When you think of Notting Hill, you think of two things – the film (Notting Hill), and the carnival (Notting Hill Carnival). Indeed, both will make you fall in love with this buzzing west London borough. If you haven’t yet been, now’s the time, because the capital’s gearing up for its most famous party, and we’re all invited!
What to expect
I’ve been every year and it’s great fun. I like to think of it as one big street party.
Last year I went as a voyeur to capture the essence that makes carnival so special. You can see from my collection that it’s impossible not to get swept along with the party atmosphere – can of Red Stripe in one hand, jerk chicken in the other, guaranteed!
This is of course nothing new – the history of Notting Hill carnival dates back to 1964. It has since established itself as a celebration of Caribbean culture and appreciation of London’s diverse population. Being Europe’s largest street festival, expect big (friendly) crowds.
It kicks off on Saturday evening with its steel pan orchestra (head to Emslie Horniman Pleasance Park, Bosworth Road).
Sunday is the big day for families, with a children’s parade from 10am. From reggae to roots, it’s all good vibes with steel drums and colourful floats to entertain. It’s pretty safe but as with all things, keep your wits about you and your belongings.
Monday is the grand finale, otherwise known as the day for true party-goers. Seek out the best sound systems for a line up like no other. This year it includes 4Play (West Row, near Kensal Road Junction) and the Latin Rave Street Jam (318 Portobello Road) for a bit of salsa in the street. Check out the Radio 1 sound system as well, where there’s always fun and great tunes to be had.
Feeling nostalgic? While you’re in the neighbourhood, find your way to 280 Westbourne Park Road to see one of London’s most famous front doors. You will probably recognise it from the film ‘Notting Hill’.
If you’re more of a late-night owl then there’s lots of hidden after parties to seek out. The famous Notting Hill Arts Club is hosting the Labyrinth Carnival after party from 9pm on Sunday night, tickets start from £10.
Be sure to try the Caribbean cuisine, home-made with love. Charge your phone, pack lots of tissues and plasters and stock up on pound coins, because all that Red Stripe has to go somewhere, and since it’s a street party, you’ll be paying locals to use their bathrooms! This is pretty standard and I’ve never had any bad experiences, although I would advise taking a friend with you to any non ‘official’ locations.
Carnival takes place on the streets of W10 and W11. Notting Hill Gate, Westbourne Park and Royal Oak are your nearest tube stations, but expect them to be busier than usual.
I hope I have convinced you that the London Notting Hill Carnival is a cultural celebration worth experiencing. If you have been there before, join the conversation and share your experience with us in the comments section.