Red Stripe, Jerk Chicken and Soca

My mate has been going on at me for ages to take her to the Notting Hill Carnival, I’ve always been busy, or mostly, out the night before and not up to jostling for a red stripe with a million other people, but this year I relented early and agreed to take her, partly because I felt bad, partly because I wanted to go, and partly because I went to the one in Rio last year and wanted to relive the experience in a normally quiet part of London

I’ve been going to europes biggest street party on and off for about 7 or 8 years.  A few years ago me and some friends were almost crushed at the top end of ladbroke grove, as a large group of people surged down following the trucks, while an equally large number of people were trying to move up, but both were hampered by the barriers on one side and the houses on the other.  There was a massive crush and for a frighening few seconds, I was being squashed while being completely unable to move.
Still this didn’t put me off and I returned the next year and found somewhere to watch the parade in the drizzle.  When it came it seemed incredibly lack-lustre, and anyone completely ignorant would have believed that the culture that was being celebrated consisted of staggering around behind a truck brandishing bottles of brandy and rum and stopping occasionally to try any number of outrageous lines on any girl that happened to walk past.  This is in no way typical, but this particular year it’s all I seemed to see, and there seemed to be massive gaps between each group, I got bored, had a wander, washed down some jerk chicken and mooched home.  That was my last time, and it had soured the taste for a day I normally enjoyed.

So with the backdrop of the riots shadowing this years events, I had mixed feelings about going, not so much because I was worried about there being trouble, I doubted that, but because I wondered if it was going to be good times…or not so good times.

After a cheeky aperitif on the roof garden at the Southbank we streamed off the central line at Queensway and headed into Notting Hill.  After a quick wander round and a bite to eat, we settled on Ladbroke Grove to watch the parade.  It was awesome, the barriers were gone which meant people were able to get up right and close to the parade groups, which was meant people could get more involved in the fun, but I get the impression it held things up slightly, as a lot of people were stopping the procession to have their photos taken with the people in costume and I guess is the down side of having no barriers.  At one point there was a truck heading down, and although you couldn’t hear the music there was a few hundred people moving down alongside and at various points you would feel the bass hit your stomach and hundreds of hands went up in the air.
After that we seemed to wander down the packed portobello road, past a soundsystem blasting out Mark Ronson’s version of Valerie with Amy Whitehouse, the song stopped the street as everyone sang and danced, to me the most fitting tribute to an amazing talent lost so tragically early.
The sound systems were nestled away in amongst hundreds of food stalls selling jerk chicken, curried goat (no idea what this would taste like), including the now famous Levi Root’s stall with his reggae reggae sauce.
Eventually we ended up back at the start of the actual route, and there will floats starting out, revellers giving it their all that would undoubtedly still be going as they rounded the bend and headed down Ladbroke Grove on the homeward stretch.

We headed out shortly after and I saw my mate back to Waterloo.  She said she loved it, and me, I loved it too, It was a fantastic event for London to hold and hold successfully after the riots, but that was bye the bye, it was what it should be, a party and a bloody great one at that 🙂

Ladbroke Grove

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