Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Notting Hill Carnival

This was the main reason (or excuse) why we'd stayed in London over the Late Summer Bank Holiday Long Weekend - the 2005 Notting Hill Carnival - which we've read is the largest street festival in Europe!

Held over this same Bank Holiday weekend every year, the festival takes place over a huge area stretching from Westbourne Grove in Notting Hill, across the suburbs to Kensal Town and parts of North Kensington.

We headed there around lunchtime to catch the carvial float parade which winds its way through the main streets for a few hours, entertaining all with its loud music from on-board mobile sound-stages, followed by dancers, performers and groups of drum bands getting the crowd into the groove.

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The mobile sound-stages pumping out the diverse music for the parade; and one of the many costumes worn by the dancers(?)

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More costumed dancers; and some of our group: Pete, Me, Carly, and Sue-Anne

We took up a great spot along Westbourne Grove, right next to one of the millions of drink stalls selling the surprisingly great Red Stripe Lager which was the hit of the day for me - I'd never noticed it before in the off-licences, but it is a full-strength Jamaican Lager which, for £1.50 a can, went down a treat in the summer heat - by the end of the day there were private street vendors everywhere, selling it and other beers from ice slurry buckets in the middle of the busy streets, which we were only happy to pay a premium for to get a cold one!

The normally sedate suburban streets are turned into a huge open-air live music venue, with normally residential terrace houses opening their windows and front gardens to huge sound systems pounding out a wide variety of dance/house music, through to excellent mixes of reggae and carribean beats.. Crowds simply strolled along the streets, taking in all the different sounds from the various 'sound systems' as they were called, all the while sampling a big range of African/Carribean foods and drinks.

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Carly, Me, & Pete; and the rest of our group, including Katrina & Gennaro

One of the funny side stories from the day was the girls' mission to avoid using the 'not very nice' portable toilets the organisers had provided in certain locations - many of the locals had put up signs out front of their houses offerring the use of their bathrooms for £1 per person - this sounded all fair and reasonable, until the girls decided to approach one of the queues to use a bathroom, only to find because of demand they had doubled the price to 2 quid!!!! Well, despite their attempts to barter them down with offers of 'bulk-buys' and 'group discounts', they were out of luck and the increased price remained! And to stand by the principle of the thing, they refused to pay the extra, and opted for the free public portable option after all their efforts to find one that had kept their original price.. Gave us guys a good laugh as we were able to stand up in the (by that stage in the day) very grubby toilets!!

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Sue-Anne & Carly; and Carly on the over-run Portobello Road

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Carly, Gennaro, & Katrina

Assumably because of noise restrictions, the festival music events only run until 7pm, at which time unless you're going to hit one of the bars of clubs, it is time to head home and back to work for the short week the following day.. Or, you could go home and open a few bottles of Rose like we did and enjoy the last few hours of sunlight of the final long weekend for the year!


Currently listening to: Joey & Norman Jay MBE - Good Times, 25th Anniversay Notting Hill Carnival double CD


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