10 reasons why Notting Hill Carnival is the best carnival in Britain

It's the biggest event of its kind in Europe and the second largest carnival in the world, what makes Notting Hill Carnival so great?

1. London origins 

Originally a Trinidian tradition, Notting Hill Carnival was created in the 1960s from the union of two community events.

The first was an indoor celebration of Caribbean cultures organised in 1959 by human rights activist Claude Jones.

A few years later Rhaune Laslett organised an outdoor party consisting of children's games, food, music, and dancing.

The joining of the two gradually facilitated by procession performances of musicians, as a celebration of culture. 


2. Do it yourself

The first official carnival was held in 1966, organised by school teacher Leslie Palmer and received newspaper and radio coverage by the BBC. But 1975 is widely held to be the first major festival.  


3. Supporters everywhere

Carnvial was threatened with closure in the late seventies due to riots between the police force and a pressurised black youth. The media coverage was negative but carnival found an unlikely supporter in Prince Charles.


4. The way to go

In 2002 the route was changed to accommodate for a growing number of diverse festival goers. A year later the festival was estimated to be worth £93 million to the UK economy.


5. Huge numbers

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Carnival is facilitated each year by over 40,000 volunteers, approximately 10,000 police, and attracts almost 2 million visitors over two days.


6. The Mas

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The masquerade parade—or Mas as it’s properly called—is a dramatic celebration of costume and dance by upwards of 200 participants, all spending a year hand making their vibrant costumes.


7. Steel pans

Steel pan bands are the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago, and are traditionally Carnival’s main attraction.

Russell Henderson’s Steel Band was one the original outfits to play carnival—and Britain’s first steel pan combo.


8. Changing tunes

The traditional music of Notting Hill Carnival was Calypso—and its derivative Soca—and numerous steel bands. There are now over forty sound systems along the carnival route pumping DubReggaeFunk and House music into the mix.


9. Food of the gods

Over the course of the two-day festival, licensed stallholders serve over five tons of jerk, roasted, and barbequed chicken. Imagine the aroma!

Approximately 30,000 cobs of corn will be buttered and sold and over five million helpings of punch, beer and soft drinks will be served. 


10. Summer not spring 

Despite its name, Notting Hill Carnival is not part of the global carnival season (such as Mardi Gras) which take place before the Christian festival of Lent.

Instead it takes place over two days during the August bank holiday weekend. A fantastic way to end the summer!


Header Image Bikeworldtravel / Shutterstock.com