Local BBC Sites

Page last updated at 11:32 GMT, Friday, 27 August 2010 12:32 UK
Notting Hill Carnival - your questions answered

Carnival costumes
The event has been held every August Bank Holiday since 1966

Over one million people are expected to throng the streets of west London for the Notting Hill Carnival.

The event, taking place over the Bank Holiday weekend on August 29 and 30, is the largest festival celebration of its kind in Europe.

Here, you'll find background and essential information plus some tips on how to get the most out of the occasion.

It's in west London then, but where exactly?

Basically, the bit between Bayswater Road and Notting Hill Gate going north to Harrow Road and Maida Vale.

map of Notting Hill carnival area

The parade route follows three sides of a rectangle of streets bounded by the Great Western Road and Ladbroke Grove to the west.

In between lie garden squares, stucco terraces and Portobello Road with its world famous market; adjacent, by Acklam Road, is carnival's main safety zone with first aid points.

Find more details here along with travel news and Tube closures.

What's the timetable across the weekend?

Carnival starts at 9am on Sunday, Kids' Day, when the costume prizes are awarded. The main parade takes place on Bank Holiday Monday from 9.30am. Both days end at 8.30pm.

Saturday's Panorama event - back in original venue Horniman's Pleasance Park in Kensal Green due to funding cuts - can sometimes be eclipsed; it's when the UK's top steel bands compete against each other for the title of National Champions of Steel.

What can I expect to see?

A mix of Caribbean flamboyance and London street chic: costumes boasting feather plumes, sequins and tassels; astonishingly ornate floats; and hundreds of food stalls lining the streets.

Be prepared for what Diane Abbott MP describes as 'a wall of sound', augmented by near-incessant whistle blowing, the traditional steel drum bands and up to 40 static sound systems playing soca, calypso, reggae, R&B, funk, house, dub and more.

Why the emphasis on costumes?

It's a party and everyone likes a bit of dress-up, carnival's many revellers included.

Costume also provides a link with the past when the abolition of slavery brought new freedoms to the Caribbean, enacted in mas, or masquerade, parades that mimicked the European fashions of former slave masters - even down to the wearing of white masks or whitening the face with flour.

Today, mas paraders such as Harlesden's Mahogany Carnival Mas believe costume to be the essence of carnival and spend many months preparing for the event - no mean feat given the ambitious floats and intricate outfits on show.

Themes for this year include 'Inferno' by Newham-based youth group Youthology Carnival Mas Band and the stilt-walking Masquerade 2000 with 'The Gift'.

What's the downside to carnival?

Strangely, not rip-off prices for food and drink in the main.

BBC London 94.9 at Carnival
Live reports will be broadcast throughout Carnival weekend
Robert Elms will be live from Notting Hill 12-2pm on Monday
Lainy Malkani and DJ Spoony 2-4pm on Monday
Eddie Nestor and Jazzie B 4-8pm on Monday
Carnival round-up with Dotun Adebayo 8-10pm on Monday

Elsewhere, take your pick from crowd-jostling reminiscent of the Boxing Day sales along Oxford Street; people variously off their faces on drink and drugs; theft; an undercurrent of violence as day stretches into night.

But, says Chief Superintendent Mick Johnson of the Territorial Support Group:

"It's important to remember that crime rates do remain relatively low at carnival, given the thousands of people who attend."

So I'll still be able to enjoy myself?

Definitely. Carnival is an expression of community solidarity. People talk to strangers. They also meet friends here and make new ones.

Any quick tips while we're here?

Go with the flow - and the crowds - on the day. Watch the parades till you've had enough, then let your ears take you to one of the sound systems for that instant, dancing in the street-style vibe.

Retire to the fringes for a respite from the noise and heat with some authentic Caribbean fare, such as rice and peas and rum punch. Alternatively, drink water. Above all, come early and leave early. The carnival website has more on how to stay safe.

Anything else I should be aware of?

There are warm-up parties to get you in the carnival mood, and plenty of after-parties at various hotspots featuring the likes of Norman Jay, Sancho Panza and Leftside Wobble to keep you dancing. Find more here.

And BBC London 94.9 will be broadcasting live from the carnival, with reports through the day on Saturday and Sunday and a full afternoon of programmes from the Eagle pub on Ladbroke Grove on Bank Holiday Monday. Find more here and in the info box above.

Carnival's journey through the years
27 Aug 10 |  London
Carnival sets its sights on 2012
26 Aug 10 |  London
Arrests after pre-carnival raids
18 Aug 10 |  London
Carnival's Hyde Park event moved
05 Aug 10 |  London
In Pictures: Notting Hill Carnival 2009
30 Aug 09 |  Arts & Culture
Bank Holiday travel guide for London
27 Aug 10 |  People & Places



Sign in

BBC navigation

Copyright © 2019 BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific