After the past few months of blazing hot weather, it will no doubt bucket down with torrential rain or start snowing or hailing or something freakish because this weekend is Notting Hill Carnival, which is officially the end of the summer if you live in London.
It’s almost a tradition that everybody gets drenched to the skin, if not by Mother Nature, then by being sprayed with paint, mud, chocolate or some idiot dropping a can of Red Stripe and then opening it all over your back.
The fun starts early on Sunday 26th August (some stalwarts still kick off at dawn with J’ouvert, from the French ‘jour ouvert’ or ‘day open’) and runs on through until Monday 27th August in the evening.
Sunday is officially kid’s carnival day and the crowds are smaller and it tends to be less frantic, if you’re bringing the wee ones. Bank Holiday Monday is when the real madness happens and near on a million revellers descend on Notting Hill.
This year’s ‘Windrush Scandal’ sent out a message that people from the Caribbean weren’t welcome in Britain, whereas every year Carnival sends out the message that everybody is welcome to come and have a good time. This weekend’s a great opportunity to show your support.
Come and celebrate the diversity! Black, white, pink (don’t forget the sun block), blue and purple unite! Wear something skimpy even if you’re not – there’s no room for body shaming here. Jump up, shake what you got, join the road march and follow a float.
Let the booming bass from the sound systems wash over you. Hear steel-pan calypso, soca, reggae, meringue, rumba and zouk naturally cross-fading on the breeze with hip-hop, house, and all the latest dance tunes. Catch a live act on the stage in Horniman’s Pleasance Park or Powis Square.
Bring a whistle, a smile and a positive attitude.
You won’t find Jamie Oliver’s Punchy Jerk Rice on sale, but if you’re looking for authentic Caribbean grub there’s always plenty. Jerk chicken, curry goat, red snapper, salt fish, ackee, callaloo, fried plantain, corn on the cob and sugar cane. All washed down with ice cold beer, rum or Guinness punch, coconut water, mango juice or a can of Ting.
And if someone offers you a ‘wine’, please remember it’s likely to be a hip-displacing dance and not a drink.
Don’t wear open-toed sandals or high heels – best to wear comfortable shoes or trainers as you’ll be doing a lot of walking (and hopefully dancing) through the festive streets. By the end of each day, the gutters will be strewn with empty cans and broken bottles, so tread carefully.
Travel light but carry a few essentials in your backpack: tissues, plasters, wet-wipes, bottles of water, and a carnival map so you can avoid running into blocked off roads. It’s best to travel to a station or tube stop just outside the area and then walk to the party – check the TFL website for details.
Even as the crazy costumes, feather headdresses, float decorations and sound systems come out of storage for two crazy days, it’s time to think about putting away the patio furniture, paddling pool, scuba gear and camping equipment for the winter.
Happy Carnival party people!
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