Begun in 1965, the Notting Hill Carnival is the largest street festival in Europe, and the second largest Carnival in the world, bested only by Rio. A wicked place to sample the flavours of the capital during your time studying on English courses in London, the Notting Hill Carnival was originally a time for slaves to mock their masters and scorn the laws with song and dance. Today, that has morphed into an elaborate parade of costumes and music. Held over England’s Bank Holiday, August 26 and 27 of this year, the Carnival is ready to roll, and with millions of people in the city for the Olympics, this year’s event could be the biggest yet. Let’s review some reasons why this is a can’t-miss party, shall we?
The Warm Up
A great way to prepare for two days of Carnival debauchery is to check out the Panorama Steel Drum Competition. Happening on Saturday the 25th in Horniman’s Pleasance Park, the UK’s best men of steel will go head to head for the title. Kick back, relax, and get your reggae groove warmed up for the Carnival.
As an event with roots in Afro-Caribbean culture, one would naturally expect steel drums and reggae, and you won’t be disappointed. Traditional Calypso, Soca and Samba bands march in the parades, and local and international musicians perform on various stages. Additionally, there are more than thirty scheduled sound systems blasting out everything from dub to ska. With so much music packed into two rollicking days, there is a sound for everyone.
Jerk chicken, rice and peas, curried lamb and goat, and fried plantains are just a few of the deliciously tempting dishes you can find at the Notting Hill Carnival. Hundreds of food stalls line the streets with a dizzying amount of tasty delights. Wash all of that spicy goodness down with a rum punch or a Red Stripe and you may just feel like you’re in Jamaica.
I’m sure I’m not the first to say this, but they should call it the Naughty Hill Carnival. There is something inherently sexy about Carnival revelry and with gorgeous women clad in little more than sequins and feathers, it’s easy to see why. While August 26 is Children’s Day and is reserved for family fun, things really heat up the following day. Tribes of dancers shimmy and grind their way through the streets to the rhythm of that infectious Samba beat. Try not to drool… too much.
While the Carnival festivities may be winding down, the after parties are just heating up all around London. Many Notting Hill bars and clubs will simply bring Carnival indoors and keep things grooving until dawn. On both Sunday and Monday nights The Mason’s Arms has an impressive lineup scheduled, featuring The Filthy Dukes, Dub Pistols and Nathan Detroit to name a few. Additionally, The Notting Hill Arts Club has after parties on each night of Carnival, starting with the Disorder and Progress pre-Carnival party and finishing with the Tribe Records Carnival Party on Monday night.
So much to celebrate, so little time. Only two days of Carnival may sound like a tease, but when the dizzying amount of music, dance, food and fun is over and the hedonists go home, it may seem like too much. Until next year, of course.