Notting Hill Carnival 2018: Rain, Rum And Reggae

CarnivalA performer checks there’s not a feather out of place on her glittering green headpiece. Someone shrieks in horrified delight as his pal flicks body paint into the air, spraying others with the slick, slimy orange liquid. A child reaches out her sequinned hand to deftly swipe a morsel of glistening, syrupy jerk chicken from the polystyrene carton her mother is holding.

And all the while, a reggae beat so loud you can feel it in your chest is pulsing from a 3m-high sound system in the middle of the street.

There’s no stopping it – it’s Carnival time.

Kesang BallOn the main parade day on Monday, everyone at Notting Hill Carnival breathes a sigh of relief as Sunday’s rainstorms give way to warmer air and a light breeze.

An immense crowd of glittering masquerade dancers gathers outside the Tabernacle pub in west London.

They’re partying with the Mangrove Mas float – one of almost 100 masquerade, steel or Brazilian groups set to parade across the weekend.

Image caption Kesang Ball comes to Carnival every year but it’s her first time on a float
Image caption Carnival fever manifests itself in dizzyingly vibrant colour across the neighbourhood

The Mangrove float begins to crawl its way along the three-and-a-half mile route, where judges will decide whose performance is best.


Up on the top deck, Ramario Chevoy takes a sip from his drink as he muses over what he loves most about Carnival.

“[The] Heatwave has the best music,” the 28-year-old dancer says, in reference to one of the dancehall acts gearing up to perform on the specially designed Mangrove soundsystem.

“I love that no matter where you come from, no matter your background, or your sexual orientation, it’s all just about the music and dancing,” Ramario adds as he wiggles his hips and laughs.

Image caption Ramario Chevoy and Flower Child were looking forward to The Heatwave’s set

Suddenly Ramario and everyone else on the Mangrove float has to duck to avoid a low-hanging branch that sweeps its way across the deck.

It’s one of the hazards of the parade route passing through the leafy, (usually) peaceful neighbourhood of Ladbroke Grove.

Ayo Sule and Nana Acheampong giggle as they crouch low to prevent the foliage from messing up their hair.

But they’re soon back up and striking poses in their killer Carnival outfits.

Nana hopes they can hop off the float in a while to grab some food – it’s her favourite part of the event aside from the costumes, she says.

Image caption Ayo Sule and Nana Acheampong take cover from a stray tree branch which threatened to gatecrash festivities
Image caption The weather cleared for Notting Hill Carnival’s main parade on Monday

Although everyone on this float is clearly loving the tracks blaring from its speakers, there’s one who thinks it could be even better.

Hollywood Sachy is a presenter and DJ from Trinidad and Tobago. It’s his first time in London but he’s been to Caribbean carnivals across the globe.

“I like the gloominess here,” he says while studying the grey clouds in between rounds of dancing. “It’s good to experience a change, something different.”

“But I’ve not heard music from many of the islands [within the Caribbean] yet,” he said.

“Each song is either Trinidad or Grenada – but what about Barbados and the others?”

Image caption Hollywood Sachy said the grey skies of London were a welcome change from his home on Trinidad
Image caption The swelling west London crowd got a soaking of soca, samba and steel drum sounds

Hollywood doesn’t seem too worried though, and goes back to preparing for his own set and watching the swelling crowd of dancers and tourists milling around the float.

The roads are growing busier by the minute – time to veer down a side street for a quick time out.

Ayo Sule and Nana AcheampongOn Portobello Road, people huddle together under a flyover to wolf down food from one of the stalls.

Here at Acklam Village, there’s no end to the tantalisation your taste buds can be treated to.

Image caption Acklam Village on Carnival weekend promises Caribbean culinary delights

Eye-watering spice, fried plantain and all the rice your stomach could wish for after a few hours of relentless dancing are on offer here.

But the throng of strangers can’t resist the party for long.

A drumming group gathers and soon enough everyone beneath the bridge is foot tapping and shoulder swaying to the beat.

Of course, there’s always a more depressing narrative to Carnival. Every year police confiscate weapons, break up fights and arrest partygoers.

Some say it’s an inevitable product of putting one million people together in one place; others are more downcast and think people come here specifically to cause trouble.

But so far this year there’s mostly a good vibe.

Image caption Police officers get briefed ahead of Monday’s main parade

Mangrove Carnival-goersPolice say they hope the introduction of airport security-style knife arches and a section 60 order (which gives officers extra stop and search powers) have helped deter some people from coming to Carnival for the wrong reasons.

Back on the parade route, the celebrations are ramping up for the evening.

The steel drums, samba whistles and horns are blasting out an inescapable beat and the energy of the dancers feels electric.

No matter where they came from, or why they are here, all of these Carnival-goers are united by the simple joy of partying hard.

Image caption The official family friendly day of Carnival was Sunday, but there’s plenty for youngsters to enjoy on Monday too

Source: Notting Hill Carnival 2018: Rain, rum and reggae – BBC News

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