CARNIVAL 2012-91

Here is a series of street shots from the Notting Hill Carnival 2012. Held each year in West London, UK. Carnival attracts many thousands of visitors and is the second largest street carnival in the world, apart from Mardi Gras. I live pretty much smack in the middle of it so its a case of hide away or join in. Over the two days of festivities this year I went out and took some photographs.

Carnival comprises two distinct days of revelry. The Sunday of the Bank Holiday weekend is traditionally ‘for the children’ it involves Mas Parading and a competition, of steel bands and costumes, and carnival troupes. floats or lorries which provide a stage upon which performers dance or an extra travelling sound system. These pass, at a stately pace, along a designated route and are followed by Carnival begins with a rumble, before the punters arrive, the generators ‘lumber-up’; supplying power to sound systems, food stalls, toilets and temporary Police HQ’s. They form a constant background sound system which reverberates throughout the weekend, a sub-noise to the whistles, shouts, and pounding reverberation of high output dance music bouncing off the buildings. But I am getting ahead of myself, in the earlier hours, in the clean-street, police grouping, setting up shop hours, microphones are tested and a mating call floats high through the area as the MC’s shout, and get the levels good. Before long the music starts to emanate – quietly at first and within an hour – around 11am; louder and higher as more people start to arrive.  The rest is ‘Babylon’, anarchy and mostly fun, sometimes frightening and often claustrophobic, yet uplifting, rib-cage-shaking, and very certainly drunken – a two-day extended bar room brawl where the protagonists will break off from time to time for a quick dance. The inverse proportion of brawling and dancing can also be true; it all depends. This post is entitled “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” so here we go:

“The Good”:

  • The costumes: feathers, sequins and complicated armatures; supporting wings and limbs of coloured silk and satin. Sculpture.
  • The enormously varied sizes and shapes of the sound system speakers.
  • The knowledge that all around the area – in local community centres and in resident’s homes the participants in the Mas Parade have begun working on their troop’s colours and themes pretty much as soon as the previous carnival ended one year ago.
  • Sunshine for showing off the costumes.
  • Good food smells and good food eating.
  • Hearing a good tune played louder than you might reasonably expect possible.
  • The mass spontaneous heave of a crowd of revellers in front of a good DJ who is working the crowd.
  • Smiles
  • Having a bit of peace and privacy in ones own home on a street cordoned off by the Police. Feels like one has hired some personal bodyguards for two days.
  • Having access to own toilet.
  • Being able to walk down the middle of aforementioned street without fear of being hit by a white van

The Bad:

  • Rain on the parade.
  • Slipping on greasy chicken wings
  • Gangs of ‘Steamers’ who run through the crowd, grabbing what they can and shoving hard.
  • Related to above: wankers who have to have a mini-riot with bottles on Ladbroke Grove after the music has stopped at 7pm (Stay away)
  • Whistles!
  • Post-Carnival street pong
  • Whistles!
  • Too much ‘Drum n Bass
  • Whistles!

The Ugly:

  • Watching someone vomit three feet in front of you and stepping in it.
  • Lairy arrests and bloody noses
  • Young girls collapsing from over-drinking and drug consumption resulting in claustrophobic panic attacks
  • Over bossy, stroppy Police who won’t smile or make eye contact (basic-training course absentees)
  • Little gangs of twats who are out to show off to their mates by punching anyone who gets in their way.
  • The sound of the police helicopters and the glare of their spotlights into the night
  • Coked-up arseholes singing out of tune outside bedroom window at 4am.
  • Pissing, and worse, in the basement flat areas.
  • Whistles!



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