with “having created the template for the modern Notting Hill Carnival.”

He was accompanied by family members, including his daughter Michelle Palmer-Keizer, general manager group marketing and communications, Republic Bank Ltd, and his grandson Jon Mycal Palmer, who is at the University of Manchester, UK.

A reception open to the Notting Hill community was held later that evening with performances by calypsonian D’Alberto and the Portobello Live Choir, among other local talent.

Palmer, with a passion for community and Caribbean culture, left a teaching career in 1973 to head the West Indian Carnival Committee from 1973 to 1975.

When he left TT in 1964 and headed to the UK, he followed a career in education, which earned him the nickname Teacher.

But that was not all Palmer pursued while there. He became a founding member of London’s Blue Note Steelband and played congas in an annual event called Notting Hill Fayre.

According to a media release, “When a 1973 crisis in leadership threatened to cancel the event, he took the reins and executed a wildly successful event in just seven weeks’ time. In three years he grew it from a neighbourhood fair of a few hundred people to a world-class event attracting upwards of half a million.”

To him, Notting Hill is more than “the unruly, no-holds-barred bash portrayed by its detractors.” For Palmer, “it is a profoundly political exercise that forms the basis of black determination to carry on our traditions. Carnival is a cornerstone of identity and consciousness for immigration and native-born blacks in London.”

But Notting Hill was not all Palmer was credited for. He was also an artist and “repertoire executive” for British-Jamaican record label Island Records, “scouting talent and promoting the label’s reggae artists around the world.” Palmer also went out on his own as a music promoter and booking agent.

He also founded the Brent Black Music Co-operative “which trained generations of young black Britons in the musical arts and industry.”

In semi-retirement, he now spends most of his time between London and Tobago, organising post-Carnival tours, writing fiction and running and managing a culture and tourism magazine.

In London, he founded the Notting Hill Carnival Pioneers Community Festival, a day-long commemoration of the original Notting Hill Carnival’s music, heritage and origins. It is now in its fifth year.

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