I went to Notting Hill Carnival this year on Sunday 30th August - apparently that's kids day and today (Monday 31st) is the main day, but I can't say I saw that many kids about, but perhaps they were where the floats were rather than in the streets where we were which seemed to be more about the sound systems. I've been a number of times before. When I was young my dad used to take us and we'd watch the floats go by with people in their dramatic costumes. The two times I've been as an adult were a few years ago when I went with my boyfriend but we didn't really know where we were going and just ended up stuck in crowds not really knowing why we were there or what we were doing.
Finally, this year I went with my boyfriend with a view to meeting up with various friends (who I never managed to find as it's impossible to meet people there), thinking this would finally be the year I saw the real Notting Hill Carnival and would have a great time. Unfortunately I was disappointed once again and have decided I don't really like Notting Hill Carnival. Don't get me wrong - I love a good atmosphere, I enjoy festivals, I enjoy socialising with my friends and having drinks and good food, but I just don't get the carnival so I've decided you're either a Notting Hill Carnival person or you aren't, and I'm not. A lot of people love the Carnival and you may too so I don't want to put anyone off, I think you need to decide for yourself if you're a Notting Hill Carnival person or not!
********** What is the carnival? **********
The Carnival attracts many thousands of people to the streets in and around Notting Hill. It's over the bank holiday weekend in August for 3 days from around 12pm to 7pm and I think it's essentially about 4 different things (and yes I've probably missed things off as I'm sure other people will think there are other main aspects to it / behind it but this is my take on it):
1. The Food.
The theme of the food is Caribbean and the stalls mainly offer a selection of very tasty home-made style Caribbean food - Jerk Chicken, Goat Curry, Rice & Pea, Corn on the Cob etc etc. It's generally pretty spicy and I must say I love the food. Most people seem to bring their own drinks but you can buy beers off stands (£2 a can while I was there) or pop into a pub.
2. The Music
In addition to the tasty food there are a number of different sounds systems with different DJs pumping out different types of music at full blast. If you get a programme you can find out what sound systems are where. People gather round the sound systems to dance and it gets absolutely rammed to the point where you literally have to push past people to get through, and this isn't just at the front this is quite a way back. This means that getting anywhere is really difficult and if you are claustrophobic in any way you'd be best of avoiding this. I'm not claustrophobic but did get extremely frustrated by the crowds and just had to get out.
3. The Floats
I didn't see any floats this year but there are huge parades which consist of a number of different floats going past with people dancing on top, normally with a sound system and often wearing very dramatic and colourful costumes. This is good for the kids as well as the adults.
4. The Crowds
The Carnival seems to be as much about the crowds in general as anything else and the people there mainly seem to just enjoy the buzz of mass crowds and excitement. Like I said, I found it frustrating but a lot of people enjoy / would enjoy this and will just sit (or stand and dance) and soak up the atmosphere. I must admit that it is quite fun just people-watching as you see a real assortment of different characters.
********** Problems **********
1. Meeting Up
Notting Hill Carnival is almost an impossible place to meet people, so if you plan on meeting anyone there it needs to be a really, really specific place, it's no good just trying to meet at one of the sound systems and the mobile networks are often jammed or you can't hear your phone so that doesn't help either.
I won't harp on about it but like I said it's absolutely rammed full of people and you have to push through to get anywhere which I found frustrating
You can either use one of the portaloos or you can queue in one of the pubs for quite a long time and pay to use the toilets there. Obviously this isn't enough reason not to go but just thought I'd mention this.
Towards the evening the carnival starts getting more rowdy and fights start to break out so it's a good idea to leave at 5 or 6 if you can.
********** Conclusion **********
A lot of people seem to absolutely love the carnival and good for them. It's not for me, I just didn't really get it and preferred the evening when I went to a bar and could still have a dance and a drink and socialise with my friends but in a less stressful atmosphere. I think the best approach to have with Notting Hill is either to be very organised and know exactly where you're going, or to do the opposite and have an extremely laid-back approach and just go along with everything and let the hecticness of the crowds wash over you and not bother you while you enjoy drinking, eating and dancing.
