Shananigans at Notting Hill Carnival 2011

As is traditional, I attended the Notting Hill carnival again this year. Also, as is tradition I didn’t organise myself to go until the night before when I texted Mr Tom, who is usually game for such revelry and he replied yes so I was most pleased. Since he borrowed my photos of the event, I am stealing his historical information on the carnival.

The Carnival has been running since 1959, and since then has grown to be one of London’s greatest excuses to let its collective hair down. Initially started in response to racial tensions in the area, it is now a celebration of Caribbean culture in the city and, indeed, of the city’s multi-culturalism in general. I did not steal any of that from a press release. This year, it enjoyed over a million attendants, of whom Mr Tom and I were 2.

We decided to meet up at Notting Hill Gate as I live just a little to the West and Tom lives in the South and since all the transport to the event was very difficult to navigate due to station closures and altered bus routes, that seemed like the ideal place.

As we walked towards the carnival I was struck how so many of the houses and shops were boarded up. This is not usually the case at the carnival as usually everyone is usually trying to make money from the drunk and stoned crowd so it gave this feeling of foreboding. Was there going to be some serious trouble following the riots? To be honest I didn’t care, but it was still rather eerie.

Stalls started to get denser and I found the thing I was craving: a face-painting stall!!! So I went and got fairy wings painted on the sides of my eyes and was pleased as punch.

The drinking started with a rum filled coconut for each which, combined with the music and crowds of merry carnival-goers raised the mood considerably. That’s probably the most interesting fun thing about the carnival; you can drink on the street all day (and night) without getting into any trouble, makes getting trolleyd rather cheap and all too easy.

By the time we got to the parade route, I was definitely in the mood to party most hearty. Now I see what Polly Thomas meant in her essay, ‘Growing Up With Carnival’ (published in Miranda Davies and Sarah Anderson’s Inside Notting Hill):

“I’ve never been able to understand those joyless souls who don’t love Carnival, who refuse to get impossibly excited about the prospect of sharing their streets with some two million revellers intent on sticking two fingers up to the norm for a couple of days and letting it all hang out in public.”

Indeed so.

I was very snap-happy, in my photographic element, trying to capture the beauty of the costumes and the mood of the whole affair.

We strode along the route for some way towards Ladbroke Grove, enjoying the wind-baiting costumes and awesome Caribbean music, although that ‘Trini and Tobago’ song got a bit tedious the eighteenth time. An awful lot of people, us included, wound up smeared in chocolate (yes, it was definitely chocolate). Even the odd shower of rain could not dampen the mood, although I have to say the presence of baton-carrying police was slightly sinister. Mr Tom and I opined that the event would be improved if they started breakdancing.

Lunch consisted of curry goat, plantain and rice and beans, because why the hell not? We were most pleased to bump into Mr Levi Roots, a saucy fellow indeed. Food was followed by booze and, of course, more dancing. In fact, so merry were we that we decided to continue partying in Bayswa

ter after the parade had ended. At this point my memory grows hazy and fragmented, something about discussing why I wear shaded glasses with prisms in with an optician in some kind of pub…