Heading to the Notting Hill Carnival this weekend? Here is some background info that may make your experience a bit better.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013 Craig Grobler 0 Comments

Notting Hill CarnivalIf the weather continues as it is - we are in for an absolute scorcher of a weekend which means that this year's Notting Hill Carnival is going to be EPIC!

Gone are the day when I would attend the Carnage ival myself (the last time I went we ended up backstage with DJ Jazzy Jeff and that seemed the high note to bow out on, all a story for another time) but the Notting Hill Carnival is definitely an event that has to be experienced at least once. Over this Bank Holiday weekend (Sunday 25 & Monday 26 August) London will almost come to a standstill as the carnival takes over when 10s of 1000s of revellers, dancers, food stalls and floats converge on Notting Hill and bring the spirit of "This is FESTIVAAAAAAL!!!!!" to London.

Since its inception in 1966, the Notting Hill Carnival, held in August annually, has grown into the largest street festival in Europe. With a record 1.5 million people attended in 2012 bringing in nearly £100 million to the London economy.

Notting Hill Carnival - London
The Establishing Shot: Notting Hill Carnival 2006 - London
Video: Notting Hill Carnival 2012 (HD)

History of the event:  The Notting Hill carnival Was originally a ‘Caribbean Carnival’ aimed a smoothing over race relations following the Notting Hill race riots the previous year.
Notting Hill Carnival Floats - London
The Establishing Shot: Notting Hill Carnival Floats 2006 - London
Entertainment/Celebrity Elements: 
High-profile artists such as Eddie Grant, Wyclef Jean, Courtney Pine, Jamiroquai and Burning Spear have participated. A map of this year's Carnival sound systems can be found here: This is of course, only  the official map.

Notting Hill Carnival Steel Pan Float - London
Notting Hill Carnival Steel Pan Float - London

Top Trends in Food: 
Caribbean street food is one of the highlights of Notting Hill Carnival dating back to its roots. Turkish, Chinese and Indian are also popular.

Below is an infographic from with more information about the background of the Notting Hill Carnival.


The carnival came about as a result of two separate but related events. One was a ‘Caribbean Carnival’ held in 1959 at St Pancras Town Hall aimed a smoothing over race relations following the Notting Hill race riots the previous year. It was organised by Claudia Jones. Then in August 1966 the London Free School inspired an outdoor festival with the direction of Rhaune Laslett as a way of promoting cultural harmony and celebrating West Indian culture. It began as a street party and turned into a carnival as the steel band was inspired to start parading the streets.

Notting Hill Carnival - London

The carnival was informally operated from the Mangrove restaurant in Notting Hill, since it initially has no formal staff or headquarters. As it grew in size there also began to be a few riots associated with the event (mostly confrontations between youths and the police) and concerns about so many people crowding the narrow streets. The route was changed in 2002 and Hyde Park was used as an additional carnival area in 2004. In 2003 the carnival was taken over by the Notting Hill Carnival Trust Ltd. A report the same year estimated that the carnival brings £93 million to the London/UK economy.

The Carnival Steering Group took over in 2011 and became became a legal entity in June 2012 known as the London Notting Hill Carnival Enterprises Trust (LNHCET). Event management company Realizar was given a 3-year contract by LNHCET in 2012 to manage the carnival.

Visitor numbers
In 1975, the carnival attracted 150,000 people. By 1997 it attracted 1,300,000 visitors and it still pulls in around one million people every year, with a record-breaking 1.5 million in 2012. Sunday has come to be ‘family day’ while Monday is the biggest ‘party day’.

Road closures
Transport for London has announced that extensive road closures will affect the area from August 25-27 between 7am and 3am on consecutive days. Road closures will be from Harrow Road in the north, Notting Hill Gate in the south, Clarendon Road in the west and Queensway in the east. TFL also adds that traffic is likely to be slow moving in the area, including A5 Edgware Road, Harrow Road, Holland Park Avenue, Notting Hill Gate and Bayswater Road.

Notting Hill Carnival - London
Notting Hill Carnival - London
Carnival costumes
Many of the costumes are designed in Trinidad and Tobago. The costumes are all created from lightweight materials such as cotton and chiffon. They are classed as Frontline or Regular. Frontline costumes are more complex with shoulder/back accessories covered in feathers plus larger headpieces and more additional accessories.

The headpieces are usually lightweight feathers on plastic frames covered in shiny or colourful fabric and lightweight foam. Shorts and modesty skirts are provided upon request.

Volunteer participants are usually issued with goodie bags on collection of their costumes. Typically these contain lollypops, crisps, hand sanitizers, mugs, small hand towels, sunscreen etc.

Traditionally steel bands have been at the heart of Notting Hill Carnival, accompanied by Calypso and Soca music. In recent years, modern sound systems have also been added to the mix, playing a wide range of reggae, hip hop, Latin, garage, RnB, dub, samba, house and funk. There are 40 sound systems in total, aside from the bands in the processions. The locations of the sound systems are listed here.

Live music stages have also been introduced featuring high-profile artists such as Eddie Grant, Wyclef Jean, Courtney Pine, Jamiroquai and Burning Spear.

Caribbean street food is one of the highlights of Notting Hill Carnival. The most popular dishes include jerk chicken, rice and peas, fried plantain, goat curry. Other cuisines including Turkish, Chinese and Indian are also popular, plus there are nut stalls, candyfloss and sweet stalls and ice-cream vans.

Merchandise and Trading
Traders are banned from selling alcohol, second-hand toys or electrical equipment, knives, solvents, imitation firearms, counterfeit or unauthorised copies of designs or labels. Fortune-telling, tarot-reading, tattooing, body-piercing, head massage and hairdressing are also banned. Clothing and memorabilia such as whistles, hats and horns are highly popular items.

The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea assigned 26 enforcement officers to deal with legal and illegal street traders over 2 days. They worked alongside Police officers in ‘Street Trading Serials’ made up of 2 enforcement officers and 2 Police officers. The Street Trading Serials were each responsible for a specific sector over the 2 days.

Remember kids - safety first. Thanks to for the information and infograph

The Notting Hill Carnival 
Notting Hill - Travel to and from Notting Hill on Carnival weekend will be restricted and heavily congested, so work out your best route by using The London Notting Hill Carnival Journey Planner here:

Consider making an early or late entrance to the carnival to avoid congestion.

A map of the Notting Hill Carnival route can be found here:

Sunday 25 & Monday 26 August Bank Holiday 2013

The Carnival Bands will take to the roads from around 9am on Sunday 26th August and the same time on Monday 27th of August. Sunday is Children’s day and Monday is Adults day. The Carnival parade should complete its procession by 7pm.

For more info: Head over to


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Craig's is a retired superhero, an obsessive hobbyist, comics fan, gadget lover & flâneur who knows an unhealthy amount about Ian Fleming's James Bond.

When not watching or making films he takes pictures, eats, drinks, dives, tries to connect to nature whilst mentally storyboarding the greatest film ever made. He also  & sometimes utilises owl-themed gadgets to fight crime. 

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