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This weekend, the Notting Hill Carnival returns to London. The annual event spans 2 days and has millions of people joining in in the festivities and atmosphere. Below are 20 facts about the Notting Hill Carnival that you may not have known.
1 – It’s been going for over 50 years!
The Notting Hill Carnival started on August Bank Holiday weekend in 1965 making this year’s carnival the 51st. It was organised by Claudia ‘Mother of Carnival’ Jones; a Trinidad journalist and political activist.
2 – It may be in London now, but it has deep roots.
The Notting Hill Carnival is inspired by traditional 18th century Caribbean carnivals. The originals carnival began as a small local festival for the West Indian community.
3- The first Notting Hill Carnival events were arranged as a demonstration of racial unity following the Notting Hill Race Riots of 1958.
A second important influence was the unsolved murder of Kelso Cochrane, a young black Londoner in 1959.
4 – It gets pretty busy!
The event requires over 40,000 volunteers and 9000 police officers annually. How many attendees are there? Over 1 million every year!
5 – It is now the second largest carnival in the world.
Coming in just behind the famous Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro, the Notting Hill Carnival is also the largest street festival in Europe.
6 – Big name acts perform live.
Notting Hill Carnival is now synonymous with live music stages and the after-parties in locations surrounding the area. Famous acts, from MIA and Jamiroquai to Wyclef Jean and Chase & Status, fly in from all over the world to perform. Pink Floyd also played an early gig there.
7 – It gets colourful!
Costumed troupes are known as ‘Mas bands’ with ‘Mas’ meaning masquerade.
8 – Mas Bands take a lot of co-ordination.
Between 40 to 300 people take part in each Mas costume band.
9 – The early Mas Bands were rather different.
Early Mas Band costumes had more of a focus on West Indian mythology and looked more scary when compared to the sexier versions today.
10 – Its hard work preparing for Mas Bands.
The costumes are worked on and prepared all year round leading up to the carnival. Each costume is hand made by top Trinidadian designers and craftspeople. Around 30 million sequins, 15,000 feather plumes and 30 litres of body paint get used.
11 – It inspired a song by The Clash
It was only after the riots during the 1976 carnival that Joe Strummer, front-man of The Clash, was inspired to write ‘White Riot’.
12 – There is a lot to hear.
When walking around the carnival, you can expect to hear traditional Soca and Calypso, to Reggae, House, Dub and Funk. The music is played on over 40 sound systems, 10 steel pan bands and 70 performing stages.
13 – It contributes to London’s economy.
The carnival brings in almost £100 million to London’s economy. Factoring in that policing the event costs about £6 million, you are looking at a hefty profit.
14 – It can get messy.
On the Sunday, it a tradition among some attendees to slap anyone in the vicinity with a handful of melted chocolate. During the parade in 2014, the Chocolate Nation Mas float was followed by hundreds of people throwing liquid chocolate over themselves and the public as they danced through the streets.
15 – If you want to bring Kids, try the Sunday.
The Monday is the rowdiest part of the Notting Hill Carnival with the Sunday usually being more child friendly.
16 – Lots of people means lots of food.
To feed the millions of carnival goers, there are over 300 food stalls, which serve five tons of chicken, 30,000 corn cobs and one ton of rice and peas. Five million hot and cold drinks are served, including 10,000 litres Jamaican stout, 25,000 bottles of rum, 70,000 litres of carrot juice, 800,000 cans and bottles of drink.
17 – It has a lot of locals in attendance.
Only about 20% of the carnival goers are tourists.
18 – Its bigger than Glastonbury!
About 11 times bigger to be exact.
19 – If you go, arrange meeting points.
Due to the enormous turn out, naturally it can be difficult getting from one place to another. Phone reception is also difficult to get sometimes as well.
20 – Its grown a lot in 51 years.
Originally, the Notting Hill Carnival started in a small town hall. Now, it spans over 20 mils around West London.