Notting Hill Carnival


Written by Olivia Patt
Photos and illustrations by Various
21 Sunday 21st August 2011

There were a few weeks of uncertainty in the wake of the riots when cancelling Carnival was considered, with people worried that the event may descend into burny, looty madness. To be honest, I’d be more worried going anywhere near my local J D Sports than I would Carnival this year. The 47 year old London institution dug its heels in and just made a few changes. With increased police presence and an earlier end time of 7pm, likelihood is all will run smoothly. We do, however, have a few handy hints to get you through this year’s extravaganza.

Get there early. With over one million people attending last year, Carnival gets busy. So do buses, trains, the tube and the streets. If you’re getting there after 2pm, your best bet for transport is probably helicopter.

On a similar note, if someone gets lost, don’t try and find them. You won’t find them. Just trust that they will find a friendly, drunk old man with a bottle of whisky. If you are determined to all stick together, tie yourselves together with rope. Otherwise, it’s every man for himself out there.

Don’t drink all the beer in West London and suddenly think you’re an amazing dancer. If you join in with the parade, you are stuck with the parade. Borrowing a headdress and wiggling your way through Notting Hill suddenly seems less of a good idea when you’re 2 miles away from your mates and being stared down by an unimpressed crowd that did not come to see YOU dance.

Rampage stage

Find the safety of more than forty static sound systems, and go and shake a tail feather there. Be it calypso, soca, steel drums, dub, drum and bass, dubstep, grime, hip hop, bashment, there will be something that tickles your fancy. The Aba Shanti-I sound system and the infamous Rampage stage are always worth checking out. Get there early and squeeze in tight. Both the systems are heaving, year in, year out, but for good reason.

It’s 6.45pm, you’re hungry, and you spot one, lonely little food stall, smelling all spicy and delicious, abundant heaps of chicken and rice and peas on display. We’re telling you now, do not eat there. Most people (this is not based on fact) go to Carnival just for the food.  If there is chicken there at the end of the day, it is there for a reason. Probably a gross one. Recommended food curfew is 6pm (again, this is not actually fact. Just years of experience)

One of the best things about Notting Hill Carnival is that the fun isn’t confined to West London. The whole city goes mad, with amazing after parties up the wazoo. Our pick of the bunch? Trouble Vision Carnival Warm Up on the Friday, with Toddla T and for all you 90s kids out there, Shola Ama (we’re excited); The Heatwave at the Urban Nerds Carnival Special on the Saturday, and to top it all off on the Sunday, the ATG and Swamp Party with dubstep heavyweights Loefah, Chef and Coki. Don’t Panic challenge – to make it to all three.

Lastly, enjoy. Embrace it. Accept the fact that you will be pushed, shoved, get lost, break your camera and probably be covered in sticky, sickly beer by the end of the day. It’s all part of the fun. A messy celebration of London’s cultural diversity sounds like the ticket after the difficulty of August. Just don’t be one of those people with a horn.

As the Fresh Prince would say, AIN’T NO THANG BUT A CHICKEN WANG. And some bloody good music.

Notting Hill Carnival takes place on Sunday 28th August and Monday 29th August. Buy tickets for Trouble Vision here, and Urban Nerds here. You can’t buy tickets for ATG and Swamp, so be sure to get yourselves down early.

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