Carnival? In August? In London?

To signify the end of summer, the UK has a bank holiday. Over the last 30 years, a tradition has grown in which the Caribbean community living in Notting Hill (or increasingly, near it as the area has gentrified) put on a big ass street festival. Now, it goes for two days and apparently attracts 2 million people to it. Think of it as an absolutely enormous street party centered on a never-ending parade. This sounded like one of those things you don’t miss if you’re going to spend in London. So Dina and Adrian came up and we went to check it out.

The first day is ‘children’s’ parade. We decided to go to that one because the adult one usually ends in at least a couple of stabbings and shootings. I have no idea why this one was the children’s day, as it consisted of amazing amounts of people drinking a hell of a lot of beer. Allow me to demostrate. This is a view of crowd as we were sauntering off:


Would you bring your kid to that? People did. Anyway, if you look at the picture above, you’ll see some semis. That is the parade. Numerous groups would rent a big truck, load it down with speakers and a DJ and play some cool, loud Caribbean influenced music (mostly of an electronic nature). Behind them would trail people dressed up in various costumes dancing to the music.


But it wasn’t an organized parade in most places. You could meander into the parade route and join in. The parade served as the nucleus of the festivities. Off on the side streets, you had an amazing variety of random things. One minute you’d stumble upon a street filled with food vendors, the next, someone had hauled out their own speakers and were putting on a show. This being Notting Hill, we ran into a couple of streets with people selling things in a street fair kind of setting. It was huge and complex. I felt like, in the 6 hours we were there, we probably scratched a small bit of the surface. It was very impressive.

That said, it also had the seedy underbelly side of it. Like I said, there tends to be some violence. Take millions of people, lots of alcohol and a long long day and, as the sun goes down, bad shit happens. I believe there were 2 or 3 stabbings as well as someone firing a gun in the air. Aside from anything carnival related, the area shuts down. Majorly shuts down. Take this fancy looking store:


That’s not because business has been bad and the owner decided to close shop for good. That’s because the owner boarded the place up for the weekend while the crowds descended 🙂 There were entire streets like this where all the action was replaced by street vendors and the stores that normally were open would shut down and go on holiday. The only places that were open were off-licenses to buy alcohol (and some food places) and they would usually only open enough to hand you beer across the doorway. Very interesting.

Anyway, I feel like my words aren’t quite capturing the whole vibe, but that’s what yer getting. It was a very cool experience.

2 Responses to “Carnival? In August? In London?”

  1. dina Says:

    6 hours?? i don’t believe we were there that long- your hangover would not have allowed!

  2. Ralph Says:

    I think if more Dominicans were represent it would have been a joyous and safe event! 🙂