One of the things I love about the Big Smoke is it’s eclectic mix of people: There are around 300 different languages spoken on the streets of London and you can bump into people from all over the world at every street corner. That’s why this whole Brexit thing feels so silly and weird to me.
For me the biggest celebration of diversity has been the annual Notting Hill Carnival where the Caribbean community celebrates its heritage with dance, drink and (steel) drums… and the rest of London joins in!
Although the roots of the NHC go way back to the 1950’s, the carnival first hit the streets in 1966 as a celebration of cultural unity. Around 1970 the Notting Hill Carnival consisted of just a few music bands and 500 dancing spectators. But things started to get bigger around 1973 with more sponsorship, the recruiting of more steel bands, reggae groups and sound systems and extending the route. Today NHC is Europe’s biggest Street Party with around 2 Million people attending each year and the second biggest carnival just behind Rio! More exciting facts about the carnival here…
This might be why Londoners either love or decidingly avoid the carnival: Because if you can’t brave large crowds pushing you one direction, then maybe this celebration is not for you.
I personally love the NHC. Not only because I believe that the world needs more amazing street parties, but because it’s great to see some sparkles and feathers brightening up grey and brutalist London!
Still, after nearly being pushed onto a Jerk Chicken grill last year by a tidal wave of people trapped in a tight spot I had reservations attending this year. But with the sun out I had to grab my camera and at least take some pictures! Arriving late on the Monday helped me to avoid the busiest areas and I stayed away from the inner circle of the festival in central Notting Hill.
So easy vibes and still loads of sparkles and feathers all around!
Apart from the amazing floats with it’s gorgeous dancers, the sound system culture is one of the biggest draws of the carnival: Legendary sound systems like Aba Shanti, Channel One and Norman Jay’s Good Times draw huge crowds, so trying to have a dance can be of an issue. That’s why I personally prefer to just float around and let the vibe carry me, instead of having a rigid plan. Because NHC can be really chaotic, packed and too much if you don’t go with the flow!
I really must give the utmost respect to all the planners, volunteers and police men and women who still manage to keep the NHC safe and manageable. Big up yourselves!
Seeing all these massive bass bins really makes my fingers itch every time I am at the carnival: It’s surely is every DJs dream to be able to blast tunes on a system connected to these bad bwoys…
The 7PM curfew reminded me that Tuesday unfortunately is excluded from the official Bank Holiday so I managed to be a responsible person and hit the train home to lovely East London. Still the excitement of the carnival kept me buzzing!
So if you just moved to London or plan to visit next year: Grab your whistle, get some face paint on and an ice cold Red Stripe and check out the carnival! Irie?
My official Top 5 tunes I would play at the carnival
1) “Nice Up” – Black Grass
Straight off the Document 3 compilation by Dj Andy Smith, if this tune is not making you shake your hips you might have to lubricate them with a little bit more Wray and Nephew!
2) “Anthem” – Black Rose
A nice reggae infused House banger that builds nice and slowly. But once that chorus hits…
3) “Push Push” – Rockers Hifi
A stone cold classic from 1991. Yes, I am old.
4) “Kitachi In Dub Rmx” – Kitachi
I was always a big fan of the Dope on Plastic compilation series and record label. And I really like Digi Dub too! So this is a nice rowdy track to get the crowd moving…
5) “Original Nuttha” – Shy FX
Certified London anthem from 1995. Plus I used to live in the same apartment block as Shy FX. True story!