Imagine a million people running around with no place to go, all united in celebration of….something. So what that the vast majority of them haven’t a clue exactly what they are celebrating? It’s Notting Hill Carnival, baby!
Every year on the last weekend of August, about a million people of every creed, color and nationality descend upon this otherwise quaint neighborhood on the western edge of central London—just to the north of the posh Kensington and Holland Park areas and just east of gritty Shepherd’s Bush. The Carnival originated in the 1960’s as a celebration of West Indian culture, with a heavy dose of Trinidad, Jamaica, St. Lucia and just about every other country in the region. While its origins trace to a time of heavy racial tension in London, it has evolved over the past four decades into a multicultural celebration, with countless blocks of narrow residential streets packed shoulder to shoulder with peaceful party-goers.
While the event is centered around a parade, featuring Caribbean steel bands, dancers with elaborate costumes, radio deejays and the like, most attendees probably never see the parade course. Instead, every few hundred feet there seems to be another party going on, with a new set of speakers blasting reggae, trance, hip hop, and just about anything else that gets people moving.
If you can navigate to some of the food stalls, you can enjoy Jamaican specialties like jerk chicken, plantains, patties and rice & peas, and of course there is Red Stripe—the beer of choice by a longshot—available by the basketful.
Enjoy some of the pictures below from the Carnival, and if it looks appealing to you, book your ticket to London for the last weekend of August. If you’re looking for one of the largest street parties on the planet, with completely free entrance, you won’t be disappointed.