So, August last year I and a couple of friends decided to attend The Notting Hill Carnival for the first time. In case you do not know the Notting Hill Carnival is an annual event celebrated by the Afro-Carribean communities in the UK. The carnival started after the abolition of slavery around 1964. Before then, Afro-Carribeans were not allowed to hold any carnivals even though they came from a culture of carnivals . To celebrate their newly acquired freedom they had carnivals where they mimicked their slave masters by dressing up in costumes that looked like their outfits.
Fast forward 51 years and the carnival is set to hold on Monday August 31, 2015. Let me share a summary of my experience quickly before giving you tips if you still decide to attend.
We went on Family Day thinking that day must be a calm nice day to watch the carnival, boy were we wrong! I took the tube to Notting Hill Gate, got out and could not breathe. The station and the streets were packed with people and we were all squashed together. On exiting the station the police presence was heavy and as I pulled out my phone to try to reach my friend an officer approached me and asked that I keep my phone in my bag as there were a lot of phone snatchers around…at this point I sort of knew I had made a terrible mistake.
Found my friends and we started our adventure, we saw some floats but most of what we saw that day was grown ups taking a day off from being responsible! It was a lot of drunk people, a lot of unattractive dirty dancing, people in clothes 2 times below their size, too many people with no direction whatsoever which made it incredibly difficult to locate the floats we wanted to see.
What we expected to see was beautiful, elegant costumes, fun choreography, amazing music and other things you would imagine would be on display at Europe’s Biggest Carnival. We were very disappointed; there was drunk people everywhere falling over, pissing in the street, vomit on the road, broken bottles, filth everywhere and no clear divide between members of the float and spectators like us.
We left the carnival wondering if this is how it is done in the Caribbean? Has anyone attended Notting Hill and a Carnival in the Carribbean? Can you share your experience? If you have also had a different experience of the Notting Hill Carnival please share in the comments section, may be we were one of the unlucky ones..
Well then, here are my Survival Tips if you are attending it this year…I’m no expert so feel free to share more in the comment section
Make sure you hold water/drinks and snacks in your bag. There were some corner shops open but difficult to locate.
Plan your journey: Not just to the carnival but through it. We got lost and most of the tube stations around the carnival were locked!, There were no taxis, we walked for three hours plus away from the carnival area before we found an open tube.
If possible find a friend who lives around Notting Hill and watch from their terrace or by the window. This is the best way to see the carnival. It really is not worth all the stress.
If not then go early, find the area for the float you are interested in and stay there till you are ready to leave.
There are no decent toilets! Some locals decided to charge a fee to use their toilets. Needless to say it was pricey… Make sure you Go before you go 😉
Leave the carnival early. We left in the evening and most of the people there were completely shit-faced! Perfect recipe for fights.
Do not go alone.
Leave your precious belongings back home. Many quick fingers out there.
Lower your expectations & Make the best of your experience…haha!
Here a is a very short video from my experience last year… As a heads up for what to expect this year, You might actually get a better experience than we did…Try to share it on here if you have been..x