It’s time to don the features and crack open the Red Stripe because Notting Hill Carnival 2018 is set to tear up the streets of west London. Here’s your definitive guide…
Notting Hill Carnival 2018
WHAT IS IT?
Notting Hill Carnival is one of the biggest street festivals in the world, celebrated every year on the August bank holiday. The festival as we know it started in 1966, but its antecedent was a ‘Caribbean Carnival’, organised in 1959 by the immigrant community of Trinidad and Tobago, as an inclusive response to fraught race relations at the time. Held over the August Bank Holiday, people line the streets of Notting Hill to enjoy the parades and listen to reggae and salsa music. Notting Hill Carnival is today a cultural institution, and in 2006 Britons voted and crowned it as a ‘national icon’.
WHEN IS IT?
This year, festivities take place from 25-27 August. Saturday evening is the UK National Panorama Steelband Competition, while the main parade, sound systems and parties spread across Sunday and Monday. If you’re planning to take little ones, it’s best to go on the Sunday as this is traditionally family day.
The main parade begins near Westbourne Grove at 9:30am and travels down Great Western Road, before slowly winding its way down Chepstow Road, on to Westbourne Grove and then up Ladbroke Grove. Bear in mind that a number of tube stations will be temporarily shut to avoid congestion. Plan your journey ahead using the TFL route planner.
WHAT TO WEAR
Heels are out. As are sandals, unless you’re fine with a stream of beer between your toes. It’s a long day so comfort is key: opt for trainers. But again, leave the box-fresh number behind. Several hours of unadulterated partying means by the end of the day there is a lot of detritus to contend with, from fried chicken and fag buts to human urine and broken glass. Glitter, feathers and excessively loud clothing are obligatory. This is a festival after all.
Portaloos are dotted about but the queues are long and the toilet paper sparse. So think carefully about that fourth drink. You’ll typically find a couple of enterprising locals charging for the use of their loo, but a personal stash of tissues and sanitizer is advised.
2 million people and blaring sound systems make for a pickpocket’s playground. Take a bag but make it a small one with a zip fastening and keep your wits about you. Bring cash as many of the food and drink stalls are cash-only. You can try a local cashpoint but you may end up spending the best part of the day in a queue.
If you lose someone, you probably won’t find them again. Phone signal is non-existent with so many people in such a confined space. On this note, we advise that you meet up with your friends before you get to the carnival.