Notting Hill Carnival: meet the experts
Make the most of Notting Hill Carnival with tips from five regular Carnival-goers
London’s biggest annual street festival, which attracts nearly one million people every year, can be overwhelming if you don’t know where to look. We spoke to five experts to find out their Carnival memories and tips for this year.
Gaz Mayall’s Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues has been a fixture of Carnival since 1981. This year it features the debut of 12-year-old DJ Ted Lavender and a gypsy theme.
‘It’s great having Ted with us because we’re always trying to encourage kids to have fun and go wild at Carnival. Kids need a bloody passport to get into clubs now, but Carnival’s a haven for parents to let their kids have a good time. We treat it like a big fancy-dress party and it never fails to bring out the kid in the adults too. ‘We’re strictly vinyl. No CDs, I don’t even bother with headphones. Vinyl lets you see and feel the grooves where the record starts. The golden age of soundsystem music was all pressed up on vinyl, so we’re not exactly short of great music. ‘It’s appropriate also as we’ve lost our elder statesman, Duke Vin, for the weekend, who’s sadly bedridden and probably won’t be able to make it to this year’s Carnival. Vin set up London’s first soundsystem in 1955 and would go back to Jamaica and get, in his words, “saddled up” with music from Prince Buster and Coxsone Dodd. ‘Vin had a massive following: people would carry him on their shoulders from the entrance all the way to the turntables at venues like the Hammersmith Palais.
‘He’s almost 90 now. He’s been playing our stage since the ’80s but last year we had to call an ambulance to get him home. He loves Carnival so much he said: “Look, just make me up a bed here and I’ll sleep on the system.” ‘Winston Francis is playing this year, a great singer, a true legend of Studio One and, of course, my own band The Trojans too. We’ve got some real characters who look and sound great, like our sax player Rudy Jones, who emigrated here in 1952 to become a dentist. That never happened, thankfully – every group in the ’60s wanted him because he could play behind his back while doing the splits. He’s 81 now so he’s calmed down a bit, but he’s never missed a Carnival with us yet.’
Interviews by Chris Parkin, Alexi Duggins and Oliver Keens.