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When Notting Hill Festival this year was cancelled due to Covid-19, the event organizers contacted Matter of Form and enlisted its production company Fixation to help them pull off a three-day live-streamed event to bring the Carnival to life.

For the first time in its 54 year history, the Notting Hill Carnival was cancelled this year due to Covid-19. An important fixture in the London cultural calendar, the Carnival normally welcomes up to two million visitors to celebrate the diversity that makes up modern Britain. 

The Carnival is, above all, a unifying event and had more relevance this year than ever, as the Black Lives Matter movement gained prominence and challenged European colonial history. The organisers felt a responsibility to keep the spirit of Carnival alive and set out to bring the event online for a domestic and global audience. 

Production company Fixation, a joint venture between Matter Of Form and Worldfixer, were brought in to deliver content which showcased nearly 200 artists, celebrated the communities involved and helped to create the basis of a digital legacy not usually associated with events of this kind.

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Strategy

The culmination of the project was a three-day live event over the August Bank Holiday weekend, and was streamed on YouTube with tie-ins across Spotify, Facebook, Samsung and Google Arts and Culture.

The aim of the content was to provide a platform which elevated the contributing artists and beyond this, to explore how the future of carnival might build on a powerful digital presence to reach a global audience.

The Notting Hill Carnival aimed to honour its own legacy by developing further content on a rolling basis. In light of this, Fixation understood that it would be necessary to set the highest production standards to position the content on an equal footing to mainstream high-end output.

With the high volume of acts that would feature and the need to capture performances under Covid-secure conditions, Fixation had to devise ways to maintain this high level of quality but also offer enough variation for the ‘live’ event to feel fresh. 

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As a charitable organisation, the Notting Hill Carnival relies on sponsorship and brand partnerships but it also has a vital role in furthering opportunities within the arts for under-represented communities. To maximise the potential beyond the three-day event, the output needed to be premium, exciting and relatable.  

Process

Fixation sourced a core creative team to bring together advertising, drama and music video experience to elevate production values, rather than following a traditional ‘live’ production approach. 

In the UK, filming took place over six weeks at Abbey Road Studios, The Royal Albert Hall, Malcolm Ryan Studios, Kennington Studios and Royal Theatre Haymarket. These prestige venues alongside clean, well-lit studio settings felt very far from the streets of the Carnival but allowed the audience to see these bands, masquerade dancers, performers and sound systems in a different but complementary context.

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Shot on Arri Alexas with full crews, Fixation worked with Gallowglass to ensure all the productions were Covid-safe. They implemented lighting and filming techniques that would allow them to easily adjust the location setups to make each of the nearly 200 performances feel individual.

Additional filming in Nigeria and the Caribbean was performed remotely using the extensive network Fixation leverages through its sister company, World Fixer – a platform featuring around 17,000 local producers, service companies, and crew globally. 

The footage captured the spirit and message of the performances with a clarity that isn't always possible on the streets. The results were impressive, with a huge global audience over the weekend alone, showing that even though Covid-19 has jeopardized vital annual events, it has also forced creativity to continue despite adversity thus, driving innovation.

 
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The results have formed the basis of a strategy that will allow the Notting Hill Carnival to extend its role as a vital proponent of cultural integration and artistic celebration to a global audience. It also creates tangible opportunities for brands whose shared values can help further this cause. 

“It has been a pleasure working with Fixation over the last couple of months to produce our 2020 celebration of Carnival," says Matthew Phillip, executive director of Notting Hill Carnival. "We hope to continue this work in the future to continue to document the rich heritage of the event while also training people from diverse communities to gain the skills required to enter the film and broadcast industry.”

Fixation brings together the global network and reach of the World Fixer network and the creative and strategic expertise of the Matter Of Form Group. The joint venture provides their clients with unique access to crucial creative content capabilities.

Juliet Watkin-Rees is senior marketing executive at Matter of Form.