The final bank holiday weekend of the summer can mean only one thing in London… it’s carnival time! So don the feathers, loosen those hips, and grab that whistle to enjoy two days of West-Indian style partying in the heart of West London’s Ladbroke Grove. Yes, we know it’s crowded and challenging to get to if you’re not in that neck of the woods, but Notting Hill Carnival is THE essential bank holiday activity in the capital – and once you’re there with the throngs of people drinking a can of Red Stripe and a portion of jerk chicken, the trauma of arriving will be a distant memory, guaranteed!
The carnival weekend, running over two days, is dominated by the carnival parade, 40 sound systems and BBQs serving up charred delights. The two day event runs over Sunday – ‘Family Day’- and Monday, a more adult affair, although the fun happens throughout both. As always the parade is a fiesta of colour and dancing. Sound systems old and new to look out for this year include:
Buy food from the family BBQ at the side of the road and beers from anyone passing with a shopping trolley full. Although the largest street party in Europe, people have worked hard to keep carnival a local, community affair – so let’s try and keep it that way. (Words: Laura Thornley)
Check out our photogallery of Notting Hill Carnival 2011, just here…
Here’s a few tips to ensure you have a wonderful and safe time if you’re heading to the carnival over the Bank Holiday:
1) Travel light - it gets extremely crowded along the various roads at carnival and it’s easy for pickpockets to have a field day. Keep bags zipped up and as close to your body as possible; avoid backpacks.
2) Carry cash – it’s rare to find a cash machine (or anyone who’ll take cards!) so it’s best to be prepared.
3) Wear comfortable shoes - you WILL do alot of walking.
4) Bring your own snacks and drinks – there’s no rule that says you can’t
5) Expect to pay up to £2 to use a toilet.
6) Carry tissues and spare loo roll as it’s likely most places will run out quickly.
7) Catch the procession if you can, then find a decent soundsystem and spend the day there (this year we recommend King Tubby, Latin Rave Street Jam and Music is Sound-system); as mentioned, it gets ridiculously crowded (especially along the procession route), so once you’ve got your snaps of costumed revellers, chill out at one of the many soundsystems – click here to see a map of where you can find them.
8) Watch what you eat. You’ll pay up to a tenner for a meal and a drink (but snacks like donuts and ‘festivals’ (fried dumplings) aren’t really marked up and can be a good filler if you don’t want to spend £20 on lunch and dinner throughout the day). Also, if you’re going for jerk chicken, make sure it’s cooked thoroughly.
9) Head to Ladbroke Grove to catch the “real” carnival. Tourists rarely make it beyond the Westway, but if you do, expect to experience a more community-vibe on the route to Kensal Road (and cheaper jerk chicken!).
10) Don’t forget your whistle or horn. You can buy them at the carnival, but it’ll cost you plenty.
11) Get to Westbourne Park station earlier than later when you’re leaving. Unfortunately, this is the station near the “backend” of the carnival – but there’s a terrible bottleneck which is being manned by police and it’ll take you ages to get through. If you’re leaving late, it’s worth walking back to Notting Hill Gate/Ladbroke Grove.
For more info, visit www.thenottinghillcarnival.com