Tribute to Russ Henderson MBE, 1924 – 2015

He played in every Carnival since 1966, but much loved steel band player Russell “Russ” Henderson MBE died this month aged 91. Henderson was there at the genesis of the Notting Hill Carnival, which came from the annual Lenten tradition of “playing mas” (masquerade) in the eastern Caribbean. Trinidadian Henderson came to the UK in 1951 as a 25 year old jazz player. According to The Guardian, ‘community worker Rhaune Laslett invited Henderson to bring a three-piece steel band to play for the first Notting Hill fayre and pageant, an event she had organised in conjunction with the London Free School and the photographer, writer and activist John “Hoppy” Hopkins. The small steel band arrived at Portobello Green accompanied by a crowd of regulars from the Coleherne pub, and after having played for some time in a standing position, Henderson suggested everyone should embark on a road march. The procession, joined by the public, was repeated the following day, and became the first manifestation of what has since grown into an international event attended by more than one million revellers each year.’

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