The Notting Hill Carnival Is for EverybodyArticle by: Aspen Glen-Cross
Mon September 07, 2015 | 00:00 AM
When you first leave your house and hop onto the tube, it still feels like any other day. A smattering of people are dispersed throughout the carriage. Nothing strange is going on. The train gathers momentum. Stop after stop, people begin to join you as the city gravitates towards West London, and it turns out they're all going to the same place.
The thing you have to understand is that Notting Hill Carnival isn't a ticketed festival that you enter through a gate. It's for everybody. The festival immerses the entirety of London.
You exit the station and hear a faint, booming bass in the distance. You drop into step with the hordes of people heading in the same direction, towards the music like flies to flame. Smoke distorts the hazy streets. As you draw closer, the music intensifies and the crowd thickens. Then in a flurry of colour, dancing, and music, you hit the parade. Welcome to Notting Hill Carnival.
Notting Hill Carnival is actually the largest street festival in Europe and began as a way for Afro-Caribbean communities to celebrate their cultures and traditions. Today, this premise still holds true. However, it has developed into a yearly August Bank Holiday weekend party tradition that attracts all kinds of people. Sunday is the more family-oriented affair, while Monday is where the festival really gets its game on.
The parade itself follows a circular route and is chock-full of steel drumming, beautiful costumes and massive sound systems blaring from the backs of trucks. The real party lies at the smaller, intricate stages. Most of the people head for the Channel 1 Main Stage, where dancing is conducted in merely a small shuffle. But if you're smart and twist and turn through the busy streets, you'll find small shacks with gigantic speakers blasting out reggae, drum n' bass, dub, calypso, soca, funk, jungle, dub step, and ska.
It's this wandering adventure where you really experience Notting Hill. You'll see elderly Jamaican man chugging a bottles of wine, couples watching from the balcony with cocktails, twerking ladies with exquisite wigs, dancing police men, and our personal favourite, the intense drum n' bass outside the boarded up The Red Lemon pub, where everyone gets down and dirty and beer is sold out of a wheeled shopping trolley.
The vibe is amazing. Everyone is so jolly, expressive, and upbeat. Everything is so vibrant in a flurry of dancing and colour. You boogie until your feet are sore, shout until your throat runs dry and skip, leap and jump towards the sky. Everyone tells each other how beautiful they are and you make new friends every ten minutes.
At 7 pm the music ceases, the sound systems are shut down and the parade-goers start heading home. However, this isn't close to the end of the party. Just when you think it's all over, the traveling trucks begin to exude a wave of sound in an amazing second round of music. Following the parade home, you're exposed to a variety of genres as the street party continues into the night.
When the time finally comes for the music to conclude, you head with the crowds back to the underground. But this time you don't fall in step with the person next to you. You frolic with a spring in your step, still jamming from the day. But home calls and you feel safe wandering the streets guarded by mounted police.
Goodbye Notting Hill, until next year!