Why I Bloody Love Notting Hill Carnival

Brace yourselves for the frank alternative guide to The Notting Hill Carnival from a seasoned reveler.
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Brace yourselves for the frank alternative guide to The Notting Hill Carnival from a seasoned reveler.

Bacofoil bikinis, soon to be a high-street hit.

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It’s approaching, the last bastion yet to be ravaged by the London riots, the most vibrant expression of the multicultural crucible that is London, theNotting Hill Carnival!

It’s lazy and frankly redundant to keep discussing how ‘dangerous’ Carnival is… Yes I know “but the gangs will get us,” frankly I think you’ll be hard pressed to find a street party that draws over 1 million people, hundreds of food stalls and over 40 enormous static sound systems that doesn’t have a seedy underside, violent eruptions and general theft of your possessions and peace of mind. If you want to hold hands and sing Kumbaya, go find a Morris dancing competition.

The vibrant beating Soca heart of the Notting Hill Carnival derives, as we all know from Caribbean settlers who took to the streets to celebrate a culture that they left behind in the islands. Since 1964 it’s been the jubilant celebration that breathes life, colour and sound into West London. For me Carnival has always been a must, I’m half St Lucian (my step dad is St Lucian but I will fight you if you say it doesn’t count) and it’s always been an enthralling adventure into music like Dub, Ska, and Dancehall combined with dance that depict the many facets of a vibrant culture that can sometimes be harshly misconstrued. The best advice to give in regards to Carnival is grow with it, if you go to the same sound systems every year and get lost every year and expel urine by the same rhododendron every year then your experience will be sadly bereft of any joy or sense of adventure. Live a little guys, that and read my guide for your alternative Carnival experience.

GO EARLY

If crowds get on your nerves and safety is your main concern then I can’t stress this enough, please go-early... Granted you will sadly be missing out on pre pubescent rudeboys hungrily gyrating and groping you, but it means you get to miss a good majority of the crowds. Further to that, the food queues are considerably lower meaning that you get to aggressively hug the Reggae Reggae Sauce man for photo ops before anyone else, this can only mean good things.

Staying within that same train of thought Sunday, which is officially kids day, is a far friendlier and quieter atmosphere due to the popularity of Monday (Adults day). Unfortunately you won’t see a hoard of nipple tassels and scantily clad women but that’s your fault, you’ve made your paranoid bed, now you must lie in it.

Getting so high you can’t tell you’re grinding a policeman instead of your girlfriend means it’s time to go home.

JOIN A MASS BAND

A mass band also known as a Carnival band is the colourful procession of masqueraders dancing to the sound of their individual sound systems. It’s a travesty to not ever have joined one so I’m encouraging you to remedy that. Paying a sum of £120 is a small price to pay to pretend all the cheering crowds are your adoring fans, or even for the glorious outfit of glittery beads and lets not forget the Rum and food provided in the price. If you’re too shy to don beaded panties and decollete sequined tops then joining the t-shirt troop is probably more for you. For a mere £25 and you can party along with the masqueraders yet still manage to meander through tricky police barricades by emphatically pointing at your t-shirt and shouting “ME VERY IMPORTANT” which grants you the coveted access all areas pass.

HOW TO AVOID CRIME

By all means immerse yourself in the spirit of celebration of the Caribbean culture but, if you’re carrying all your favourite things with you all at once for Carnival, coupled with being incoherent on Red Stripe and weed, then you deserve the abrupt mugging from the “yoof”. Getting so high you can’t tell you’re grinding a policeman instead of your girlfriend means it’s time to go home; it's not a time for you to lose your inhibitions and become trusting in London’s caring spirit, especially at the largest street party in Europe. Be mindful and cautious of yourself, your possessions and those around you.

PRIVATE SOUND SYSTEMS

If you’re still not comforted by the fact that 16,000 Police will be out throughout the course of the bank holiday weekend, then the private sound systems with their own private security to keep all the vagabonds and riff raff out are probably right up your street.

The hardest sound system to get into and the most sought-after is The Major Lazer Red Bull Party, full of the trendy “I work in media trendies” it’s the kind of party you gawp at with a piece of roti hanging from your mouth as air brushed (of course they’re on the list) hipsters glide into the party. Diesel, Wrangler and Adidas are just a few of the brands that are offering the full carnival experience. Food, drink with astounding line ups with acts such as Aloe Blacc, MIA, Santigold, David Rodigan and Lee Scratch Perry; these parties are becoming the most sort after Carnival ticket in town. I woke up at 7 in the morning just so that I could apply for The Red Bull Party tickets at 10:30… they sold out in 30 seconds.

Part of the fun of Carnival is sharing your excruciating urinating stories, the more ludicrous the better.

HOW TO EXPEL URINE AND ENTERTAIN PEOPLE

Part of the fun of Carnival is sharing your excruciating urinating stories, the more ludicrous the better. Stop complaining.

GO SEE A STEEL BAND

Panorama is the Steel Band Competition that is the precursor to carnival, for the last 27 years, it’s been tradition to watch the UK’s best battle it out on the pans on the Saturday before the bank holiday weekend.

PRE AND AFTER PARTIES

With so many venues offering up, a plethora of skilled DJ’s for their carnival parties it’s literally like each of them having a “I have the biggest penis” contest. From Deviation, The Heatwave to Livin’ Proof there are a multitude parties for you to get yourselves involved in for a fraction of the effort and price of carnival.

Carnival doesn’t necessarily mean spend hours at the tube station friendless, beerless and chickenless and frightened of the youth. You don’t have to settle for waiting in vain for your idiotic phone company to allow you to send a text. Carpe Diem, have your liberal moment in the sun by spending the bank holiday weekend grinding with strangers and taking Bill Clinton esque drags from  the ample weed on offer… after all, its carnival!

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