One of the most joyous and cultural festivals in the word, Notting Hill Carnival is just around the corner (26-28 August 2017), and to honour its longstanding and much-loved place in society, here are 10 juicy facts about the vibrant three-day celebration that you may not know.
1. Notting Hill is bigger than you think
Growing up in England, especially London, I think many of us actually forget that Notting Hill Carnival is not just your average carnival that takes place three days a year. In fact, it’s actually a very big thing.. Yes, the largest in Europe. And it doesn’t stop there, behind Brazil’s annual festival in Rio de Janeiro, Notting Hill takes solid position as the second biggest carnival in the world.
2. The Carnival is humungous
Not only is Notting Hill a pretty big deal worldwide, but it is also a huge operation. With up to two million people attending Carnival every year, plus 40,000 volunteers and a police force of 9,000, Notting Hill is 3.5 miles long. But get this, Notting Hill is as big as 11 Glastonbury festivals put together. Just let that soak in.
3. Notting Hill brings in London A LOT of money
Thriving every year with new faces and new stalls, Notting Hill contributes to around £93million of London’s economy.
4. It was supposed to take place during Lent
Other carnivals take place at the very start of Lent but of course, England being England, it is way too cold for any sort of carnival celebrations to take place. Hence why it was decided it would be held during August.
5. Notting Hill Carnival is a product of race relations in the UK
The first ever Carnival event was a response to both the Notting Hill Race Riots of 1958 and the unsolved murder of Kelso Cochrane, a young black male whose death created even more tension in 1959. As a result, the ‘Caribbean Carnival’ first took to the streets in 1959 and was used to demonstrate and proclaim racial unity. Now, here we are 58 years strong, absolutely amazing.
6. The crime associated with the festival is pretty much a myth
Every year, every single year without fail, all you hear is Notting Hill and crime this, Notting Hill and conflict this. So much so that Notting Hill Carnival has some sort of reputation linked to stabbings and attacks when this is not the case at all. This is not to say that injuries and deaths haven’t occurred, because they have. Five people in total have died since the running of the event. However, for a festival of its size, this crime rate is very low.
7. The Carnival troupes are called ‘Mas Bands’
‘Mas’ is pretty much shortened for masquerade and early mas costumes at carnivals were inspired by West African mythology.
8. It can get really messy
On the Sunday, so the 29 August for this year’s carnival, the Trinidadian body normally has a giant chocolate food fight. So, if you’re looking to return home without a few chocolate stains on your clothes, I’d stay away if I was you. If not, join in! It’s tradition!
9. It’s a national favourite
With only tourists making up about 20% of the crowd, it’s clear that Notting Hill is a national event. In 2006, the UK public voted Notting Hill Carnival as one of the “Icons of England” and even Prince Charles has expressed his support towards the event.
10. A minute’s silence held for Grenfell Tower fire victims
This year, in the wake of the Grenfell Tower Fire, a minute’s silence will be held at this year’s Notting Hill Carnival at 3pm on 28 August to pay respect to the victims of the Grenfell Tower. Despite efforts to suggest moving the carnival, Mayor Sadiq Khan dismissed this, noting that it was a “firm London tradition” and “any attempt to impose a move to another location on the carnival, particularly at a time when the community is mistrustful of many those in positions of authority, would be a mistake.”