LONDON - Dozens of Caribbean nations celebrate Carnival, hosting party-hearty outdoor festivals packed with costumed crowds grooving to the beat of steel drums. Yet it might surprise even seasoned travellers to learn that this tropical tradition lives on across the Atlantic on a very different sort of island — the United Kingdom.
Above: People get into the spirit of London's Caribbean celebrations and see some odd sights.
Every August, approximately one million punters rock up for Red Stripe and revelry at London’s Notting Hill Carnival. Originally introduced by Caribbean immigrants in the mid-1960s, the event has evolved into one of Europe’s biggest street celebrations.
Parades of nimble dancers undulate in sequins and feathers as they hip-swivel among the masses or hover above the fray on extravagant floats. Clouds of smoke rise up from BBQ stalls, perfuming the air with eau de jerk chicken and curried goat. Giant speakers blast ska and reggae so loudly that the sound waves vibrate your very bones.
Above: It seems all of Notting Hill comes out to see this celebration.
Meanwhile, Gaz’s Rockin’ Blues Bandstand (the best free show you’ll ever see, or your money back) features live performances by elaborately-attired musicians on a set worthy of a West End theatre.
Some locals board up their shops and ground floor flats, fleeing the rowdy throngs, despite the heavy police presence meant to keep crowds in check.
While shootings are extremely rare in London, knife crime is a reality we live with — and recently officials have discussed moving this annual festival to a more contained, controllable location.
Above: Good vibes fill the air when London celebrates carnival each year.
But for the four years I lived in Notting Hill, I never missed a carnival.
Taking advantage of my “front row seat,” I locked and loaded my camera, keen to record the unforgettable scenes unfolding in the multi-cultural neighbourhood I felt fortunate to call home.
About the Author
As a UK-based writer and photographer (and self-confessed natural coward attempting to conquer her fears through her travel adventures), Amy Laughinghouse has paraglided 007-style in the Swiss Alps, walked with lions in Mauritius, swum with sharks in French Polynesia, dangled from chains on Scotland's Fife Coastal Path, and--her most terrifying challenge ever--taken ballroom dance lessons in London. In addition to her own website, AmyLaughinghouse.com, she has contributed to many travel publications, including LonelyPlanet.com, Qantas Airlines’ in-flight magazine and Virtuoso Life magazine.