I’d heard about the reputation that Notting Hill Carnival had, and knowing how busy even the less-notorious London festivals get, I was ready for a rowdy day. This fear wasn’t assuaged by the amount of boarded-up and graffiti-ed buildings along our route in. However, as boring as it sounds, I wasn’t in it for the party, so I planned to avoid the crowds and had a lovely day.
If you, like me, want to avoid the worst of the crowds I’d recommend getting there early (as is always the case) and heading towards the beginning of the route.
We actually got there far too early, so just started walking back along the carnival route to try find some space to sit and wait, but figured we might as well head all the way to the start if we had the time. From there we were able to get a pretty decent view of the procession and avoided the rowdier crowds that gather towards the end. The position was especially beneficial if short as, at least at the beginning, a lot of the displays were ground / dancer based, rather than on floats like I had previously envisioned.
The spacing did seem a little off, unfortunately probably for the exact same reasons that we had a nice spot. Whenever groups were going past we did have a great view, and could fully enjoy them; but in between ‘segments’ there were long periods of just standing around waiting for the next part to come along. I’d imagine this evens out a little further along the route.
However, I also really enjoyed exploring some of the wider activities that make up Notting Hill Carnival. As well as the procession, there are loads of areas set up with Caribbean food stalls and music, so you can enjoy the atmosphere without being rooted to your ‘one good spot’.
P.S. I wanted to copy the text for Claudia Jones‘ blue plaque here, as I knew nothing about the history of Notting Hill Carnival beforehand, and in hindsight wish I had:
1915 – 1964
Mother of Caribbean carnival in Britain
Organised an annual carnival from January 1959 as a community response to the 1958 August Bank Holiday Notting Hill Riots