The annual festival of the year is about to hit London town hard as the August Bank Holiday weekend rapidly approaches. Introduced as a local festival set up by the West Indian immigrants of the area in 1966, it has now become a full-blooded Caribbean carnival, attracting millions of visitors from around the world. With scores of impressive sounds, spectacular floats, hundreds of stalls lining the streets and, of course, the traditional steel drum bands, Notting Hill can expect to be swarmed by 1 million visitors, along with the more than 50,ooo dancers and singers scheduled to perform. Live stages also feature local bands, top international artists and sounds from around the world – Eddie Grant, Jamiroquai, Wyclef Jean, Courtney Pine and Burning Spear have been among the eclectic line up in previous year.
When we think of Carnival, images of bright, outlandish costumes, imaginative floats and dancing on the streets inevitably spring to mind. The Carnival parade winds through three miles of Notting Hill’s streets, flanked by visitors jostling to get a look at what’s happening. Not only are we overwhelmed with the colours of the Caribbean, are senses overcome with the smell of Carnival. We’re not talking greasy burger vans and and sickly-sweet stools, we’re talking traditional Caribbean food. For many of us, Carnival, one of the few British festivals to offer such authenticity, is all about a taste of culture offering the perfect introduction to jerk chicken, rice and peas and rum punch as well as the odd taste of other exotic cuisines.
Carnival can’t come soon enough for Londoners having endured a dull week of rain and grey. The weather has once again negotiated around the Notting Hill celebrations, the forecast set for sunshine as the clouds clear, the sound systems boom, the drink and food flow and the party begins! As the sun is shining and the weather is sweet, let the good time roll!