Are you ready for music, colour, crowds, food and fun this weekend? Well you’re in luck, it is time for the Notting Hill Carnival. Europe’s largest street festival winds its way through the streets of Notting Hill in west London this bank holiday weekend.
More than 300 stalls will line the streets with the majority selling delicious authentic Caribbean food. The Caribbean is an extremely diverse region with an eclectic cuisine built on many influences, including French, Spanish, Dutch, British and African. Everything from jerk chicken and curried goat to roti and fried fish, rice & peas will be available. Last year more than five tonnes of jerk chicken, 30,000 corn cobs and 5 million hot and cold drinks were consumed during the bank holiday weekend!
But what most people come to see is the parades and music.
Sunday is Children’s Day while Bank Holiday Monday sees the main parade with all its colour. Split into five artistic arenas, there is definitely something for everybody at the Notting Hill Carnival.
The Mas (masquerade) bands are what provides the carnival with its colour as vibrant costumes bands parade along the carnival route.
The Steel pans or ‘pan’ are crafted from oil drums and Caribbean performers used steel pans as a link to their African past. Performed as a collective, a steel band can emulate the sound of a symphony orchestra.
Calypso music is recognised as the first music of the Caribbean. This art form is used to sing about topical subjects and comment about major events. And finally there are the static and mobile sound systems which consist of groups of DJs located at various points throughout the carnival route, playing the lively music that keeps everyone dancing throughout the festival.
The first carnival took place in 1964, encouraging people, both black and white, to go into the streets and express themselves socially as well as artistically.
“The key focus of this year’s Notting Hill Carnival will be on artistic excellence,” says Ancil Barclay, Director, London Notting Hill Carnival.
While Clarie Salandy, Mahogony designer and bandleader, says that her inspiration this year was to: “celebrate the world… the way that different cultures represent nature. Like the wind represented through celtic art, water represented through Japanese art and of course the Caribbean is represented through the whole carnival.”
The carnival starts at 9am both Sunday and Monday and is free but with over a million revellers expected, it can get very busy. Children’s day is a little quieter so that the whole family can enjoy shortened parade and less partying.
If you need to chill out, head for World Music Stage at Powis Square or the big stage at Horniman’s Pleasance and sit on the grass and listen to international artists.
As many of the streets are closed to traffic for the carnival, it is easiest to go there by public transport. But be aware that not all the tube stations are open as normal. Here are the changes to the stations around the carnival:
Ladbroke Grove – Closed
Latimer Road – Closes at 11.30pm
Notting Hill Gate – Exit only from 11am – 6pm.
Royal Oak – Exit only from 11am – 6pm. Closed after 6pm.
Westbourne Park – Exit only from 11am – 6pm. Closes at 11.30pm