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Why I Detest The Notting Hill Carnival

by Jo Fuertes-Knight
27 August 2012 25 Comments

Call me crazy, but pissing in pagonias while being force-fed jerk chicken, warm beer and Bob Marley 'riddims' is not my idea of a good time.

If only I was as happy as you love

Aside from thinking I was Black, I was also a precocious teenager, to say the least. So the thought of sneaking out of the house to spend a weekend binge drinking and getting daggered in pum-pum shorts to Beenie Man…without needing ID…was heaven. I remember the excitement piling out of the tube station to follow the sound of the bass that was thumping West London. The smell of chicken and weed wafting in the air, the vibrant Carnival queens and the pick ’n’ mix of music blaring through Portobello made the atmosphere electric.

I don’t know at what point it was for me that ‘electric’ turned into, “I need a wee, my drink is warm, I’ve been groped several times, we’ve been wandering around for three hours without actually doing anything and I still need a wee”. Of course you can’t say any of that out loud because it’s a carnival, how can you not have fun at a carnival? It’s what carnivals are made for. It was fun once but now in the cold hard light of my twenties, I’ve had dumps less anti-climatic than Notting Hill Carnival.

So what’s my beef with London’s glorious celebration of Caribbean culture?



I’ve peed in a sink, on someone’s hydrangeas, hovering above a port-a-loo filled with excrement and bog roll and in a complete strangers house for the princely sum of three quid and a can of Red Stripe. There’s no ‘secluded wee in a corner of a field’ festival option here. Unless you live in the area, resign yourself to the fact that a large portion of Carnival is taken up by needing to pee, finding somewhere you’re willing to have said pee where you won’t contract dysentery and then queueing for that pee.


Oh no, it’s cool, you can totally press your sweaty balls up against my thigh because I understand it is very crowded here. No, you breathing heavily in my face isn’t making me claustrophobic at all.


“But, y’know, we had a good run, it was fun once but now in the cold hard light of my twenties, I’ve had dumps less anti-climatic than Notting Hill Carnival.”


“Gosh, I’m just so liberal and open-minded and Notting Hill Carnival is such a beautiful union of so many cultures! OMG! Rum punch and soca music and jerk chicken and Bob Marley!” It’s OK, you’re not being marked on anything. You don’t have to force yourself to dance awkwardly to homophobic bashment tunes and if the food is not to your taste it doesn’t make you a racist. Calm down, once Tuesday comes around, you can go back to crossing the road from the mumbling Rastafarian man that scares you.



Carnival is great if you like long distance walking and being lost. If TFL can’t handle two days of people flocking west, without their staff having nervous breakdowns during crowd management or their bus drivers giving up completely and bailing out mid journey, to sprawl out on the pavement to have a fag (this was my personal favourite), then imagine how funzies next year’s Olympics are going to be?



Well of course.


Crime? At Notting Hill Carnival? You don’t say. Every bored teenage rudeboy from in and around the city descending on one area of London and yet each year we’re shocked when the minority marr celebrations with mindless criminality. Though I have to admit, 14 year-old me loved the furious texting back and forth of Carnival crime rumours e.g. “OMG SUM1 THRU A GRENADE AT DA POLICE AND DIS ONE GIRL HAS BEEN SHOT IN THE FACE”. The excitement (and realisation that Ladbroke Grove is not Iraq) has since worn off.

Of course, this year, there are fresh wounds to deal with. On one-side are the ‘gangs’ meat-robot Cameron keeps banging on about, marauding the streets, gloriously playing into their hooded stereotype in the name of postcode wars. On the other side, the psychopathic fury of the Met police, trying to repress their glee at the opportunity to be unnecessarily heavy-handed. The testosterone heavy cloud of both sides spoiling for a fight, sphincters clenched at the inevitably of something kicking off, hangs over the weekend. So it would be nice if an event that is supposed to be a celebration of one of the most influential cultures in London, wasn’t tainted by becoming a call to arms, every…single…year…without fail.

On that note Notting Hill Carnival, thanks but no thanks. I’ll instead be having my own private carnival this weekend, in my front garden with a childrens paddling pool and some ready-made pina-colada.

