I’ve only been to Notting Hill Carnival twice.
Although I only grew up about 11 miles away from it, the common perception of Carnival out in yonder suburbs was always much the same as everywhere else us 20 somethings now pay ridiculous sums per month to live in London: i.e. “don’t go there, you’ll get stabbed.”
This is because studies show* that everyone who lives in suburbia spends their evenings watching Sky News and reading the Daily Mail, which is generally how exaggerations get made and bandied around the country.
But the fact is, it’s a brilliant thing, that humongous carnival, and now I’ve been twice, which is officially the time it takes to become an expert on everything – despite my mum’s warning to ‘be careful, there were 90 arrests yesterday’. So on Monday I grabbed a Red Stripe and joined the million other people dancing, squishing, drinking and eating their way around west London.
And because we’ve all read the papers and seen the Met Police having a dance off, here are a few of the other, lesser reported highlights.
1. You get to wee in other people’s houses
Forget portaloos. Got a pound? Step this way to the VIP toilets, my friend: Flat 29, first door on the left, it’s like a big west London-wide game of Through the Keyhole.
2. You can rave everywhere and anywhere
There’s no need to restrict yourself to the space behind the floats or soundsystems – when the Carnival’s in town, the only reason that fence, wall or DHL truck exists is to cater for the rhythmic swaying of your ass. So get up high and shake it. Er, like this (click to play):
3. The kerb is your friend
Sitting on the kerb with a box of takeaway and a drink is usually a sign that you’re too drunk to get into Dalston Superstore, but this isn’t the case at Carnival. Whether you’re hammering back jerk chicken or pausing to sip booze from a glass adorned with feathers that match your splendid headdress, it’s time to reacquaint yourself with the pavement. Just, err mind the broken glass.
4. String vests are actively encouraged
Against the backdrop of west London’s grayest estates, the brighter your clothing the better. Want to wear feathers? A crop top? Nothing but a loin cloth and a string of beads? You do that, my man. This is also the only time you can legitimately borrow a policeman’s hat without getting arrested. Apparently. Rumour has it. Not that I’d know.
5. The residents (mostly) love it. Don’t they?
We were trying to weigh up whether Notting Hill residents love it when the Carnival happens, or if they all get a bit “oh, for gods sake, why are all these people urinating in my porch when there’s a perfectly good loo inside for £1 and also I can’t hear what’s happening on Coronation Street”. If this picture’s anything to go by: I reckon it’s a bit of both.
In conclusion: it didn’t rain, I got to pat a police dog and everyone had a wonderful time.
Take that, Daily Mail.
See you next year, you massive Carnival.