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11 tips on how to have an amazing Notting Hill Carnival

Isabelle Aron

With Carnival taking place over the bank holiday weekend, we asked the people who know it best what their top tips are for a brilliant day in Notting Hill

1. ‘Wear comfortable footwear. Customise a pair of pumps or buy something you’ll be happy jumping in all day. Have a meeting place for the end of the night in case your phone dies. Plaster on the body glitter, sing loudly and, most of all, have epic levels of fun.’ PanDiva, steel pan player and vocalist 

2. ‘Try to make it to one of the soca-filled parties before Carnival. There’s a wide variety including Art of Carnival at the Notting Hill Arts Club on Thursday, the Shipwrecked all-inclusive on Saturday and the Sun Bailante Hot Carnival Party on Sunday.’ Katie Segal, masquerader

3. ‘Do some research on the history of Notting Hill Carnival to fully appreciate it. Come early to decide which float to follow or settle on a base. If bringing little ones on children’s day [the Sunday], provide them with ear defenders as the sounds of Notting Hill Carnival are like nothing else!’ Linett Kamala, artist and member of soundsystem Disya Jeneration

4. ‘Don’t be afraid to ask about the costumes and take pictures with people. We love answering questions about our costumes, how to get involved in Carnival and showing off our culture. Oh, and wet wipes are a lifesaver!’ AC Christie, founder of ILoveCarnival blog

5. ‘Go to Panorama, the steel band competition on Saturday. There’s nothing better than hearing the bands rehearse their songs before entering the judging zone. Get up close and listen to each instrument. Also, blag a free drawstring bag from a mas band; you’ll get anti-bac gel, wet wipes, whistles… a bag of goodies!’ Ansel Wong, activist and artistic director of Elimu Mas Academy

6. ‘Play mas! “Mas” is an abbreviation of the word “masquerade”, commonly used in the West Indian community. It’s great to be a spectator at Carnival but nothing beats being a part of it. A large number of bands and organisations welcome new members. And dance with a policeman or policewoman – it’s the only time of the year you can get away with it!’ Melissa Simon-Hartman, Carnival costume designer 

7. ‘Get into the spirit by going to one of the pre-Carnival parties. I’ll be at the free Just Vibez: Carnival all-dayer at the Royal Festival Hall Terrace on the Saturday. You can learn about the origins of Carnival, kids can create their own costume pieces and you’ll experience authentic old-time calypso, tassa drumming and see traditional costumes.’ Fiona Compton, designer, photographer and filmmaker, involved with Carnival for ten years

8. ‘Come early and get an idea of what music is going to be played. Everyone has different tastes so you can find what you like. I’m a house man but you might be into reggae. If you arrive early, you can find your spot for the day.’ Keith Franklin, co-founder of soundsystem KCC & The Rockin Crew, a carnival stalwart since 1990

9. ‘Check out Ladbroke Grove’s Tropical Avenue. It’s a Come Unity art project that has been created in the run-up to the Carnival with the help of local children. Keep your eyes peeled for the legendary maxilla bird. It’ll be up high.’ Sophie Lodge, local artist who’s worked on Carnival art projects since 2009

10. ‘Find the smallest bag you can and bring as little as possible. Tissues, lip balm, keys, money, phone. Done.’ Nafura Ka Sakhmet, dance tutor and member of Mangrove Mas Camp

11. ‘Follow a steel band playing live music. Look out for the UFO [Urban Fox Orchestra] steel band truck – it’s covered in beautiful artwork created by children in local schools following Grenfell in 2017, a project that continued into 2018 when the colour was added. It shows the best of Carnival and community.’ Fiona Hawthorne, artist who’s created local artwork and worked with schools for Carnival

Here’s everything you need to know about Notting Hill Carnival 2018.


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