In the heart of West London, Notting Hill Carnival is the world’s 2nd largest event of this kind. It bounced back from Covid with a bang last year, with up to 2 million attendees. Read on to get excited about the festival and pick up some smoking tips in preparation. This annual knees-up is steeped in history, the weekend is alive with rhythm, and perfectly showcases London’s Caribbean heritage, artistic expression and community spirit. Let’s learn more about it.
History of Notting Hill Carnival
Any Londoner will have the August Bank Holiday weekend marked down in their calendar for Carni: it’s just what you do. Grammy award-winning DJ, Max Jones, says:
“Nothing says summer to me more than Notting Hill Carnival“
I couldn’t agree more. I remember from the age of 16 getting the train to London to be sure to catch a day of this magical weekend. The last taste of freedom before students go back to school or uni. The last big weekend of summer before I get back to my desk and pray for Christmas. As the sun-kissed (fingers crossed!) streets of Notting Hill come alive with an explosion of color, rhythm, and laughter, a powerful sense of unity envelops the city, transcending boundaries and celebrating the kaleidoscope of human experiences.
The roots of the Notting Hill Carnival stretch back to the mid-20th century, a time marked by cultural exchanges and migration waves that transformed London’s landscape. In the late 1950s, the Caribbean population in Britain began to flourish, and with it came a desire to celebrate their vibrant traditions. The first Carnival, initially known as the “Caribbean Carnival,” emerged in 1959 as a response to the prevailing racial tensions and prejudices that clouded the social fabric of the time. There was growing violence against immigrants and in response activists from the West-Indian community responded with love and showings of pride in their culture, going on to form one of the most significant cultural events of modern Britain.
Over the years, the Carnival evolved, embracing a myriad of cultures and influences that contributed to its remarkable tapestry. It soon became a platform for the Caribbean population to showcase their music, dance, food and artistry. As the Carnival gained momentum, it began to weave its threads into the fabric of London’s identity, becoming a beacon of diversity and inclusion.
It’s so much a part of London culture now that it’s grown to be 11 x bigger than Glastonbury Festival!
What’s it Like?
At the carnival’s core lies the art of masquerade: a captivating display of creativity, craftsmanship, and cultural expression. Elaborate costumes, adorned with intricate details and vibrant colours, take centre stage as ravers don masks to become become living, breathing works of art. Masquerade is more than just a visual spectacle; it’s a reflection of personal and collective identity, a canvas upon which stories, histories, and dreams are painted for all to see.
Anything between 80 and 300 people take part in each ‘Mas’ costume band. Whilst early Mas costumes at Carnival were inspired by West African mythology, and were more scary than sexy, it will only take you 30 seconds to check Instagram from 2022 and notice how some traditions evolve! Finally, true artisan work is on show in the ‘Mad’ bands as every single costume is made by hand. It takes 1 million man-hours to make and decorate them all.
The pulsating heartbeat of Notting Hill Carnival resonates through the powerful sound-systems that line its streets. These massive speaker setups serve as sonic monuments, broadcasting a symphony of beats that span genres and generations. Sound-systems are more than just music; they’re cultural gateways that bridge continents, transporting attendees from the streets of London to the bustling dancehalls of the Caribbean. A must-see is the Channel One Sound System, playing at Carnival for their 40th year!
Steel Pan Bands
Originating in Trinidad and Tobago, steel pan bands are a cornerstone of Notting Hill Carnival’s musical landscape. Crafted from discarded oil drums, these instruments produce melodic notes that evoke the spirit of the islands.
Calypso, a musical genre that weaves storytelling and social commentary, adds a layer of depth to the carnival’s narrative. With its origins rooted in the Caribbean’s history of resistance and creativity, calypso serves as a lyrical conduit for discussing both societal issues and lighter topics with wit and humour.
Soca, a vibrant fusion of soul and calypso, fuels the infectious energy that courses through Notting Hill Carnival. Its upbeat tempo and contagious melodies transform the streets into a sprawling dancefloor, encouraging revelers to let loose and embrace the euphoria of the moment.
Food & Drink
The food stalls at Notting Hill Carnival are more than mere vendors; they are storytellers, weaving tales of culinary heritage and cultural significance. As you savour each bite, you’re not just indulging in a meal, but partaking in a centuries-old tradition passed down through generations.