I am a 3rd generation Notting Hillbilly on my fathers side. Although I have ventured to other parts of London ,here I am again, wondering why the hell I came back! I enjoyed many a carnival as a child, when on a smaller scale and, the Sunday (dubbed the kids day) really was for kids. I even took part in the procession twice, once as a butterfly and once a tennis player complete with racket and rah-rah skirt which I wore with pride until summer was over. The costumes were and still are spectacular, as are the steel bands that practice all year to give us Caribbean renditions of well known pop, rock and r n b tunes, these are now fewer since floats blasting base on a Richter scale of 10 seem to be more popular:( the procession begins at Kensal Road and is in full swing mid Ladbroke Grove so I?d say to anyone wanting to see what Carnival really is about, stick to the Grove because if you dont know the area, and venture into side streets you could end up lost in a sound-clash of Garage, Jungle and hip-hop, walking on beer bottles and getting dirty looks if you happen to brush past a fellow reveller. Obviously the carnival is a chance for people to make money whether it be from memorabilia (the whistles and horns will drive you crazy) or food and drink.Most vendors will serve cans of beer at around £3 and pop at £1. Although food varies enormously from chinese noodles to Moroccan cous cous the Caribbean food is most desirable,home made Jamican patties,Akee and saltfish and Curry Goat (favourites at around £4 a portion)TIP:If you manage to venture up to the Ladbroke Grove roundabout near the bridge you'll see a small west indian take-away called Yum Yums which sells all these dishes and more.A few shops up is the taste of Punjab (Indian)and I highly recommend the onion bhajis and chicken pakoras at around £2 each.All these prices are approximate since they seem to go up at the vendors discretion every Carnival bank holiday. Id really advise
that one doesnt wear ones most expensive jewellery,thats not to say it will definitely be snatched from around your neck but it really isnt worth the risk as I have witnessed on many occasions,20 or more lads steaming through crowds and taking what they can on the way. I always keep my money in my front jeans pocket and never take handbags.If you must take children,do so on the Sunday.Monday is not for the faint hearted DO NOT TAKE PETS!!! Take a map so you can find your way back to meeting points and tube stations.Check out Hornimans pleasance,a nice green to sit on and a stage where in past carnivals the likes of lil kim and Wycliffe Jean have performed as well as many celeb DJ's Am not going into horror stories but as you can probably make out ,the novelty of the Notting Hill carnival has certainly worn off for me and I shall be spending my bank holiday well away from London and people who want to use my loo. There are people who still love it and if you go,I hope you do to!
The once amazing festival is not plagued with violent and terrifying scenes shot during the August 2000 carnival. There was an 84% increase in arrests at the event compared to 1999, something that needs to be taken into account when attending. Putting that aside Notting Hill is the place to be with Caribbean music rocking the participants, brilliant food and costumes make this event a once a year chance to let your hair down and get down with the "brothers" of Notting Hill! Transport does tend to grind to a holt coming up to the time of the event so you're best booking some time off work previous and heading down a few days early.
