Somewhere you should go… Notting Hill Carnival 2012

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!

Notting Hill Carnival

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:

  • The Flavour Magazine soundstage – featuring tunes from the late great Bob Marley and special guest performers (Westbourne Park station –  Tavistock Road and junction with Lemington Spa Villas) 
  • KCC and the Rocking Crew – for the latest US house offerings (Wornington Rd) 
  • Channel One for some deep rockers reggae (Junction of Westbourne Park Rd and Leamington Villas Rd) 
  • Gaz’s Rockin Blues (a stalwart since the 70s) for ska, rock and punk (Outside 103 Talbot Rd)
  • Sancho Panza if you fancy funky house and disco (Corner of Kensal Rd and Alderson St) 
  • The Fun Bunch – in honour of the late DJ Swing, expect some quality R&B, hip-hop, boogie and garage (Junction of Talbot Rd and Sutherland Place)
  • Norman Jay’s Good Times – It returns this year, promising exactly what it says on the tin (West Row off Kensal Road
  • Latin Rave Street Jam – always fun to get those salsa moves down with random strangers! (Outside 318 Portobello Rd) (Full list of Soundsystems can be found here…)
Notting Hill Carnival

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

Carnival Tips

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.

If you have any more tips, feel free to share them via Twitter or on our Facebook page – otherwise, have a good one! 

For more info, visit

Notting Hill Carnival

Somewhere You Should Go… Mela

One of my favourite things about London in the summer is all the festivals that spring up.  Come rain or shine, Londoners love nothing more than getting outside to hear some great music and eat some delicious food whether we’re in our wellies or flip flops.

So one of the last fests worth checking out this summer is Mela – a celebration of South Asian culture combining traditional artists and up and coming talent with a line-up of classical music, British Asian urban artists, dance, comedy and cabaret, Asian-influenced street theatre, circus performances and more.

Now celebrating its 10th anniversary, Mela  promises to be better than ever with its vibrant carnival winding its way through the park led by show stopping sculptures and featuring the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Bollywood Brass Band and BBC Asian network DJs – and with great weather expected this Sunday, it looks like this is a definite for this weekend’s to-do list!

Mela takes place on Sunday, August 19th at Gunnersbury Park from 1pm- 9pm. For more info, visit

Somewhere you should go… Latino Festival by Carnaval Del Pueblo

Samba dancing, extravagant outfits, pulsating Latin beats and millions of ecstatic revellers. Yes, we’re talking about Rio de Janeiro’s famous ‘Carnaval’ – the infamously spectacular celebration of Brazilian culture that draws partygoers to Rio annually from across the globe.

But perhaps you couldn’t afford the plane ticket this time round.

Latino Festival

That’s ok. It’s a little known secret that every year, Latin America’s penchant for flamboyant festivity arrives to London in the form of the Carnaval Del Pueblo. Renamed Latino Festival this year (following the closure of its previous venue London Pleasure Garden), it will now be taking place at The Coronet Theater in Elephant & Castle on August 18th.

The event has been a feature of London cultural life for over a decade, featuring samba, merengue and capoeira rhythms, as well as music and dance from Brazil, Mexico, Cuba, Ecuador and the Oru Carnaval in Bolivia. Not to mention dazzlingly colourful costumes and dance lessons. Though smaller than unusual, Saturday’s event  will include a colourful programme of performances to keep the Carnaval Del Pueblo legacy going strong for another year, running all day from 12-8pm. ‘Que legal!’ (How nice.)

Entry is £3, but for more info visit