Notting Hill Carnival takes place August bank holiday weekend every year, and has become one of the largest carnivals in Europe.
The event came from humble beginnings, with the main parade being made up of drums and lively dancers in a true celebration of the culture. If you ask anyone that used to go to Notting Hill Carnival15 years ago they will give you a very difference account to what it is now, and they will also say its nowhere near as good as it used to be! I tried to get a picture of the dancers in their fabulous outfits but this was the best I could do; doesn’t she look happy?
Notting Hill Carnival dancer in a fabulous feather costume
When I arrived it was amazing and I couldn’t believe I hadn’t been before, going to Liverpool’s Matthew Street Festival every year instead. But Notting Hill Carnival was something else, with huge crowds and loud music everywhere you went. There were stages everywhere, with different bands and DJ’s playing (the pine-apple stage was my fave). As we walked further around the carnival we followed our noses to an area filled with food stands. They were all boasting the best jerk chicken, rice and peas available, and they weren’t lying either. The food on offer is incredible (if a little over priced) but it is the best jerk chicken I have had in London.
We then started walking back towards the tube station to meet another friend, and this is where I started to have different feelings towards the event. When we crossed the road from the main parade it took us 10 minutes to walk up the road, on the way back it took us over half an hour at least! I tried to get a picture to demonstrate and hope it shows just how busy is got!
Notting Hill Carnival crowds in the early afternoon
Later on walking back this way it was crazy busy! To make it worse (or better, depending on your idea of a fun day out) most people were pretty drunk and/or on drugs. Ok, so I had also had a drink, but not enough; I was grateful for the small amount I had drank but I think you would need to drink a fair bit more to catch up with these people and be able to enjoy it properly. Unfortunately, when there are large crowds, drugs and alcohol you also get fights. I was fortunate enough to get caught in the middle of a particularly brutal one.
I suppose I had a bad experience, I would still go next year, but with different expectations and maybe try stay clear of the main roads, maybe find a quieter stage away from the bigger crowds.
If you don’t really want to drink or get caught up in the crowds get there early, have a look round, eat some awesome jerk chicken and head off before the masses arrive.
If you do want to stay late and enjoy the full day then a sign on one of the outdoor bars sums it up nicely; If you’re not drunk you’re not doing it right!