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Notting Hill Carnival

Listed under Festivals in London, United Kingdom.

  • Photo of Notting Hill Carnival
  • Photo of Notting Hill Carnival
  • Photo of Notting Hill Carnival
Photo of Notting Hill Carnival
Photo by flickr user fabbio
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The U.K's biggest street party is rooted in the Abolition of Slavery Act of 1833, which prompted the first Caribbean carnival celebrations held in Trinidad. These celebrations were brought to the UK but held in private until after the Notting Hill Riots in the late 1950s. It was then determined that the celebrations should be made public, to share and celebrate cultural diversity. Based on the five disciplines of Caribbean Carnival, the event includes Calypso and Soca music; the playing of steel pan drums; performances at various sound systems, and of course "playing mas" (or masquerade) with the making and parading of flamboyant costumes and floats- it is estimated that over 1 million hours go into the production of Carnival costumes!

The event has always begun with the Panorama, or battle of the steel bands, in Pleasance Park on the Saturday, followed by children's day on Sunday and adult's day on Monday. Sunday is usually more relaxed, with a mellow family vibe, while Monday is often busier with a slightly more aggressive atmosphere- many people in the sleep-deprived crowd will have spent the last three days out partying!

With some 2 million visitors over the course of the weekend, carnival is not advisable for agoraphobics. The crowds can be difficult to navigate, and simply crossing streets or meeting friends can take hours. Ear plugs have becoming increasingly popular as it's easy to get wedged in beside booming speakers, or keen whistle-blowers who shatter your eardrums with tuneless tooting! Also, so much human traffic makes for grim toilet conditions and the squeamish may balk at the porta-loo situation, which usually involves hours of queuing.

Stick with a group and make the most of the party- sip your warm Red Stripe, munch on rice an' peas, and boogie along to the Caribbean rhythms blasting out of every sound-system - as you'll have the rest of the year to recover.

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Written by  Amber Due.

Other expert and press reviews

“Notting Hill Carnival”

By Linsey McNeill for The Observer, First published: July 20, 2008 This is probably one for older children because Europe's largest street festival, which takes place on the last weekend of August every year, can get very crowded. The Sunday (24 August… Read more...

Written by press.

Comments, reviews and questions by other travellers

Notting Hill Carnival

Since the late 1950s, London's Caribbean population has been bringing the message of racial acceptance and understanding to vivid, pulsing life and colour every August bank holiday Monday and today, this celebration of the city's cultural diversity attracts more participants and visitors than any other in London and entirely engulfs Notting Hill in a wave of fabulous costumes, steel bands, soca music and impassioned dance performances, which revolve around the main carnival procession. This is preceded by the daybreak procession in memory of the emancipation of African slaves, and on the Sunday, by the Notting Hill Children's Festival and the costume exhibition.

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