You may want to avoid travel in central London over the August bank holiday weekend. And no, not because of another tube strike. That specific bank holiday now belongs solely to the Nottinghill Carnival. An estimated 1.5 million people head to the Kensington area for the carnival, and the event has been voted by the British people as an iconic part of our history. As you can see it’s a busy old weekend, so get in early and book your luxury stay at the Grand Royale London Hyde Park, with just a quick jaunt through the park you will be in Notting Hill ready to celebrate.
A Very Quick History Lesson
The importance of this event far exceeds its huge capacity and status, so let’s take a quick look at why the carnival even happens. The 1960s were a difficult time for minorities in the UK, especially after the Notting Hill race riots. In 1959 a small ‘Caribbean carnival’ was held in the St Pancras Town Hall as a response to the violence and hate. It featured some steel bands, Caribbean cabaret and a beauty contest, among other things. Activist and journalist Claudia Jones organised the event in order to educate and inform the public about the British Afro-Caribbean community. This took off in a small way at first, but then in 1966 Rhaune Laslett organised an outdoor event to celebrate London’s massive diversity, and promote cultural unity against hate. The event was not originally intended to be a carnival, but after the steel band who played at Jones’ original event “got bored”, and went for a walkabout, the carnival was born. Since then the event has gone from strength to strength, and has become one of the world’s largest street festivals!
Notting Hill Carnival; The Facts
The sheer scale of this event is often hard to comprehend; the food stalls, the bands, the performances and the tens of millions of sequins and colours. So here is a list of interesting facts to help you wrap your head around this, the most wonderful of events.
The Carnival is around 11 times bigger than Glastonbury!
Yes you did read that right! 11x bigger! Over 1 million guests, around 40,000 volunteers and 9,000 police officers are in attendance over the weekend. Simply massive.
The 2nd largest street festival in the world
Obviously the largest street festival in the whole of Europe, in actuality it is thought that the only carnival that is bigger is of course the Rio de Janeiro carnival.
The largest event of the year for Londoners
What’s even more impressive is that of the million-and-a-bit people who attend, only 20% are tourists. So it is by far London’s strongest showing every year for locals.
During the event there are over 40 static sound systems, with more than 10 steel pan bands and over 70 performance stages. That is a lot of different music. Obviously Caribbean music features heavily, but there are more types on offer with some big names on the rosta in the past.
Mas (short for Masquerade) bands are a key element of the carnival, and consist of groups of dancers who follow the parade in incredible costumes with explosions of colour. There is a theme for the Mas bands to follow each year, and anyone is encouraged to join up and dance away!
The magnificent colour costumes that the Mas bands wear don’t just appear out of thin air. There are roughly 15,000 costumes every year, and these take an estimated 1 million man hours to make by hand.
Sequins, sequins everywhere!
On top of the dedication and effort that goes into the attire, it is estimated that 30 million sequins are part of this process! 30 million!
On the Sunday of the festival it has become something of a tradition to ‘slap’ festival goers with chocolate, or other sweet treats. Don’t worry it’s not a violent thing, just be aware that you might be part of a food fight on this day!
Boosting the economy
It is estimated the carnival brings £93 million to the city, while the event itself and the coppers only cost the city around £6 million, I’d say that is a pretty good investment!
Rum & Rummer
During the weekend around 5 million drinks are served to the attendees. Of these 5 million, 25,000 bottles of rum are used as well as 70,000 litres of carrot juice. Now that’s a party.
Chicken is the spice of life
5 tons of chicken is served to the attendees, and that comes in all different styles. Fried, Caribbean, jerk, Trinidaian; you name it, they’ll have it.
Three and a half miles of colour
The carnival route is 3.5 miles long, and makes its way through Notting Hill and Kensington, whilst the streets are lined with crowds and parties. Pick a good spot and choose your favourite float! The route may even go near to your hotel, passing in close proximity to the Park Grand London Lancaster Gate, giving you easy walking access to the fun.
Notting Hill Carnival is free for all to attend, so all you have to do is turn up and enjoy yourself!
There you have it, a list of incredible facts about the Notting Hill Carnival. The scale of the weekend really does defy belief, so the best way to understand it is to attend! As you can probably tell by now, it gets really busy, so make sure you book your trip now so you don’t miss out. Try taking advantage of the Paddington Court Rooms Loyalty Programme to ensure you get a good deal, or check out the Park Grand London Kensington for a luxury escape from the madness on the streets.
Whatever you end up doing, you are pretty much guaranteed an amazing weekend of colour, passion, love and great food; so get your sequins and face paint ready, and head to Kensington for the August bank holiday this summer.