Meandering from one heart thumpingly loud sound system to the next, feeling so liberated and free, dancing in the streets like no one cares .. because no one does, the smell of delicious bbq infiltrating your nostrils, the sound of the drums and bands resonating through your body, the colour and spectacle of the incredible costumes of the parade, and seeing the smiles of seriously happy people … it really is an utterly awesome experience.
I used to live on Westbourne Park Road and each year at the end of August, while peering out of our window, we were blessed with the most almighty explosion of colour, music, people and … chicken carcases.
We were totally immersed in the energy and buzz that is the glorious and infamous Notting Hill Carnival and every time, it would fill me with the same butterfly rush in my stomach. There is something about big crowds building and coming together, especially in such happy circumstances, that can overwhelm me with emotion - and this gathering is no exception.
With more than 2 million attendees, Notting Hill carnival promises to be 10 times bigger than Glastonbury, and did you know that even the legendary Pink Floyd played one of their first gigs at the original festival?! Despite reputation, Carnival has a very low crime rate, no more than Sunday Football!
Here are our tips to get you carnival ready…
The tube is still the best way to get to the carnival, although stations will be busy little bees. Make sure you carry some water with you and check which stations are open before travelling on tfl.co.uk. You can also stay super savvy and in the know if you follow @tfltravelalerts on Twitter for live, immediate and reliable updates over the weekend.
- If you are planning to bring the little ones, make sure it’s on Sunday. There will be smaller crowds and kid-friendly floats to create a fun vibe perfect for families.
- If you are a little worried about loosing your little person in the crowds - Get them on a lead for peace of mind.
- The ever important and crucial toilets : With crowded pubs and toilet facilities, this can get a little trying, especially for the ladies. Pubs will be exceptionally busy as well as the toilet facilities provided. Well, bushes are a great option if you can find any ;) and for the more brave and audacious ladies you can always try doing it like the boys…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x3ZdIIHzuYk. But don’t fret, many local residents open up their own toilets to the public for a couple of quid, and I personally think that is well worth the money!
- You won’t go hungry at Notting Hill Carnival, especially if you love a good barbeque! And chicken! There are around 300 food stalls on the streets, which serve five tons of chicken, 30,000 corn cobs and one ton of rice and peas. After the crowds disintegrate you soon realise you are standing in a chicken graveyard .. It’s quite something! There will be so much jerk chicken you may start to cluck … but be warned, regrettably I highly doubt you will find a Free Range option.
- Forget the heels for carnivals sake! You’ll be walking, dancing, jumping, and on your feet all day long … Comfort and flats are definitely the way to go. Along with your colourful groovy funky get-up ;)
- Make yourself recognisable and get something to wave or blow… hahah it is whistle city! It is perhaps the only occasion you do feel rather odd without one! You’ll struggle to get any signal (especially on Monday) so meeting up with lost friends might prove a little tricky.. but there’s nothing wrong with being taken by the crowd .. so enjoy it.
- It’s all about the awesome (and heart thumpingly loud) sound systems so suss out the map and route to avoid disappointment. Each big soundsystem is cut off to become an inaccessible party island by around 4pm...so make sure you get to your favourite one with plenty of time. My favourites are sancho panza and Norman Jay. Absolute AMAZING!!!!
Get your party spirit on: carnival is all about the people, the music, the colour, the food and the attitude - you won’t be able to wipe the smile off your face. Get lost in the awesomeness and Enjoy!