Page last updated at 08:17 GMT, Tuesday, 19 August 2008 09:17 UK

DJ honed talent at carnival

By Jane Mower
BBC News, London

Norman Jay
Norman Jay playing to the crowd at Notting Hill Carnival
DJ Norman Jay has been living and breathing the Notting Hill Carnival since he was born so it is no surprise that as success stories go, he is one of the biggest to come out of the annual event.

Earlier this month he was playing on the main stage at the Big Chill Festival to a crowd of more than 30,000.

"I owe everything to the Notting Hill Carnival, if there was no carnival there wouldn't have been a Norman Jay", he said.

Fledgling sound system

Norman was born in Notting Hill in 1957 and despite moving away from the area when he was young, his links with family and friends kept him coming back.

His early memories of the carnival, which was to help shape his musical career, are of a much smaller affair dominated by the black community.

"I used to go in the early 1970s when there were maybe a few thousand people at what was a mainly black event. It was more West Indian perhaps than it is today," he said.

In 1980, Norman and his brother Joe went along with a fledgling sound system and set up their stall in Cambridge Gardens.

In the beginning it looked inwards on itself and didn't really send out the right signals to welcome other people in
Norman Jay

"When I first started coming here there were no regulatory bodies it was a sound system free-for-all lottery.

"Back in those days you were lucky if you secured power from a house or flat then you could actually play at the carnival.

"Now you have to have licences to do everything."

And it was that very lack of rules and regulation which gave the budding young DJ a chance to gain valuable experience on an international stage.

"Long before I became a successful DJ in clubs and festivals and on the radio I was cutting my teeth and playing live audiences at Notting Hill Carnival in the 80s.

Sensory delight

"I learned well and it placed me in the perfect position to take advantage of offers that came in 10-15 years later to play huge festivals."

In what will be his 28th consecutive year at the carnival, he said while the spirit of carnival remains, embracing different cultures has enhanced the street party.

"In the beginning it looked inwards on itself and didn't really send out the right signals to welcome other people in.

Norman jay
Norman Jay was born in Notting Hill in 1957. Pic by Debbie Bragg from Everynight Images.

"Over the years the various bodies have addressed that problem and turned it around and made it reflect the community.

"That's the Asian, straight, gay, it's everybody's carnival and that's the way it should be.

"I think people who now come have taken ownership of it and it's a fantastic spectacle, a sensory delight.

"It's still underpinned by the Afro-Caribbean experience, which is very important, but it embraces everybody else that's made a valid contribution to the event."

And when asked if at the age of 50 he could see another Norman Jay rising from Notting Hill Carnival he replied: "Most definitely, but he will have a different name".




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