Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

My Notting Hill Carnival Experience

September 2nd, 2009 · No Comments

When I was first told about the Notting Hill Carnival, I have to say I was quite excited about getting the opportunity to attend.  However, I really had no idea what to expect.  I was told it was the second biggest street festival in Europe, so naturally I thought it would be intense.  When we arrived in the morning it seemed pretty dead.  The rubbish in the streets told me the prior day must have been quite a good time.  I am glad that one of my first discoveries was a 2 litre bottle of Strongbow cider; something I did not expect to see at all.  Nonetheless, my initial reaction was one of disappointment.  We just walked about looking for a place to sit in order to watch the inevitable parades.

Despite the disappointing morning, the carnival came to life as noon approached.  The first thing we saw was a very diverse parade.  The participants ranged from a person dressed in what appeared to be a wedding dress with attached skeletons and machine guns to dinosaurs, a snake/bird creature and Corona girls.  It appeared like everyone was having a good time, but I was still expecting more people.  Luckily, the crowds did begin to grow once we started walking around the neighborhood.

One aspect of the carnival which really interested me was the political graffiti.  It seemed that almost all of it, from what I saw, was “leftist” in nature.  Two in particular caught my eye.  One was a banner of sorts with Che Guevara in the middle.  Spray painted on the red background was “Who the f*ck is this” with the response “Surely not Che?”  I thought this was very interesting and entertaining.  The other piece of graffiti I enjoyed was just a quote spray painted on wood which said “In a democracy dissent is an act of faith.”  Overall, I am glad I was able to spot the graffiti I did see and be able to capture it through a lens before it was washed away.

In the end, I really liked what I saw of the carnival.  The food was simply amazing and very numerous.  It was hard not to walk five feet and not spell something delicious being cooked.  The parades were also fun to watch, especially the Jamaican one.  Nevertheless, I still did expect more people.  Though the crowds were pretty big, for the second largest street festival in Europe, I was disappointed at the amount of people.  Of course, that does not mean I would not come back because it was an amazing experience and one I do not regret.

Tags: Andrew F