The Notting Hill Carnival has been taking place in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea every summer since 1966 and has evolved into one of the world’s largest street festivals. It’s led by the British West Indian community as a vibrant way of celebrating their cultural roots through music, dance and enticing Caribbean cuisine.
While you might more commonly associate carnivals with the streets of Rio de Janeiro or the island of Haiti, there were carnival-like festivities taking place at London’s Bartholomew Fair way back in the 18th century. Masquerade performers and jugglers rubbed shoulders with excessive drinkers and those who used the opportunity to express their grievances against the authorities. Understandably, the celebration was banned in the mid-19th century for encouraging debauchery and public disorder.
Thankfully, the Notting Hill Carnival is much more of a family affair, with the focus on flamboyant costumes, infectious rhythms and cultural celebration. In 2018 it’s taking place over three days from August 26-28, with the London Calypso Tent showcasing musical performances, poetry readings and storytelling events in Notting Hills’ Carnival Village.
There’s a free, open-air evening of Caribbean-inspired music in Emslie Horniman Pleasance Park on the opening night, with the national steel band competition a highlight. This is followed by a family-friendly parade on the 27th August as children take to the streets to dance, accompanied by mobile sound systems and live musicians. There’s a range of workshops held throughout the day and plenty of Caribbean food to try, as well as performances by internationally-renowned Calypsonians and soca musicians.
But it’s the main parade event on Monday 28th August that will undoubtedly attract the biggest crowds, with a sea of colour and movement as around 60 different groups make their way through the streets of Notting Hill. After experiencing this feast for the senses and dancing to the pulsating rhythms of steel bands, riddim bands and African drummers, you can spend time being entertained at the static sound systems where a diverse range of musical genres will be represented.
Ready to party Caribbean-style? Check out our range of unique places to stay in and around Notting Hill to celebrate London’s cultural diversity.