Notting Hill Carnival! Undoubtedly the best time of the year in London. Where else can you listen to different types of music, dance till you ache surrounded by people equally as happy as you, for free? Even the tube ride to Notting Hill Gate is hilarious in itself, with mini raves permitted on London Underground for one day only*
Notting Hill carnival has been going since 1966 over the August bank holiday Sunday and Monday, as an effort to improve race relations in London. For people today, it’s a way to celebrate our Caribbean culture with everyone. Before you object – ignore all the negative media attention given to carnival. Statistically it’s safer than the likes of Glastonbury and Reading festivals, despite receiving far more negative press. I could delve more into the smearing of Notting Hill carnival but that would be a whole new post in itself. Not to mention that it adds a net contribution to London financially. Carnival needs to stay!
Anyway, here is my guide on how to make the best out of Notting Hill carnival:
1) Wear glitter. In abundance. Honestly if you aren’t colourful and jazzy you’ll look out of place.
2) Bring snacks with you. You’ll find the best Caribbean food on offer here, but prepare for long lines, and drinking on an empty stomach isn’t wise….
3) Join a Mas band! Mas is the name for the Carnival bands, you get to wear beautiful costumes and parade VIP style through the streets. Here is a picture of me looking fabulous with Caribbean Sessions, you can usually sign up online and pick your choice of costume!
4) If you don’t want to go all out with a costume, there are t-shirt options instead. You can be part of the band for a cheaper price, and still have all the fun! Some t-shirt bands also get messy with chocolate, paint, oil and powder, like us on Sunday with Chocolate Mas!
5) If you have kids, take them on the Sunday. It’s children’s day, and less crowded than the Monday, reserved for the hardcore revellers.
6) Use the toilet before you leave the house. Portaloos are gross if you’re boujie** like me, and the only alternative that won’t get you arrested is to pay £2 or more to a resident or business to use their slightly better toilets.
7) Find an online guide beforehand so that you know which stages to go to, or which floats to look out for. There is very little mobile reception while you are out there, so better to be prepared in advance.
8) Plan your journey in advance! Many stations are closed and busses are diverted so to avoid stress find out beforehand the best way to get there.
9) Drink rum! Obviously. Rum is the drink of the Caribbean, so might as well get into the spirit…
10) Do your music prep. The floats will play 90% Soca music, so learn about the music and prepare to give your wickedest wine when your song comes up….
11) Bring a portable charger. Your phone will die very quickly when you realise how many great photo opportunities there are!
12) Bring your country flag! Easiest way to make friends, because you’ll have common ground, and plenty of songs require you to wave your flags in the air!
With all that said, I hope you’re ready for next year. It has been a week since I paraded and I’m still recovering. Don’t forget to look up Caribbean Sessions, they can be found at https://www.caribbeansessions.co.uk – I expect to see you playing mas in costume with us next year!
*probably not true. But everyone throws them anyway.
**Bad and boujie. I can’t really explain this very well. Here you go: Explanation