For most international students, Notting Hill is synonymous with Hugh Grant who starred in the film of the same name. In the UK, however, Notting Hill is most famous for its street carnival, held each year over the August Bank Holiday.
The Carnival's roots date back to Trinidad in the Caribbean after the abolition of slavery in 1833. The former slaves took to the streets for their own carnival with song, dance and costumes, often parodying their former masters.
The Notting Hill Carnival actually began in St Pancras in 1959 with West Indian immigrants mainly from Trinidad. Since the first carnival, the location moved around a bit until it found its present home in 1964. It has grown to become a huge event and is now the second largest street carnival in the world after Rio in Brazil.
Since the early 19th century, carnival developed into a strong Caribbean tradition, particularly in Trinidad, where the five disciplines of carnival were established.
Mas: The colourful costumed processions and floats that form the bulk of the carnival. Mas paraders will spend a whole year preparing for the carnival
Calypso: Traditional Trinidadian music which can be traced back to the first African slaves. As they weren't allowed to talk to each other they would communicate by singing.
Soca: Calypso's modern, more energetic form, like Calypso, Soca was used for social commentary but is now a blend of musical styles.
Steelpan: Traditional Trinidadian instrument made from an oil drum, either static or worn around the neck
Static Sound Systems: There are over 40 of these around the carnival playing music from Latin jazz, reggae and garage to hip hop and drum "n" bass.
There is nothing like the smell of the food at the Notting Hill Carnival. Most of it is traditional West Indian food such as Jerk Chicken, Curried Goat and Rice and Peas although many other country's food is represented as well.
In 2012 the carnival is on for 2 days, Sunday August 26th and Monday August 27th
It should start at 9am in the morning with the parade finishing up at around 7pm
Sunday is considered Childrens' Day and Monday is Adults' Day.
If it is your first visit to the carnival, arrive early as you will see more, Sunday is probably the best day to go. You should plan how to get there and how to get away. The event attracts hundreds of thousands of people so it is best to take the underground to a nearby station and walk to the carnival. Most of the stations in the carnival area will be closed for safety reasons. Following is a list of stations but some will have restricted access on the days of the carnival;
Notting Hill Gate District and Circle lines
Bayswater District and Circle lines (Possible alternative to Notting Hill Gate)
Holland Park Central line
Royal Oak Hammersmith and City line
Westbourne Park Hammersmith and City line
Latimer Road Hammersmith and City line
Paddington District and Circle lines (possible alternative to Notting Hill Gate
Ladbroke Grove Hammersmith and City line (likely to be closed)
Arrange to meet friends beforehand, you won't find them once you are there, even with the assistance of a mobile phone. Have fun!