Notting Hill Carnival: A Vivid Spectacle

Posted on August 28, 2014

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Hailed as Europe’s largest street festival, Notting Hill Carnival consists of thousands of revelers in brilliantly hued costumes, pulsating music, as well as delectable Caribbean cuisines.

Dating back to 1964 when it first emerged, Notting Hill Carnival commenced in response to racial tensions that had ensued over the years in London. Organizers sought to create this festivity surrounding Afro-Caribbean culture as a way to not only escape the complexities of life, but also to eradicate racial tensions, bring ethnicities together and to showcase Caribbean art and culture. The first carnival started with a small procession of onlookers, but has now grown into a colossal celebration with as many as a million visitors from various countries around the world.

This year marked the 50th year of its inception. The festivities took place over the space of three days, with the main celebrations taking place on Sunday 24th August and Monday 25th August in Notting Hill, London. Family Day or “Jouvert”, signifying the official start of carnival began at 6 am on Sunday with a procession of street dancers, steel bands and African Drummers. The celebrations peaked at around 10 am with a Children’s Parade showcasing their flamboyant costumes and equally exuberant personalities. An eclectic display of vocals could be viewed at the “World Music Stage”, featuring calypso and soca performances from international and emerging artists.

The grand finale on Monday saw the largest and most effervescent crowd. During the day however, the carnival bands and crowds were sparse, which particularly had to do with continuous downpours. However, by mid-afternoon the crowds amassed into the thousands, as the rain did not deter them from enjoying the exciting atmosphere. There was dancing, screaming, laughter, horn and whistle blowing as over a total of 60 bands “playing mas” danced throughout the streets of Notting Hill. Masqueraders wore dazzling blue, green, yellow and red risqué costumes decorated with sequins and feathers. Confetti was catapulted into the air occasionally, adding to the excitement and creating an intriguing aura.

Moving sound systems, some elaborately designed, as well as steel bands, played Soca, Calypso, Reggae and Dancehall music hypnotizing the procession of visitors as they shouted while their favourite songs were played. On-duty police officers were also entranced by the celebrations and could be seen enjoying themselves from time-to-time. Ropes were used to try and create partitions between the bands, moving sound systems and onlookers, but that proved pointless, as the crowds were so immense that everyone eventually came together.

Flags from Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago among many other Caribbean nations were being waved enthusiastically by visitors and masqueraders as acts on the moving sound systems shouted out the names of the Caribbean islands to get the attention of their natives. Food stalls were also set up with delectable Caribbean foods such as rice & peas with jerk chicken, patties and fried plantain.

Although it rained all day, eventually making it difficult to admire the dedication and creativity put into each intricate design of the costumes, it was evident that everyone had a spectacular time. However, it would have probably been more enjoyable had carnival not only brought with it the Caribbean arts and culture, but the Caribbean sunshine as well.

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