Each August, on the final bank holiday weekend of the summer, the eyes of London shift west to take in one of the city’s most vibrant and voracious street carnivals. The Notting Hill Carnival is organized by the area’s vast Caribbean population and is a celebration of their roots and heritage through music, dance, food and general flamboyance. Running since 1964, the carnival is Europe’s biggest street festival, drawing in crowds of over a million spectators to gawp at the flashy costumes and join in the party.
After last year’s tumultuous festival in the aftermath of the London riots, the 2012 carnival is set to return to its former gleeful glory, with performers even brushing up on their dance moves at the official Queen’s Jubilee celebrations at the start of summer. This year’s carnival will take place on Sunday, August 26th and Monday, August 27th and is set to draw in around a million viewers and over 40,000 participants. With twenty miles of dance parades, 40 sound systems placed on route and hundreds of food stalls hawking the best of Caribbean cuisine, it’s sure to be a feast for all the senses.
The world-famous mas (masquerade) parades are set to kick off at 9am on the Sunday (Kid’s day) and continue through Monday (Adult’s day), with prizes dished out for the best costumes and most elaborate floats. Expect streets to be covered with glitter, eye-popping costumes and the rhythmic clanking of steel pans; a wacky mix of sounds (reggae, dub, salsa, soca) seeping out from the street side sound systems and a wave of riotous after parties hitting the area’s bars and pubs come Monday evening.
There’s no excuse for partying on an empty stomach either, with street stalls dishing up a vast array of Caribbean specialties at rock-bottom prices – munch on some jerk chicken, a spicy curry or fried plantain, sip some rum punch or go back to basics with some classic but tasty rice and peas.
Want to get in on the action? Don your brightest garments and follow the masses to the Notting Hill area – the parade typical starts on Great Western road, making its way in a loop around Chepstow Road, Westbourne Grove and Ladbroke grove.
- Zoe Smith