The Notting Hill CarnivalPosted: September 2, 2011
This past Monday, for Britain’s August bank holiday, my cousin Kelly and I ventured out to Notting Hill for what is apparently the second-largest street festival in the world (after Carnival in Rio). I’m not sure why this carnival takes place in August and not Mardi Gras-style before Lent, but it’s a tradition; it has been going on since 1964 and shows no signs of letting up. This 2011 festival was said to have over a million visitors on the Sunday and Monday, and I can definitely believe that: the Carnival diverted traffic over hundreds of blocks and blocked off at least four tube stations. Actually leaving required some skill!
Of course, with all the recent riots, the city was especially careful about keeping violence in check: most shops were boarded up and Scotland Yard was working hard, out with something like 6,000 police officers. (It’s worth keeping in mind the fact that the city’s first racially-motivated riots took place in Notting Hill in the late ’50s.) As I found out just now, a man was still stabbed despite all the precautions taken, but dozens fewer were hospitalized than in previous years, so that’s saying something.
But we were basically ignorant of all this because we arrived around 11 not looking for a fight, but for food. Getting something to eat was definitely not a problem–all sorts of fried goodies abounded, especially Trinidadian and Jamaican favourites like roti, curried goat, fried plantain, ackee and saltfish, and beer like Red Stripe. Oh my, so much Red Stripe. We settled down with vegetable patties for me and jerk chicken for Kelly, washed down with some fresh coconut water.
I think there might be some kind of awards process during the festival, for best costume and maybe best ensemble, but that’s not really the point. It seems to be more about appreciating London and all the people who live here, especially after nastiness like the riots. This woman below seems to sum up the spirit perfectly. I was just trying to get a photo of her on the sly, real sneaky-like, but she saw me and gave the most beaming smile. She was obviously really happy to be there. So I was, too.