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The Emancipated Run Crew at the Notting Hill Carnival

Carnival spirit

The Emancipated Run Crew at the 2022 Notting Hill Carnival

In August 2022, a group of staff members from London Marathon Events (LME) volunteered at the Notting Hill Carnival to help the Emancipated Run Crew (ERC) deliver a 5K run to open the celebrations. The Emancipated Run Crew is a running community that puts diversity and inclusion at the heart of all that it does, offering Black and brown runners a safe space to get active together.

Katy O’Brien, one of LME’s volunteers, reflects on the success of the occasion.

Can you tell us a bit about your role at the Notting Hill Carnival?

A few of us from LME went along as volunteers to support members of the Emancipated Run Crew (ERC), who were opening the Notting Hill Carnival with a 5K run.

The ERC brought together several run crews under the moniker ‘Black Crews United’ to complete the 5k course ahead of the main carnival procession. Individual runners and walkers were also there to join us in honouring the victims and survivors of the Grenfell tragedy.

On the day, we managed the bag drop, handed out whistles, answered queries and did what we could to support the organisers.

What was the atmosphere like on the day?

It was a brilliant day and there was a real buzz in the air. It was the official opening of the 2022 Notting Hill Carnival – the first in-person carnival for three years – the weather was great and everyone was feeling the energy!

What was the highlight of your experience?

I hadn’t worked with the ERC before, so it was great to meet Denise, Jules and Trojan [the founders of the ERC] in person. They’re inspirational in their drive to support and encourage Black and brown runners who may feel excluded by other running groups. Their energy was infectious.

While it was work, it was fun. My colleague Hannah had a great system in place at the bag drop – although I think we may have run our own 5K in the ticketing-storing-collecting process!

Being part of the Notting Hill Carnival is really special. I have Jamaican heritage and love that the carnival is an opportunity to celebrate that – and for those that do not share this heritage, it is an opportunity to experience its vibrancy. It was great to see all the runners representing with their flags from around the world.

Why do you think groups like the ERC are important?

Community is essential, particularly in these challenging times. Groups like the ERC provide a positive community for people who can sometimes feel excluded elsewhere, or not catered for. These groups can offer fun, a safe space and the comfort of shared experience. And they are encouraging more people to stay active – to run, swim, cycle, dance and so much more. There is a group out there for everyone!

What would you say to anyone thinking about joining a group like the ERC?

Get involved! Encouragement and support help keep us healthy. I’m part of a roller skate community and it’s a very special experience. Just like the ERC, we encourage each other, share tips and advice, meet up at events and share experiences – negative and positive – in a safe space. It’s like a second family. And it makes keeping active fun and rewarding, both physically and mentally.