Images of Europe's Biggest Street Party
Monday, September 3, 2007.
By Nicholas Laughlin
Last Monday was the August Bank Holiday in the United Kingdom, which means sunny weather, fun outdoors — and Notting Hill Carnival, the largest Caribbean-style carnival in Europe and one of the largest summer festivals anywhere. (In 2006, up to a million people may have participated, either as masqueraders or as spectators.)
Since 1965, the west London neighbourhood of Notting Hill has been home to this event, which is based on the traditions of various Caribbean carnivals (especially Trinidad’s), but has also been influenced by festivals and music from the many parts of the world to which today’s Londoners trace their heritage.
Costumed masqueraders dance along a three-mile parade route to the throb of music from sound systems and live bands, while hundreds of thousands look on, enjoying the spectacle and the food prepared by streetside vendors (looks like you can even get an ice-cold coconut). The carnival now extends over two days, with children’s bands parading on the Sunday before the Bank Holiday and adults on the holiday itself.
Meanwhile, hundreds of photographers, pros and amateurs, capture the colour and energy of the revelry, and some of them even post their images online where we can all enjoy them. Here is a selection of photos from this year’s Notting Hill Carnival posted on Flickr.
Girls in costume resting at the side of the street during the Notting Hill Carnival children’s parade, Sunday 26 August, 2007. Photo by Cristiano Betta
As in J’Ouvert, the pre-dawn event that opens many Caribbean carnivals, these masqueraders have covered themselves in mud; Notting Hill Carnival, Sunday 26 August, 2007. Photo by Robert P. Byrne. (See more of his Notting Hill photos here.)
Children in costume — the girl at left has her whistle to keep time with the music; Sunday 26 August, 2007. Photo by virgorama. (See her full Notting Hill photoset here.)
Looking down the parade route on Ladbroke Grove; Sunday 26 August, 2007. Photo by london emigre. (See his Notting Hill photoset here.)
Basking in the sun — or in the glow of her own costume? Sunday 26 August, 2007. Photo by sallylondon. (See her Notting Hill photoset here.)
The Trinidadian influence may be strongest in Notting Hill Carnival, but the festival has always been celebrated by Londoners with roots in many other Caribbean territories. This woman dances with the national flag of St. Kitts and Nevis; Sunday 26 August, 2007. Photo by virgorama. Masqueraders with the flags of other Caribbean countries: Guyanese, photographed by Tim Fearn; a Trinidadian woman, photographed by Cristiano Betta; a Grenadian, photographed by P*E*T*A.
The Dame Lorraine is a traditional burlesque character in Trinidad Carnival. This Notting Hill version looks comfortable in decorated Crocs. Monday 27 August, 2007. Photo by Cristiano Betta. (See more of his Notting Hill photos here.)
A treat for the eyes and the ears: a costumed drum band livelies things up; Monday 27 August, 2007. Photo by margaritanitz. (See more of her Notting Hill photos here.)
Notting Hill Carnival was long known as a Caribbean festival, but today Londoners from many cultural backgrounds participate. These dancers are costumed in Chinese dresses, complete with fans; Monday 27 August, 2007. Photo by Cristiano Betta.
Those masks, those powdered wigs, those feathers? Venetian, Caribbean, Aztec? No, it’s just Notting Hill; Monday 27 August, 2007. Photo by Cristiano Betta.
For more photos by these and other photographers, see Flickr’s Notting Hill Carnival 2007 pool.
The piece originally appeared in Global Voices.
Trinidadian Nicholas Laughlin is a journalist and writer. He is the editor of a quarterly magazine, The Caribbean Review of Books and blogs at nicholaslaughlin.blogspot.com.
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