With Dancing & Revelry For All
There is a reason that two million people show up in W10 every August Bank Holiday weekend: this Sunday marks the 40th anniversary of the Notting Hill Carnival, themed Freedom & Justice, and like all those to come before it, it will be one hell of a celebration.
LondonNet gives you the brief and necessary facts, and leaves you to your own exploring. Read this before you go.
A Somewhat Succinct History:
The Notting Hill Carnival began as an offshoot of London’s black immigrants, namely Trinidadians, who began holding dances near Notting Hill in the 1950’s to raise morale in the midst of racial oppression, unemployment, and high levels of poverty. The dances soon evolved to a steel band hosted street festival and – tahdah! – Notting Hill Carnival was born. Although it has evolved to incorporate today’s technology, musical genres and styles, it still remains a reminder of personal freedom & expression: a rowdy celebration of strength facing adversity. Remember this when you're flailing about.
The carnival revolves around five main disciplines, or roots: Masquerade, Steel band, Calypso, Soca, and Sound Systems, radiating from the central hub at Ladbroke Grove.
Masquerade - recall days of dress-up, and you’re not too far off. Masqueraders are swathed in material, sparkling, draping, wound-up and pasted-on. They dance, shout and parade in the circular Carnival procession.
Steel band - harkening back to the early days of Carnival, the steel bands take to the streets, lacing the procession with Caribbean rhythm.
Calypso - Calypso couples beats with fiery social and political commentary to spark-off the wild side of Carnival.
Soca - the traditional Carnival music; a mix of calypso & soul.
Sound Systems - this is technology’s contribution to carnival – a huge conglomeration of static individual sound stations, where DJ’s toss together hip-hop, reggae, calypso, and whatever else is deemed necessary to collect listeners and intensify the party.
NHC also has three live stages, food stalls, and licensed vendors pushing a diverse assortment of multi-cultural goods, good for simply wandering around and taking it in.
My God – Do Not Drive! Or, How to Get There:
As mentioned, LondonNet (and the rest of London) suggests leaving your car at home. Take your feet, take the tube, take the bus, but also take note of closed tube stops and special bus routes. You can pick up a map at most tube stations, or look here:
Click here for a map of stations and buses near Carnival
Click here to view QuickMap’s extremely fun and exciting map
Notable Notting Hill Features:
Children’s Day – Sunday promotes family togetherness by way of swift beats and crazy costumes. Bring the kiddies for a day of smaller crowds, young bands, and even children’s play areas. Dress them up and get them singing, and perhaps they will be the next world’s youngest Calypsonian.
Sancho Panza – One of the most well-liked and well-known sound systems, Sancho Panza is parked at Middle Row and draws the biggest crowd at the Carnival. “If you've ever met 10,000 people at once, all jumping and screaming and happy at the biggest street party in Europe then you are part of the way there,” notes their website.
Good Times -- Southern Row bears a big name and a break from heavier thuds, a la the smoother sounds of Norman Jay’s Good Times, raining gladness over crowds from the top of the Good Times bus. Here you’ll likely find post-Glastonbury attendees sprawled out and bobbing their heads, but nonetheless having a proper happy Carnival time.
Atypical Fare – Lovers of Jerk unite when food stands piled up around the Carnival offer all that is Caribbean cuisine: sugar cane, Jamaican curry, beans & rice and corn on the cob. Go early and feast quickly, because long lines are sure to happen, and selling-out of the good stuff is a commonplace occurrence.
(Megan M. Retka)