London’s biggest party is back this month. Here’s everything you need to know
Now more than 50 years old, the Notting Hill Carnival returns this Bank Holiday weekend, on August 26, 27 and 28.
Though there was some discussion about the carnival moving following the Grenfell fire, Mayor Sadiq Khan said it would be “a mistake” saying “It was born out of the African-Caribbean immigrant community in North Kensington and Notting Hill in the 1950s, and it’s only right that this remains its home.”
As such, it will stay in its usual home, across W10’s Notting Hill, Ladbroke Grove and Westbourne Park.
When is it?
The festival is free throughout, though of course food and drink will need to be paid for, and most afterparties will charge for entry.
Saturday August 26
Though the main events run on Sunday 27 and Monday 28, things do begin a little earlier, on Saturday evening. Head down to Emslie Horniman Pleasance Park on Bosworth Road, where, from 6pm until 10pm, they’ll be hosting Panorama. It’s a free, family friendly, open-air evening of steel band performances.
Sunday August 27
The next morning, the early risers of Notting Hill will lead Jouvert from 6am. It’s the first parade of the carnival, with steel bands, riddim bands and African drummers. It begins and ends at Canal way in Ladbroke Grove, coming to a halt around 9am. Sunday is known as the family day, and the highlight is the Children’s Parade, bright with costumes, as well as the Sound Systems and steel bands of its bigger sister on Monday. Things begin at 9am and run until around 8.30pm. Over in Powis Square, the World Music Stage boasts calypso and soca performances from the Association of British Calypsonians.
Monday August 28
For the main carnival experience, head over on Monday, which features the main parade and grand finale. Food stands will be sizzling, Sound Systems will be blaring, dancers will be dancing and their costumes will be dazzling. In total, there will be 60 bands strutting their stuff.
The parade itself is 3.5 miles long, and follows the route in the map below, starting off at 9am and running until 8.30pm, though sometimes those in high spirits keep things rolling on later.
There are a number of after-parties, listed here.
As with Sunday, Powis Square will host the World Music Stage.
Elsewhere across the weekend
Don’t miss the 38 static Sound Systems. These are, arguably, the heart and soul of the Carnival, and some have been running almost 40 years. They are where the parties really get going, but you’ll need to get to one before 3pm, when most become intolerably busy. Otherwise, there are 10 steel pan bands ringing out throughout the two days, and 70 stages showcasing various talent from across London.
What to bring
Remember, it’s a carnival: come to have a good time and you most likely will. Still, it gets busy and sweaty, so being at least a little prepared helps.
- Take a bottle of water to stay hydrated: lots of shops shut-up, and those which don’t sell out.
- Pack napkins, hand sanitizer, or both: sticky hands makes for a sour afternoon.
- A jumper, or a hoody: once the sun is done, it can get icy. An alcohol jacket only goes so far.
Food and drink
With more than 300 food stalls, you won’t go hungry. The perception of carnival food being all jerk chicken isn’t exactly true, but isn’t exactly untrue either: five tons of the stuff were shifted last year. Still, if you can, wander around – you’ll find curried goat, rice and peas, fried plantain, spicy Jamaican patties and Caribbean dumplings.
Drinks wise, Red Stripe is naturally the go-to, and after than, rum. Guinness Punch is a must-try: despite the obvious Irish heritage, it’s stuff of carnival legend: Guiness packed full of spice, and sometimes milk, and sometimes rum. Coconut water is hard to beat for refreshment, and there’s a certain novelty to carrying around a coconut with a straw in it.
Avoid driving; many roads will be closed, including: Harrow Road Notting Hill Gate Clarendon Road Queensway Traffic will be slow moving surrounding the area, too. Cycling is a better choice, though not on a Santander bike, as 14 docking stations will be closed around the area. A full list can be found here.
The Underground is set to be the best way to get to the area, though be prepared to walk a little way to get to the Carnival itself as a number of stations will be closed:
- Ladbroke Grove will be closed on Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday
- Latimer Road will be closed after 11.30pm on Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday
- Notting Hill Gate will be exit-only on Sunday and Bank Holiday Monday between 11am and 7pm, and both the Circle and District lines will not stop, meaning it will only be accessible by the Central line
- Westbourne Park will be exit-only between 11am and 6pm, and will close at 11.30pm on Sunday, and will remain closed throughout and Bank Holiday Monday
- Royal Oak will be exit only from 11am on Sunday, and will close at 6pm, and remain closed on Bank Holiday Monday
- Queensway, Bayswater, Holland Park, Warwick Avenue, Paddington, High Street Kensington, Holland Park, Queen’s Park and Shepherd’s Bush are all nearby and within walking distance of the weekend’s events.
Frankly, there’s a lot going on with the buses. For full details, see the TfL website. In short, many bus services will be disrupted and some will terminate earlier, because of the road closures. Still, they will be laying on extra services day and night to to and from the Carnival, but expect them to be crowded.
Services affected are: 6, 7, 16, 18, 23, 27, 28, 31, 36, 46, 52, 70, 94, 98, 148,187, 220, 228, 274, 295, 316, 328, 332, 390, 414, 452, N7, N16, N18, N28, N31 N98 and N207
For more information, visit thelondonnottinghillcarnival.com