The biggest carnival in the UK, the Notting Hill Carnival is taking place on Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday 25-26 August 2013 and it promises to be a riotous colourful affair as usual. Immerse yourself in the Caribbean-esque atmosphere and dance to the sounds of traditional Calypso music and steel bands. Reggae and soca music feature heavily and sound systems are stationed throughout the area during the festival. The best bet is to head to the sound system that’s playing your favourite beats and party. There is a full list of the Sound Systems on the official site along with locations.
Notting Hill is an über cosmopolitan and trendy area slap bang in the middle of the sophisticated London borough of Kensington and Chelsea. Notting Hill is famous for the film of the same name starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts, the legendary Portobello Road Market and of course the incredible annual street party that is the Notting Hill Carnival!
There are food stalls dotted around Notting Hill selling delicious food such as traditional West Indian cuisine such as jerk chicken and to really get into the Caribbean spirit, try a fresh coconut juice with a shot of rum! The Notting Hill Carnival is a mad party although you can just watch from the sidelines (us Brits are pretty reserved after all!) There will be a colorful float procession to look forward to as well as costumed performers roaming the streets and more.
Don’t feel compelled to compete with the skimpy colourful costumes – you should wear comfortable clothing and footwear as (fingers crossed) it should be hot and humid and you’ll be on your feet all day.
History of the Notting Hill Carnival
A carnival was launched in 1959 in St Pancreas Town Hall following the Notting Hill race riots of 1958. The area in the 1950’s was completely different to today’s posh neighbourhood; in fact, Notting Hill in the 50’s was really quite deprived. The idea then evolved to include inclusive cultural unity and the annual Notting Hill Carnival was born in 1966. It bears similarity to the Trinidad Carnival as the original organisers hailed from the Caribbean isle of Trinidad and Tobago. The central-London event has grown hugely in popularity, while still maintaining its Caribbean flavour.
During the 1960s it was attended by about 500 people, but today draws a million+ revellers from all over the world. On average there will be over 50,000 different performers at the carnival as well as around 40 sound systems playing reggae, dance and chillout music.
What’s on at the Notting Hill Carnival
The Notting Hill Carnival begins officially at 9am on the Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday with the Carnivals Bands. The Saturday before features steel band competitions, the Sunday is designated as Children’s Day and is when prizes are given to kids for their costumes. Monday is considered ‘Adults Day’ and the main parade kicks off at 9am. It starts on the Great Western Road and progresses its way along Chepstow Road, then goes onto Westbourne Grove and ends up going onto Ladbroke Grove. Later during the day the many floats depart the street procession. This is the time that all the Notting Hill Carnival after parties get underway.
Free music and dancing will be provided by the Paraiso School of Samba in the Royal Festival Hall. There will be a Carnival Village that will provide anyone who goes there with BBQ, Steel Bands, bars, Soca and Calypso music. The Gate Picture house will be showing late night screenings of a documentary.
If you plan on attending the Carnival this August you can download a free app to your smartphone to tell you the up to date location of the sound systems as well as the genres of music that will be played and the best route to get to them. The app will also provide information on the carnival routes to find everything from food stalls, bathrooms, medical assistance and more.
The best way to get to the Notting Hill Carnival is on public transport, via the tube and bus network. Extra services will be laid on for the two days. You can also download a map of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea to navigate the streets.
And with the UK long overdue a decent summer (after last years washout) this year’s Carnival is shaping up to be a scorcher!