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Survival tips for Notting Hill Carnival

Survival tips for Notting Hill Carnival

By: Christine Reynolds

Check out Christine’s top ten tips for surviving Carnival this year – a veritable behemoth of calypso and chaos.

The Notting Hill Carnival comes but once a year, a behemoth of calypso and chaos. Here is my recipe for satisfaction, aimed at the carnival goer who may not have experienced the colourful rush before. Here I present my top ten tips:

  1. Arrive early. I say this because I have seen the hoot and holler of people rammed like sardines in a can – moving at a pace that may cause discomfort and unease. Arriving, say, before 12noon can give you enough time to find a spot, and relax as the afternoon’s antics unfold.
  2. Safety. It can be jam-packed with people huddled together on the roads or pushing through as they exit the station and so forth. Keep your personal items close, as theft is more common than one would like.
  3. Find a decent shop with a speaker if you can. Last year we found a spot right outside a shop/cafe with a solid speaker hanging from the outside blaring commercial and un-commercial: calypso, reggae, dub, ska, bashment and even a little Afrocentric rhythm.  It created an experience similar to the outdoor venues my dad jammed to in the 60s – when the djs and Rastafarians inhabited the outside space.
  4. People’s Sound System (should be located along All Saints Road, W11 1HH.) The buzz is that this year will have a different feel in memory of Daddy Zego, who lived in Notting Hill and created this stage – but sadly passed away. His son will be taking over. Jamaican at its best: if that’s your poison, look no further.
  5. Mastermind Roadshow (Canal Way, W10 5AA) Tim Westwood, Miss Dynamite, and Soul II Soul have participated and performed with this sound system. They stick to showcasing talent usually of the RnB and Hip Hop genre. So if you are looking for live performances roll up here.
  6. Channel One (usually at Westbourne Park Rd., W11 1HS.) One of the more popular sound shacks with Jah Dread and Ras Kayleb blasting the systems and blazing the bass to the maximum! They are Carnival ‘celebs’ when it comes to their craft so it could get legendary.
  7. If you prefer a more Latin vibe then visit the Latin Rave Street Jam (318 Portobello Rd, W10 5RU]. Latin revival is found here. From the carnival attire to the music, it makes a home for South America.
  8. Experience the food and festive cheer. The dishes at Carnival cannot be beaten. Although sometimes pricey, you can have all the Caribbean/ Jamaican food you require, from fish to rice and peas, patty, dumpling, fried chicken, bakes, delicious homemade coleslaw, authentic drinks and tastes, and a pretty sure guarantee that it will taste good.
  9. Floats. Following the floats and watching the hypnotic Carnival dancing – to calypso and soca, reggae, and more – can be a bona fide enjoyment that you will not forget. Bands and dance groups take to the streets in the most bizarre but culturally significant outfits, which can range from high-end feathers on their backs, to gold, green, yellow, and orange fittings, which for the most part are handmade and creative/ unique. The floats offer their own unique take on Carnival.
  10. Don’t leave too early. It gets better as the day wears on, and if you happen to be sticking around you’ll find some spots still blaring away till god knows when.

Oh, and: the Portaloos are fundamentally nasty, man. If you can, look out for the homes that allow you to enter for a small fee. There’s usually a sign to be found but you have to explore. It’s worth looking around, as the plastic poo holes are a real buzzkill.

Credits: Photography, Nora Julianna Kovacs (Licensed under Creative Commons 2.0).