My parents used to take me to Notting Hill Carnival when I was child and I remember being mesmerised by the flashing lights of the floats, the electrifying outfits and of course the vigorous dancing. Fast forward 20 years and I was relieved to rediscover that golden feeling from my youth.
Notting Hill Carnival is not only the biggest party in the U.K, it’s the largest in the whole of Europe. This large celebration of diversity is usually on the last weekend of August which is also a bank holiday. There are two separate days, one for families and one for adults.
There are several things for families to do. Those who arrive early on Sunday are able to join the ‘Jouvert’, a lively celebration where performers throw paint, chocolate and flour over each other, accompanied by steel bands, riddim bands and African drummers. This procession marks the beginning of the festival.
The Children Mas Parade is the main event of children's day. It’s filled with people playing an array of different instruments along with children and adults in exotic costumes. The parade was what first caught my attention as a young boy; the extravagant design of luminous colours along with the elegance and grace of the performers captivated me for hours.
Not only is there a celebration of dance, there is a celebration of food with an abundance of wonderful smells provided by hundreds of street vendors supplying hungry festival goers with tantalising snacks and authentic Caribbean food like jerk chicken(Jerk chicken is a Caribbean dish featuring chicken marinated in the famous jerk sauce of Jamaica ) and pattys (a small flat cake of minced or finely chopped food, especially meat).
This year, the carnival celebrating London’s Afro-Caribbean community was not without controversy: an attendee gave birth, a horse died, and a bus shelter gave way after people danced on it. Despite this, most attendees seemed to enjoy themselves and after being cancelled in 2020 and 2021, Notting Carnival 2022 was a huge success.
The only fault I can find with carnival is space, I was nearly trampled due to the huge volume of people. The Carnival had 2,000,000 attendees over the 2 day period and has perhaps outgrown its current location in Notting Hill, Ladbroke Grove and Westbourne Park. There have been discussions about potentially moving the festival to Hyde Park, although some fear that this may takeaway some of the cultural history of the festival originally meant to bring together the multicultural community of Notting Hill.
Notting Hill Carnival has also received backlash from the police; this year there were 209 arrests and 74 officers injured, and this has caused alarm. The chairman of the Met Police Federation said that the event should be moved to a private, open space so the police are no longer responsible for the security. He stated that ‘every Tuesday after the August bank holiday, I have the same conversations about Notting Hill Carnival, I’ve done it year after year after year after year. It’s beyond absurd what’s going on.’
However, according to research by Yahoo news, there were fewer arrests per 100,000 people than the Reading and Leeds festivals, and the 2020 Euros final last year. So it is unclear as to why the chairman would not condemn these events as well.
There was some discourse online before this year’s Carnival about the inclusion of Afrobeats and Amapiano at the Afro-Caribbean festival, with many complaining that the carnival was losing its Caribbean roots. But like many online debates this seemed to be founded on nothing but boredom, at the event itself Caribbeans and people of African descent all rejoiced together when any genre of music was played.
There were also people complaining online that they saw white people holding Caribbean flags and that this was cultural appropriation. I believe that this was not completely thought through as if I went to Carnival and saw thousands of white people holding English flags I would run for my life.
I certainly will be looking forward to next year as this was certainly the highlight of my summer.