Notting Hill Carnival is like walking into a dreamscape. A safe space and designated bank holiday weekend to celebrate Black British culture with a Caribbean emphasis. Sound systems blast reggae, jungle and UK Garage. There are too many beautiful people to know where to look.
The smoky haze from the jerk chicken served on every corner mixed in with the scent of Ganja lets me know that I’ve arrived somewhere that feels like home. To ‘buss a whine’ is mandatory, the dress code is minimal and skin on skin is certain as over 2 million people flocked to Notting Hill and its surrounding suburbs for its first year back since 2019.
Carnival is always exciting, but with two years of lockdowns and travel bans behind me, this year, to be outside, with millions of people in every direction, while completely overwhelming was also exhilarating. I wanted to absorb every single moment, supreme presence was my carnival objective.
Coming from a mixed Nigerian-Australian heritage, growing up in Australia away from access to black culture in the same way they have in the UK makes carnival an absolutely tantalising experience. A sensory overload of an embraced, encouraged and celebrated black existence that I didn’t think possible until my first carnival.
72 seconds of silence was honoured for the victims of Grenfell, all floats and Sound Systems stopped as we took a moment for those injured and who passed tragically in the avoidable structural housing fire of 2017. Green Hearts for Grenfell could be seen decorating the walls as well as in the distance above the construction cladding where the tower should still be.
In true Notting Hill Carnival style, the vibes stayed high in the crowd and there was general consensus that 2022’s carnival was to be monumental and it truly lived up to the hype. Some amnesia is needed to forget the downside of what manoeuvring through millions of people at a street party can feel like, but the 365 days until next year’s carnival affords me that.
Experience the sounds of Notting Hill Carnival with the below playlist, curated by Yemi Sul.