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29th March, 2024

Blackbird/BLACKBIIRD

Beyoncé has, today, released her brand new highly anticipated album Cowboy Carter. Eagle-eyed Beatles fans, no doubt, had clocked the familiar song title within the track list released ahead of the album’s drop.

That song is, of course, The Beatles’ Blackbird.

Released originally in 1968 on The White Album, the song became somewhat of an anthem for Black communities in the subsequent years.

And it’s little wonder why. Paul, writing in his 2021 book The Lyrics, recalled “at the time in 1968 when I was writing ‘Blackbird,’ I was very conscious of the terrible racial tensions in the US. The year before, 1967, had been a particularly bad year, but 1968 was even worse. The song was written only a few weeks after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. That imagery of the broken wings and the sunken eyes and the general longing for freedom is very much of its moment.”

And, in the 1997 book Many Years From Now by Barry Miles, Paul added “I had in mind a Black woman, rather than a bird. Those were the days of the civil rights movement, which all of us cared passionately about, so this was really a song from me to a Black woman, experiencing these problems in the States: ‘Let me encourage you to keep trying, to keep your faith, there is hope.’”

We recently had the pleasure of talking to Notting Hill-based Flower Veronica Daughter, to whom the song Blackbird has had a significant influence on her life, work and communities. Her story, or hadithi in Swahili, details how the song “Blackbird” flew to her community’s rescue throughout the losses and tribulations of the COVID pandemic.


"Sounds familiar? Does it ring a bell?" By Flower Veronica Daughter 


“If you don’t understand, ask questions. If you’re uncomfortable about asking questions, say you are uncomfortable about asking questions and then ask anyway” – Chimamanda Adichie 

This fantastic quote by our African Sister Queen Chimamanda Adichie is something, that I resonate with so to begin writing our hadithi “Swahili word for the story” was only natural that I try to share a few relevant points.

Today many things are done and said without explanation. Leaving us in doubt. Which can make the situation appear difficult, while sharing can prevent the common quote “If only they had explained”.

Sounds familiar?

iBlackbird Notting Hill Festival came about because of the inspired Sir Paul McCartney and The Beatles’ song “Blackbird” not only the title but the inspirational liberating energy that this unique song brings.

Does it ring a bell?

The COVID pandemic, how could we forget this, today mental health has rightfully become our priority, back with a long list of further compelling factors, we are all still faced with.

So, I seek this opportunity to share just one of many hadithi tales about why we are having this conversation. Our hadithi (the Swahili word for the story) is one of accepting change and rediscovery which came about during the pandemic.

Blackbird festival is based in Notting Hill, London England, our hadithi could have been situated, in reality, anywhere, as we are no different to any other city or town in the world faced at the time with the lockdown and the coming to terms with silence stillness, and limited communication, this is something most can identify with.

Our streets, a place that was normally packed with tourists, local vendors, and antiques on display had become a thing of the past. Local coffee shops and restaurants closed, and not even our famous community Hub George’s Fish and Chip Shop on the Portobello was given spared for closure.

Sounds familiar?

Like many, we were left pondering the big question of the day: how do we stay connected?

Then to the rescue came social media. Almost immediately, neighbours and friends, work colleagues, and different groups came together. 

WhatsApp became the town crier, but sadly, it wasn't filled with only happy news. We had to encounter much loss and news of sadness becoming sometimes the daily fix.

Does it ring a bell?

Images passed around by the community of those we have lost along the way. For example, the waiting-to-hear-in anticipation syndrome. Followed with a possible invite? If you made the invitee list of 30 to attend the funeral.

Sad by the occasion but delighted to receive a video link to watch the funeral at home. Only to encounter loneliness and for some unable to cry holding back tears filled with emotions alone at home.

Sounds familiar?

But throughout all of this and other experiences, the main thread  for many was the music, and in our diverse community space, the song we would hum is “Blackbird” covered by the Jamaican iconic reggae group The Paragons, outside of the churches at the graveside on the playlist you could guarantee Blackbird would be present drying up our tears and strengthening our hearts and mind as we trust all will be well.

Don't get me wrong, there were many other amazing and beautiful tracks on our playlist that helped us along the way, but primarily in the African and Caribbean Communities “Blackbird” flew to the rescue, supporting us as we all celebrated the lives of those special community family members.

“Blackbird” compelled a few of us artists and musicians to ‘come together’ to form the iNotting Hill Blackbird ensemble. The mission was to collectively spread Joy and Love to our community - so we set about our iBlackbird tributes.

As we receive healing from conducting the tributes, it was then inevitable that we sort a way to share this feeling and joy with our community and so the iBlackbird Notting Hill festival was allowed to fly.

It was a mission that needed to be done. We needed to connect as a community. We needed to laugh and dance and, most importantly, smile.

Needless to say, the iNotting Hill Blackbird Festival was a success. It gave us healing while in the mists. iNotting Hill Blackbird festival was a welcome start, a prelude to our well known famous Notting Hill Carnival - something we were all looking forward to since the lockdown.

We would like you to join us by sharing your amazing Blackbird story. Maybe you sang the Blackbird song in the past? Do you have a story you would like to share? We would love for you to share this with our new community on our website and Instagram page.


A’se A’se A’se (African Yoruba word for affirm.)


Flower Veronica Daughter

Founder of iNotting Hill Blackbird festival, and a documentary filmmaker who began life in the media industry as a radio broadcaster.

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