London’s Festival

Colourful costumes, parades, calypso beats and steel drums – if I didn’t know I was in London, I would have thought I was in the West Indies. The Notting Hill Carnival is when London’s West Indian Community comes out to celebrate and many other Londoners and people from around the world come too.

The Notting Hill event goes back to 1959 when Claudia Jones organized a carnival to celebrate Caribbean culture and reduce tension between London’s West Indian community and working-class white youths. The West Indies are close to the coast of North America and many people were relatives of Africans who had been brought as slaves. The ‘50s saw more people from the West Indies coming to London. Sadly, not all London residents were welcoming. The first carnival was indoors and the money raised was used to pay court costs for convicted young black men.

To be rambunctious is to be very noisy, active and difficult to control. Think of a 5-year-old who has had too much sugar.

Seven years later the carnival moved outside and started to resemble the rambunctious street party it is today. It now looks like the carnivals which began on Trinidad and Tobago. Dancers and performers, many wearing large hats dance on the streets which have been closed for the party.

If you get into the spirit of something you enjoy it and join in the activity. ‘Everyone got into the spirit and swam in the river to cool off after a hot day.’

While the parades are an important part, the carnival isn’t divided between the performers and the audience. I found out when I was there 10 years ago that the celebration includes everyone. As much as I avoid crowds, even I got into the spirit and danced with friends around a sound system. Best of all the whole area was only for the people. For the day we were there it seemed like the city belonged to us.

The carnival was also a chance to try some West Indian cuisine. A few stalls were selling a popular dish from the region called jerk chicken. Jerk chicken is grilled and spiced chicken. The piece I ordered was covered with sweet chili sauce and served with rice.

After a day’s dancing it tasted great. Going to one of London’s Caribbean takeaways to try this again is a personal reason for me to visit the city. When I finished I went back to join my friends dancing at a nearby sound system. We danced until we were invited to a local resident’s house for a party. Never in my life has a public celebration changed so nicely into a private affair. The tunes continued through the night, though sadly there was no jerk chicken on offer.

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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Colourful costumes and wild music – I was in London, but I thought I was in the West Indies. The Notting Hill Carnival is when London’s West Indian Community celebrates and many other Londoners and people from around the world come too.

The Notting Hill event started in 1959 when Claudia Jones organized a carnival to celebrate Caribbean culture and reduce tension between London’s West Indian community and working-class white young people. The West Indies are close to the coast of North America and many people were relatives of Africans who were slaves. The ‘50s brought more people from the West Indies to London. The first carnival was indoors and the money raised was used to pay court costs for convicted young black men.

To be rambunctious is to be very noisy, active and difficult to control. Think of a 5-year-old who has had too much sugar.

Seven years later the carnival moved outside and started to resemble the rambunctious street party it is today. It now looks like the carnivals which began on Trinidad and Tobago. Dancers and performers, many wearing large hats dance on the streets which are closed for the party.

While the parades are an important part, the carnival isn’t divided between the performers and the audience. I found out when I was there 10 years ago that the celebration includes everyone. As much as I avoid crowds, even I started dancing with friends around a sound system. Best of all the whole area was only for the people. For the day we were there it seemed like the city belonged to us.

The carnival was also a chance to eat some West Indian food. A few stalls were selling a popular dish from the region called jerk chicken. Jerk chicken is grilled and spiced chicken. The piece I ordered was covered with sweet chili sauce and served with rice.

After dancing for a long time it tasted great. I would visit London again just to eat it. Then I went back to join my friends dancing at a nearby sound system. We danced until we were invited to a local resident’s house for a party. The music continued through the night, but I wish I had some more chicken.

Original article by Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia. Text edited by The Word’s methodology team

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Flamboyant costumes, parades, calypso beats and steel drums – if I didn’t know I was in London, I would have thought I had ended up in the West Indies. The Notting Hill Carnival is when London’s West Indian Community comes out in full force and many other Londoners – as well as people from around the world – come to help them celebrate.

The Notting Hill event goes back to 1959 when Claudia Jones organized a carnival to celebrate Caribbean culture and quell tension between London’s West Indian community and working-class white youths. The West Indies actually sit off the coast of North America and many people descended from Africans who had once been brought as slaves. The ‘50s saw many more people from the West Indies coming to London. Sadly, not all London residents were welcoming. The first carnival was indoors and proceeds were used to pay court costs for convicted young black men.

To be rambunctious is to be very noisy, active and difficult to control. Think of a 5-year-old who has had too much sugar.

Seven years later the carnival moved outside and started to resemble the rambunctious street party it has become today and in this way resembles the carnivals which originated on Trinidad and Tobago. Starting as a parody of the lavish costumes of the French slave owners, the carnival has become a celebration in its own right. Dancers and performers, many quite scantily clad, and their heads crowned with large plumes, gyrate and twist down the cordoned off streets which have been blocked off for the occasion.

While the parades are an important part, the carnival isn’t just neatly delineated into the performers and the audience as I discovered when I attended 10 years ago. The celebration includes everyone. And a lot of people had come to celebrate. As much as I avoid crowds, even I got into the spirit and danced with friends around a sound system. Best of all the whole area was given over to people. For the day we were there it seemed like the city belonged to us.

Through the music it was possible to hear the bright chiming steelpans playing all around. You may know the sound of steelpans without knowing the word. For example the Beach Boys “Kokomo” features their sprightly bell like sound. In the hands of the performers at carnival they are more than just mere accompaniment. They can be the main instrument in their own right as this footage shows.

The carnival was also a chance to experience some West Indian cuisine. Apart from the music, dancing and costumes, a few stalls were selling a popular dish from the region called jerk chicken. Jerk chicken is grilled and spiced chicken. I’m sure that each family or vendor has their own version. The piece I ordered was a leg and thigh which the vendor deftly chopped into small pieces with her cleaver and slathered with sweet chili sauce and served with rice.

After a day’s dancing it hit the spot. The meat pulled off the bone and the spices didn’t overpower the charcoal taste. Going to one of London’s Caribbean takeaways to try this again is a personal reason for me to return to the British capital. Once I’d licked my fingers clean I went back to join my friends dancing at a nearby sound system, which we did until we were invited to a local resident’s house for a party. Never in my life has a public celebration segued so nicely into a private affair. The tunes carried on through the night, though sadly there was no jerk chicken on offer.

This year’s Notting Hill Carnival is happening from 25th to 26th August. If you feel inspired to go (and can manage to get a plane ticket) it would be worth checking out this travel advice. As the carnival has continued to grow since I was last there, I would expect many people. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t join in the party atmosphere which is what carnival is all about.

Ryan Scott – Sydney, Australia

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