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image descriptionCOMMENTS

domestosgoddess 4:05 pm, 4-Sep-2010

Oh darling, you'll get to feel this away about so many things as you age. My perfect activity now is dead-heading in the garden with a cherry cake in the oven. I often wonder what happened to my inner wild child.

David L 10:56 pm, 25-Aug-2011

10,000 coppers, half of London spoiling for a fight, and Cameron's off on his hols again. What could possibly go wrong?

Dan 11:40 pm, 25-Aug-2011

You need to come Trini

John DOA 7:49 am, 26-Aug-2011

The only reason white people are polite at the carnival is because of the PC brigade that has made it impossible for us to say anything derogatory about non whites. While standing around are countless black people and asians calling each other nigger or paki, if those wordes are uttered by whites then your an instant racist. It is all too easy to be branded by ethnics but the application of double standars is unbelievable. I challenged one guy at an anti racism demo who had a hat on that said "Niggers with Attitude" and asked him if he thought it was hypocritical to be wearing it at the demo. His reply, "Fuck off you white blood clot cunt before I stab you". I reported this to an asian copper not far from me. His reply. "Thats not racist, stop wasting my time". Welcome to modern England everyone. Plus, the Notting Hill Carnival is fine in principal, but the reality is that it is just an excuse for councils to waste money on an event that has long lost its appeal.

Daisy 8:24 am, 26-Aug-2011

Oh my god yes! Just saying the word 'carnival' makes me desperate for a wee.

Tom 11:38 am, 26-Aug-2011

John DOA - you missed the turning for the Edinburgh Fringe. You are an arch satirist, yes...?

Flo 1:13 pm, 26-Aug-2011

Was at the carnival last year (and years before) and found the atmosphere growing rubbisher and rubbisher, way too much attitude from all parts (forget the race thing), I felt the atmosphere was of a fight waiting to happen. Overpriced booze, mediocre music and DJs... sod that, I aint going anymore.

David Lonergan 1:16 pm, 26-Aug-2011

If we always concentrated on what makes things shit then we wouldn't get out much at all for fear of a lack of piss stops etc. I went for the 1st time 6 years ago, never wanted to go cos i thought i would either get knifed or used as a drugs mule but i man'd up and went and have returned every year since. The King Tubby & Jah Observer sound stages playing some of the most outstanding dub i have ever heard and keeps the whole Island Records vibe alive and well, which i think is important, it is such an epic slice of music history. Yeah there are some polite white people getting DOWN with the culture but thats hardly a reason to not like something cos those guys will be dickheads wherever they go ... its not event specific. And for every year that i have gone its rained about 2 times ... hardly enough to register against all the good vibes (SEE! im SO into it). In all my years the worst bit of trouble i saw was little feisty man dems squaring up to each other outside some drum'n'bass ting .. but you get that many people together ANYWHERE in the world and there is bound to scuffles = PEOPLE ARE DIX! Admittedly my view is skewed as my experiences have only been good (slightly jealous about the groping) and so carnival is something i genuinely relish but what i do find frustrating is when asking people "You gwoanin carnival?". Them "No". Me "Why?" Them "Dunno". Me "You been before?". Them "No .. never". And thats sad, one thing that London does brilliantly is tolerance but we need to get acceptance and understanding into that too and i think events like this GENUINELY pave a way for people to experience a slice of culture they normally couldn't access as easily. Oh and its awesome walking next to a copper smoking a carrot saying stuff like "I man an i on a nice up .. mek we mash IT UP!!!".

pollmeister 2:14 pm, 26-Aug-2011

I dunno why but I hate it when people call it just "carnival" and not THE Carnival. Arghhh.

Lia 11:05 pm, 26-Aug-2011

I thought I was the only person in the world who didn't have a good time at the Notting Hill Carnival... oh the relief... (great piece JFK).

frontwheel 2 9:27 pm, 27-Aug-2011

The place is full of cunts, all year round

Andy A 1:57 pm, 30-Aug-2011

Carnival is great. If you don't like it that's fine but don't waste your time writing pointless, boring and negative articles. You get me blud.

Herc 12:52 pm, 31-Aug-2011

Andy A - NO, i don't get you, you stupid cunt - now fuck off TWAT!