I have to say that I have been disappointed after being to Notting Hill Carnival a couple of times. There's not much to do and see, apart from getting absolutely wasted by drinking alcohol or wandering around in these huge crowds... and eventually get your handbag stole if you are lucky! I guess you can do that anywhere in London anyway. I mean, just going to the Oxford Street is rather similar if you miss crowds and well, what comes to the drinking part, you can do it anywhere!! r I am not obviously too keen on listening R'n B stuff, that might have something to do with my dislike for N H Carnival. tah
21 (almost 22) years of my existence, and every year I've been in the viscinity of the Notting Hill Carnival, so who else but people like me are suitable enough to write about it? The Notting Hill Carnival was originally set up in the late 60's or early 70's as an annual street party to cater for the vast community of black people who resided in Ladbroke Grove and around from places such as the West Indies, to make them feel at home, and this event did give West London a good injection of Carribean spirit, and over time melded into a somewhat universal cultural appreciation experience. The Carnival was unity. 30yrs down the line, including many riots, murders and discontentment (particularly from tired residents) from all but the stern Carnival-goers and tourists, and the Carnival isn't anything to do with what it's about. Almost all the black children born since the 70's are all pure British so the welcoming aspect is gone, and neither is there any excuse for universal elation now that the cold(er) Thatcher years are gone. The party should've stopped in the early 90's, the mid at the most. And so, you still get a cosmetic feel of the initial sparks, but the Carnival is no longer majorly near what it used to be. There were some brilliant 80's carnivals, with their troubles too, and it seems the more successful and commercial it's become, it's no longer become a social event, but a media circus and for fascists to flash their wares at the innocent. Carribean spirit, eh? Why is it then that heavy promotion of Garage/Ibiza music (or whatever is the predominant popular European music of the time) by capitalists like MTV and BBC (who have pulled out this year because of predicted impending, and possibly final doom this year) - and that's all you see on TV, an extension of youth consumer culture - make a buck from it eh? It's hard to hear any good classic stuff these days booming o
ut of the impressive speakers. It's all consumerism and less about feeling. 70's/80's carnivals had important political meanings with harsh entertaining alliance of punk, rap and reggae - no one even talks anymore. It's like going to a school where nothing's to be learned. £4m's being spent on police this year - all because of last year's idiots, and the framework I'm sad to say is because of a Carnival that doesn't have a definition anymore. It's a party, and everybody's welcome; even the racists in their drones. Less has been spent on sponsorship, promotion and setting up, there's talk of moving the event next year to Hyde Park, or even plans to end it entirely. The fact is The Carnival of then is entirely different to the faux plastique fest that exists now, and despite having an admiration for the old events, the modern events are just a waste of time and hassle for the inhabitants such as myself who have deal with pissheads vomitting in our garden, and troublemakers who need to read up the definition of: party. Put simply, I hope this year's Carnival is atleast safe, somewhat fun (I doubt'll it be so much fun from mow), and amicable. The Carnival is a victim of too much success, a shattered and consumerised spirit, and is an empty platform for troublemakers to impose their doom, even without presence - can you enjoy yourself unnervously with 10,000 coppers around; innocent or not? The Carnival needs to be reconsidered, re-evaluated or said goodbye to. It's harsh but true, but the Carnival is not 'the' carnival anymore, particular as it'll seem this year, I'm sad to say.
The Notting Hill Carnival takes over a decent sized chunk of west London each year, on the August Bank Holiday weekend. It's the largest street festival in Europe and I'd tell anyone in London at this time to get themselves down there at least on one of the days. It runs over Monday and Tuesday, around Ladbroke Grove/Portobello Road/Notting Hill. Sunday is the children's day, and tends to be a bit less frenetic than the Monday. The parades with the costumes and the floats are usually mid-afternoon to early evening, but timings seem to be something of a law unto themselves. It is really really easy to lose people here. I've lost the people I went with every year (and receptions on mobile phones is almost impossible.. oh, the joys of text messaging, it was invented for times like these!), but I've learnt a) not to arrange to meet anywhere near the main carnival area (because it is impossible to find people) and b) not to stress too much if you do lose each other, just arrange in advance a contingency plan. The streets are filled with sound systems from all kinds of music and if you find one you like, it's worth hanging around and bopping, rather than always searching for something better! The beer is hideously expensive, so it's worth bringing your own with, and the food sometimes can have adverse effects on your stomach, but on the positive side, it is a really great way to feel the cultural diversity of London and of the UK, which is its great strength. It has moved from a minority festival to a mainstream one. So go along, try and get the policemen dancing.. and you might find yourself on the 9 (or should that be 10) o'clock news!
Notting Hill Carnival is almost entirely about Caribben beats, food and atmosphere, but at one corner of the Carnival, Latin music rules! Last year I went to Carnival for the first time, a truly amazing experience. The incredible crowds, sounds smells, the buzz. All amazing, overwhelming even. I intended to find the salsa street corner and when I eventually arrived, it was worth all the hard work of plowing through the crowd. Latin music was probably meant for sunny streets more than for clubs anyway and it seemed like every salsero in London had the same idea. We danced in the street for hours and when it was all over we went on to a club for more. Somehow the carnival atmosphere, which is great, gave an extra buzz to the salsa too. See you there on Monday then?