2011 Notting Hill Carnival

“Beating pan and a bongo drum, it’s madness everywhere. Carnival is a true freedom, make a noise or a joyful sound and jump up in the air!” -Destra, Trinidadian Soca Musician

Call it what you want - winding, grinding, dry humping- it’s all the same during Carnival time. Since 1966, Notting Hill Carnival has been Europe’s largest festival of its kind. Towards the end of August, the streets of West London come alive with the sounds and smells of a Caribbean street festival. Jerk chicken, curry goat, dried plantain, Red Stripe beer, and dal poori - all staple foods of the West Indies serving up to 2 million people who flock to the festivities each year.  

Notting Hill Carnival is like a celebration of London’s diverse and multicultural past and present. On one block the Europeans are jamming and slurring over the lyrics to 80’s punk rock hits, while on the next block there is a soca, reggae, and calypso craze. This past weekend I witnessed a vivid spectacle of floats, steel bands, and uplifting beats coming from wobbling speaker stacks. As a soca lover of Trinidadian roots, I was one of millions waving my national flag representing unity of the islands.

Women in dazzling feathers and sequent bras…big girls in spandex. Others wearing nothing but full gear of body paint. Carnival is not for everyone but those who enjoy a laugh, street booze, music, a bit of crowd thrashing will assuredly be in his/her element. 

If you’re ever interested in trying Carnival for yourself, I’d first recommend experiencing the one held in Trinidad & Tobago each year in February. It’s the most significant event on the island’s cultural and tourism calendar.Carnival is also said to have been created in Trinidad and Tobago. When slavery was abolished after the French enslaved the Africans, they created a carnival to celebrate. Some would like to argue that the concept of floats, steel pans, and blazing hot soca was pioneered by the people of Trinidad.. but I’m not the one to be biased…ahem. Carnival in Brazil is good too. -Tnoëly