The explosion of colour that takes place in London attracts nearly 2 million visitors across the weekend every year: Notting Hill Carnival. In fact, the only Carnival attracting more people is the one in Rio de Janeiro.
Always taking place across the August bank holiday weekend, Notting Hill Carnival is a celebration of Caribbean culture and began in 1966. Back then, less than 500 people attended and it has been growing ever since!
With warm up parties being held from Thursday onwards, the first structured event is on Saturday from 6pm in Horniman’s Pleasance Park. Steel bands from all over the UK compete at Panorama to win the ‘Champions of Steel’ title. This is a perfect way to celebrate if you’d prefer not to attend the full blown street parties on Sunday and Monday.
Traditionally, Sunday is ‘family day’ as it’s slightly quieter than celebrations on the Monday. Though, to be honest both days are extremely busy and I wouldn’t want to be pushing a pram through the rammed streets of West London.
Before the main event on Sunday, a Trinidad and Tobago tradition called J’ouvert takes place at an eye watering 6am. J’ouvert roughly translates as ‘day break’ and signifies the start of Carnival! It involves throwing paint and mud at other carnival goers and finishes around 9am just in time for the parade.
On both days the parade starts on Great Western Road at 10am and finishes up on Ladbroke Grove at around 6:30pm. In addition, there’s around 40 sound systems/stages on the streets of Notting Hill and the surrounding areas, playing everything from Reggae to Soca to Salsa. Apparently there’s a strict noise curfew at 7pm, but I don’t think many sound systems actually abide by that. Following the end of the street festival, you’d have to head to an after party to continue your celebrations. Or like me, if you had to catch a 2 hour train back to Birmingham and be up for work the next day, you’d call it a day and try and find a tube station. Harder than it sounds with limited internet in the area.
I only attended Carnival on the Monday and had the best time! It’s such a fun chilled event, even if some of the UK Press try and promote otherwise. This year there was a ‘Green for Grenfell’ theme and a minute silence on both Sunday and Monday at 3pm, in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the tower block fire earlier this year.
Did you go to Notting Hill Carnival? Let me know in the comments below!