Friday, 6 September 2013

The Notting Hill Carnival - Sierra Leoneans Representing!!

The Notting hill carnival is a very popular street event in London. The masses look forward to it and come out in numbers.

Two years ago I was forced by my Caribbean friend to have a taste of this diverse cultural event. I did and I have done so ever since except this year. The reason being is I felt old and outdated when my 13 year old cousin told me he was going...13!!! The boy I used to console with a lollipop saying I’ll be back soon is actually all grown up...grown up enough to go to such mighty street carnival....I can't deal!! (Consoles self) 

Don't get me wrong, this event entertains both the young and the old, black, white, purple and brings people together. You can say it’s infectious as well because after the first time, you start looking forward to the next, but I can also tell you it is not for the faint-hearted. This vibrant, energetic and colourful event which brings people of all races and cultural background together takes place annually on a weekend in August and people go out in masses to support. The Sunday is usually given to the kids to have fun and on Mondays the adults come out to play.

My sister and cousins went and they represented Sierra Leone, my very own home town and they represented well. They were not the only ones that represented which made me quite happy. Sierra Leone is a small country and the diaspora in London is not very large when compared to other countries. So seeing Sierra Leoneans coming out in their green, white and blue (Colours of our national flag) was everything. I even saw couple of pictures of our local masquerades from some of my friends who attended and this made me very happy.

My Sister,cousin and few friends representing the Lion Mountain.
Sierra Leone

You all know how I do when I get excited about something...I blog about it! :)

I decided to do a small research on the history of this event that millions of people look forward to each year. 

''The Notting Hill Carnival is the largest street festival in Europe and originated in 1964 as a way for Afro-Caribbean communities to celebrate their own cultures and traditions. Taking place every August Bank Holiday weekend in the streets of London W11, the Notting Hill Carnival is an amazing array of soundscolourful sights and social solidarity.
At the roots of the Notting Hill Carnival are the Caribbean carnivals of the early 19th century – a particularly strong tradition in Trinidad – which were all about celebrating the abolition of slavery and the slave trade. The very first carnival was an attempt to showcase the steel band musicians who played in the Earls Court of London every Weekend. When the bands paraded through the streets of Notting Hill, they drew black residents out on to the streets, reminding them of the Caribbean homes they had left behind.
In the days of abolition, there was a strong element of parody in the songs and dances Trinidadians performed. Having been forbidden to hold festivals of their own during the period of slavery, they now took full advantage of the relative new freedoms the ending of slavery brought them. Dressing up in costumes that mimicked the European fashions of their former masters, even whitening their faces with flour or wearing white masks, they established a tradition that continues in the costume-making of today's Notting Hill Carnival. The proper name for this aspect of the Carnival is Mas (derived from Masquerade)''

Well my friends that was a short history of the very popular Notting Hill Carnival. Hope it didn't bore you, I just thought since so many people live for that carnival, we might as well shed some light on its history. It is only fair.

The carnival normally kicks off from the early hours of the day. We normally get there for 12 noon and the mood is already set by then.  The vibes is lively and exuberant with blaring music, girls parading in the skimpiest outfits, lads in their baby Gap gears showing off their well-earned six packs, alcohol and street food everywhere. We just join in on the parade and make a day of it but not before having a builder’s breakfast. That is meant to lining the stomach against the excessive intake of alcohol to follow. Yes it is that serious!

As I said earlier this carnival is no ordinary carnival, people from all over the world are in attendance and it has almost become an ''all nations’ event'' compared to what it originally started as. This is a good thing, such a huge event must be used to bring people closer and not divide. For that reason being, I fully support this movement.

Even though the carnival have had its share of violence in the past, it’s getting better as the years go by as more and more polices are being deployed and I think people are getting wiser. This year’s carnival was relatively peaceful compared to others in the past. So that is another reason to support this movement.

There is never a dull moment at the carnival. The colourful and blinged up costumes of the dancers, the different genres of extremely loud music, the dancing troupers, both male and female flaunting their sexy bits (as if it's not hot enough in there already…phew) and the air that is ever so blessed with the mixed smell of different palatable cuisines from all over the world, especially the good ole jerk chicken....hmmm. Alongside all these happenings is the excess flow of alcohol and I mean excess! I am not complaining… I love my drinks.

Our Local Masquerade back home representing the motherland Sierra Leone at the carnival. My best bit must be the guy's trainers....very creative and unique!!

After all the enjoyment is the fight of the day. The fight to get home. Tube stations are normally jam-packed like tins of sardines and so are the buses. If you happen to go with friends, which is the case most of the time, just make sure y'all don't lose each other. If you do, then just hope your mobile phone is charged to find them but that again is not even guaranteed to be answered. Who hears or feels their phone ring or vibrate in such loud and chaotic atmosphere?! It's an absolute nightmare getting home. When you finally do you are fit for nothing but your bed.

Hence my reason for saying, the Notting Hill Carnival is not for the faint-hearted. Forget the journey home, or the strength needed to keep up with the dancers and various music boxes, dancing to Soca or bashment all day is not even a child's play, it actually drains you.

I hope I have managed to shed some light on the very famous Notting Hill Carnival. I might have enticed you to go the next time you're in London Town. If so here's a few tips:

  1.  Go in large numbers if you can, the more the merrier and keep close at all times. (as hard as this sounds, it’s vital)
  2. Dress as you wished to be approached, it's a carnival and all sorts of people are going to be there.
  3. Drink responsibly (alcohol of course) and Eat responsibly (We don’t want no stomach upset from street food)
  4. Wear comfortable attire & shoes....(I cannot stress this enough, it’s a long day, uncomfortable clothes are not the one)
  5. Keep hydrated at all times. (Alcohol is not a substitute for water)
  6. Know your limits (A&E is not your portion)
  7. Keep safe at all times (No unnecessary arguments)
  8. Avoid drunkards (that is if you're not one yourself already by then)
  9. Do not wear any valuables (If you must, keep them safe)
  10. Have fun and don’t take yourself seriously.

I can go on and on but I think ten will do for now and you will figure the rest on your own if you ever attend. That is always the best way to learn anyway. :)

Till then...