Ally 4:57 pm, 2-Sep-2011

Sorry but Carniaval is shite, I cannot for the life of me understand what people get out of watching mostly disinterested folk in too tight, ill fitting costumes slowly walking past looking totally disengauged and dancing VERY badly. They should judt let Norman Jay play out and be done with it!

Nick 11:40 am, 27-Aug-2012

I had exactly the same experience

Oliver 11:59 am, 27-Aug-2012

Firstly, if you've not realised that you don't drink beer/cider at Carnival because of the queuing for the bogs thing, then you fail a really basic spirits based intelligence test. Sorry. There about 2-300 arrests each year. Considering that about a million people go, that's a fairly low rate of crime. You do the maths. I would write more, but I've got to leave for Carnival now....

Andy Southgate 5:49 pm, 27-Aug-2012

Piss poor stuff.

lee 3:24 am, 28-Aug-2012

Carnival not so bad, if you like that sort of thing, try living here. One can take the noise of Carnival Goers, but do the Feds really have to have their sirens on at 3am?

Nick 12:31 pm, 28-Aug-2012

The feds? Is Notting Hill in America now?

Zaza 10:38 pm, 29-Aug-2012

Don't feel any 'non-black' liberal guilt about not going; I'm black and can't be arsed anymore.Same happened with me. Used to love going as a child (Leeds Carnival) but when you been practically every year by your early twenties, the childlike wonder of gazing at bright colours and hearing tropical sounds has evaporated into a mist of eating half-cold chicken whilst staring at people inappropriately dressed in the rain. The solution to this as with many things the older we get, is to either not go at all, or go delightfully pissed. Gave it a complete miss this year as it was pissing it down and utterly miserable all day, fuck that.

sistah afroe 11:31 am, 4-Sep-2012

I have never really liked carnival I went once to notting hill and once to reading and that was enough. I am still under 30 and feel that the politics of the carnival is missing and for me has been missing since the late 80s. I feel as a young nubian woman, the history and passion and purpose that went into creating this event has been undermined and eviscerated. I don't think Claudia Jones would be happy to see what has happened to the carnival or the people. I do not feel empowered by this event, it is a spectacle without any redeeming focus. Gay pride at least reminds you why you are there, keeping an eye on the purpose, letting people know about whats going on i.e campaigns etc. Where is that element about unity and how fair we've come and how much more is to be done and about how we value the diversity of the capital and aim to continue work towards a more united nation (excuse the pun) How long do you think it can survive as it is now, we have a new generation of political, and educated uni and non young people who would love to be involved but they excluded by the overt vulgarity and pointlessness of it in it current form. This is my opinion at present.

Rich 6:10 pm, 26-Aug-2013

I have never been to the notting hill carnival and i'm a black male, it's never been something i desired to do, i'm quiet and introverted, i hate crowds i could never be around it all for too long without wanting to retreat also it's way too loud for me, but my biggest problem with it all is the shit put on display for the whole world to see, every year their is trouble and it is always us. No thank you, i'll just do my own thing as usual.

Soph 7:20 pm, 26-Aug-2013

Yeah sistah afroe..!!! I went today for the first time and just felt there was only this manic get-out-of-our-heads energy. The stench of vomit mixed with weed. Girls lying on the ground, people passed out in doorways, way too loud agressive sounding music on every corner. I felt claustrophobic - it was a sensory overload, and not in a good way. Just an adrenaline-fueled excuse to act like a dickhead.

Lo 8:47 pm, 26-Aug-2013

Just got back from the carnival 2013. I had always wanted to go and I finally got the chance this year, lets just say I am pretty disappointed. The music selection was poor and the atmosphere feels like a fights about to break out. The dancers looked completely disinterested and lacked enthusiasm in their ill fitting costumes... I think that maybe the carnival used to be great but these days it's mostly just a bunch of underaged teens smoking weed and drinking in the street.

Jimmy Balantyne 8:54 am, 1-Mar-2014

There was a time when being white at 'The' Carnival was electric. Being the only white face in the Mangrove in 74/5... In all honesty, took some front. It wasn't the riots that fucked it but the gradual homogenisation we've all been chivvied into over the years. "Jah Jah Sir Sufferer!"

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