I'm afraid, I can't say with any authority when the Tottenham Carnival started, but i did recently do some research around early 20th century carnivals for one of several articles I was asked to write for a forthcoming book by the Hornsey Historical Society.
Carnivals like the Tottenham one became fairly common, but they were a very different phenomenon to the Notting Hill Carnival. Typically, their organisation was led by local shopkeepers and other traders. They were a mix of marketing, local pride and nationalism, initially rooted in fund-raising. Notting Hill was born out of a series of racially motivated attacks and was a manifestation of resistance and unity by a community somewhat under siege in a hostile land.
In London, carnivals, as street processions, emerged along the city's periphery during the late 1890s. Locally, 1896 saw the Enfield Tradesmen’s Cycling Club and the Wood Green Cycling Club organise their first parades, while Tottenham’s cycling clubs did likewise in 1898, as did New Southgate Cycling Club in 1899.
In some cases, national events sparked the holding of one-off carnivals. A local example was the Harringay, Hornsey and Wood Green Carnival in 1900, which was organised as part of a national movement to support the families of Boer War soldiers. That event was built out of a carnival that had been organised by the Wood Green Cycling Club and taken over by local traders.
There was a surge of local annual events titled as ‘carnivals’ in the 1920s, These lasted up to the war. The mid-century carnival movement started in the early and mid-fifties. I know that the Hornsey Carnival was running by the mid/late fifties and managed to keep going into this century (It was going up until 2019, but I think that was its last year). I suspect that the Tottenham, one dates from about the same time. Both may have had antecedents before the war, but I have no knowledge of them. I know that Hornsey had a Silver Jubilee Carnival in 1935 and a coronation one on 1937, but I don't know of any annual one of the sort that ran post-war.
Hi Hugh, thank you for this really informative and detailed reply, I hope Tottenham carnival can make a come back one day, i think locally there is enough thriving different communities with their own musics, club nights and also promoters to organise a pretty good street party?!
I think the best chance would be for the community to seek support from the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation.
That could well be the first in modern times although I think we would find events like carnivals took place back in the 19th century. Hornsey Carnival was going while I was at the Journal so from 1960-64.
I can remember the carnival coming along Green Lanes from the arena, then turning in to St Ann’s Road on its way to Tottenham Recreation ground. My youngest memory of this was 1959 when I was 4. I’m sure it was going in long before 1959.
It was Christine as I remember them at the beginning of the 1950's on the same route that you discribe. As a small child I was terrified by the men with big heads! They were actually large heads made of paper mache and the men (or may possibly have been women but I couldn't tell) would come up expecting to make you laugh but they terrified me.