Notting Hill Carnival Is Finally Back, Here Are Our Dos And Don'ts

New to Carnival or need a refresher? Let this be your guide.
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August is coming to a close and for the first time since 2019, we are finally reunited with the streets of Notting Hill for Carnival weekend.

Notting Hill Carnival was created as a response to the Notting Hill race riots in which a group of ‘Teddy boys’ attacked the local West Indian community in 1958. In January 1959, Trinidadian journalist and activist Claudia Jones held the first event, dubbed Claudia’s Caribbean Carnival, at St Pancras Town Hall, which was televised by the BBC.

Jones’ carnival moved around for a few more years and she is credited for “planting the seeds” of Carnival as it’s known today. But it wasn’t until 1966 that Carnival settled into its rightful home in west London, after a local resident named Rhaune Laslett organised the first outdoor festival in the area.

Fast forward to 2022 and Notting Hill Carnival is now Europe’s largest street event and the world’s second biggest carnival. The three-day bonanza is the last and biggest party of the summer, with days filled with music, Black joy, dancing and food.

If this is your first time attending Carnival you probably won’t be familiar with how the weekend runs or the best ways you can enjoy it. You’re guaranteed to have a good time regardless, but there are a few things you should know before dancing near the floats.

And even if you are a Carnival veteran, it’s been a few years, so we all need a reminder of the dos and don’ts of the day.

Carnival Dos

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Learn the Carnival timetable

Carnival officially opens on Saturday with the UK National Panorama Steelband Competition, but most of the action happens on Sunday and Monday. Sunday is traditionally ‘family day’ and the best time to take kids, before the party ramps up for its biggest day on Monday.

Follow the floats
“My Carnival go-tos have always been, firstly [follow] the Carnival route where the different floats/Mas bands are,” musician and carnival aficionado, DJ Nate, says. “You get to admire the beauty and precision of the Carnival costumes each band has on show, along with seeing the happiness and joyous expressions from the masqueraders.”

Wear a bum bag
The day is packed with full crowds, so your best bet is to wear a bum bag that you can fit your phone, cash/debit card and keys in. Now is not the time for losing your essentials at the bottom of a bulky bag.

Eat before you go
Your day will probably revolve around some heavy drinking, so it’s essential that you line your stomach before you start backing the rum punch. This way, you won’t be running around trying to find something to eat (the food stands tend to have long queues!).

Dress comfortably
“You’re going to be doing a lot of walking,” DJ Nate warns. “Also dress weather appropriate; Carnival weather can be unpredictable, so you have to be prepared for heat and potential rain?”

Personally, my go-to carnival outfits are either a playsuit or a fancy top with shorts and some comfy trainers. But be warned, playsuits may be tricky if you’re finding somewhere to pee...

Bring a few tissues
On that note, going to the toilet at Carnival is a bit of a nightmare. You’re either peeing on the street, a portable loo or someone’s house. Regardless, you should bring some tissue to make life a bit easier.

Drink plenty of water
“Of course, lots of Carnival-goers will be wanting to enjoy some Carnival classic cocktails, like a Wray & Nephew rum punch,” DJ Nate says. “But it’s set to be around 24 degrees over the weekend, so make sure you bring plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated at all times.”

Download the ‘Notting Hill Carnival’ app
Trying to navigate the streets of Notting hill can be a bit confusing so, this app is a life-saver. “Download it for a live, GPS-tracked map showing all of the floats and their locations on the August Bank Holiday, plus maps showing all food vendors, toilets, transport links and sound systems,” the site explains. “Post in-app to meet fellow carnival-goers and vote for your favourite band at Panorama.”

Carnival Don’ts

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Don’t wear fresh white trainers
Unless you’re asking for your trainers to be ruined, this is not the day to show off your new Air Force 1s. Stick to an old pair (I promise no one is looking at your feet) and maximise comfort over style. Another tip: don’t wear Converses, your feet will thank you for it later.

Don’t try and find your friends
If you’re going with a big group of people, just accept that you will lose them. When this happens, don’t try and find them just stick with the remaining part of your group. If you find yourself losing all your friends, (don’t panic it happens to the best of us), you probably won’t find them. It’s just the way Carnival goes. Enjoy the rest of the party solo, make some new pals, or go home.

Don’t touch people without their consent
It shouldn’t have to be said, but don’t touch someone asking them first. This should be a rule to follow all year round!

Don’t get angry if people bump into you
Yes, people shouldn’t touch you without your consent but if packed crowds aren’t your thing, you should stay at home. You will bump into people, someone will most likely step on your trainers, as-long as it’s not on purpose, try not to take it personally.

Don’t be a dick to local residents
Like unwanted touching, this shouldn’t need saying, but please don’t disrespect local property and residents. Carnival is all about community, after all.

Most importantly, don’t stress!
Carnival is all about celebration, enjoy it!