So if you’re feeling peckish? Grab a pasty. Worked up some proper hunger? Dive into a stew, some curry goat, or some jerk. Little snack to keep you going? Plantain Scotch bonnets, rice and peas, BBQ – there really is no food like Caribbean cuisine. There’s nothing more to say – smoke, dance, and earn that feast!
Good music? Check
Good food? Check
Good Vibes? Check
Good weed? Let’s see:
Cannabis & Carnival
As the vibrant rhythms of the Notting Hill Carnival pulse through the air, embracing the spirit of unity and celebration, many will seek to enhance their experience with man’s favourite plant. Just as the carnival offers a diverse array of music, food, and activities, so too do various cannabis strains cater to different preferences and activities. Whether you’re grooving to the beats, indulging in delectable treats, or immersing yourself in the carnival’s colourful tapestry, here’s a curated guide to selecting the right cannabis products based on your activities and personal tastes.
Super Lemon Haze
The effects are uniquely energetic and lively – perfect for getting down to carnival’s soca and dancehall. Beware, though, it may not be the best strain for those of us that are naturally wound-up tight. If you’re planning to dance your heart out to the contagious rhythms that fill the carnival streets, consider indulging in a sativa-dominant strain. The invigorating buzz of a sativa can amplify your connection to the melodies and rhythms, helping you to fully immerse yourself in the lively atmosphere.
This strain is known for its euphoric and uplifting effects that are sure to boost your mood. Sometimes the effects of this creeping strain come a little slower than other. But what better way to get into the Caribbean atmosphere than chewing on some fresh mango. Mmmmm. For those who prefer to take a leisurely stroll through the culinary wonders of the carnival, an indica-dominant strain might be your ideal companion.
Indicas are known for their calming and relaxing effects, making them an excellent choice for unwinding as you savor the diverse array of mouthwatering food offerings. Let the soothing embrace of an indica heighten your senses, allowing you to relish every bite and flavor with a newfound appreciation. Look on at the festival, soak in the colors, the sounds, and joyously watch it all pass by.
Black Cherry Gelato
If a mixture of the above sounds more like your vibe, you fancy having a little dance and then some down time – and perhaps looking to meet a special someone (2 million attended puts Carnival at a slightly higher chance of finding a date than Hinge!) – then look no further than the delectable Hybrid strain of Black Cheery Gelato (an aphrodisiac of the bud buffet). Put down the cherry wine and pick up cherry bud.
If you’re in for the long haul and intend to partake in a variety of activities, and perhaps a lengthy after-party, then you might consider opting for cannabis-infused edibles. Edibles offer a gradual and prolonged high, ensuring a steady and enjoyable experience throughout the day. Sound good? Check out our gummy-making guide. Whether you’re grooving to the music, exploring the carnival’s vibrant arts and crafts, or simply lounging with friends, edibles provide a discreet and convenient way to elevate your experience without the need for frequent consumption.
Personal tip: can’t hurt to avoid any stress of carrying that stinky bud on the London Underground!
You can’t talk about the UK and cannabis without stating the obvious. Or in other words, the one downer. Cannabis is still illegal to smoke in the UK and we can’t encourage anyone to break the law… technically. But for those who will, pay attention to the Carnival schedule: MONDAY is your funday – adults day. Leave SUNDAY for the family vibes. Here are some other key tips:
- Be Mindful of Others: Recognise that not everyone at the Carnival may be comfortable with cannabis consumption. Be considerate of families, children, and those who may have sensitivities to smoke.
- Stay Hydrated and Nourished: Cannabis consumption can lead to increased thirst and appetite. Ensure you stay hydrated and have a supply of snacks on hand to keep your energy levels up throughout the day.
- Designate a Sober Buddy: If you’re planning to consume cannabis, consider having a designated sober friend with you. They can help you through those more wacky moments.
- Dispose of Waste Properly: Whether it’s packaging or leftover cannabis products, dispose of waste responsibly in designated bins. Keeping the carnival grounds clean and tidy is a shared responsibility.
There we have it. A cannabis guide to the next upcoming 2023 Notting Hill Carnival (Aug 26-28th). This is surely an essential London experience, a place where both residents and visitors revel in the rich heritage of Caribbean culture. As dancing feet and tantalized tastebuds converge, an unforgettable celebration awaits, ensuring cherished memories for you and your friends. For those who plan to smoke, choose your strain wisely and enjoy the day out you so desire. Pray with me for sunshine to illuminate this unique celebration.
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