If you’re visiting London at the end of August, pack your glitziest carnival kit, your whistle, tail feathers, and – if you can fit it in — your steel drum and biggest baddest sound system! You may know the name Notting Hill from the soppy Hugh Grant/Julia Roberts rom-com, but to Londoners it conjures up booming Jamaican sound systems, Caribbean steel bands and a bevy of beauties shimmying and samba-ing their way through the streets of North Kensington on the last Sunday in August.
In fact Notting Hill is the biggest street festival in all Europe with over 50,000 participants (and only second in the world to Rio), over 40,000 volunteers, and over one million carnival revellers. As you would expect, all floats and troupes have to register well ahead, so as in any festival of this kind, casual spectators are not allowed to just join in the parade. The good news, though, is that the dancers frequently break ranks and encourage audience participation.
There are also many pre-Carnival and post-Carnival parties along the procession route that you can attend. It’s too early yet to tell you precisely about these but come back to us in August and we’ll let you know then, along with a more detailed timetable of events
Where Is It?
Notting Hill of course! A couple of miles northwest of Hyde Park, so pretty central. In terms of tube stations look on the map for Ladbroke Grove. It’s the center of the action, but Notting Hill Gate, Westbourne Park, and Royal Oak are also good alternatives.
When Is It?
Carnival starts at 9am on Sunday 28 August and 9.30am on Monday 29 August and ends (officially) at 8.30pm both nights, though partying will go on well into the wee hours on Sunday night/Monday morning. Just follow your ears to the nearest reggae, dancehall, Latin, and R&B sounds.
Be comfortable, be safe: Don’t carry expensive items on you, beware pickpockets, drink lots of water, particularly if you’re going to be dancing and whistling (but beware: toilet facilities are at a premium, so also take your own toilet paper out with you!). Know, too, that trouble has often accompanied the carnival after dark so stick to main thoroughfares, which will be well policed on the night.
For more information, visit www.thenottinghillcarnival.com