Notting Hill Carnival Can Only Get Stronger

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You’d be excused for believing that Notting Hill Carnival was just another year if you went yesterday.

Red Stripe beer cans dangled from fishing poles being held by creative owners of off-licenses, and women dressed in lavish Caribbean carnival costumes had wingspan that filled entire blocks.

Over the course of two days, jerk chicken, rice, and peas were prepared for the crowds using oil-drum grills, feeding an estimated two million people.

As Vybz Cartel and Dawn Penn were being played loudly by sound systems like King Tubby’s and Different Strokes, revellers congregated, smoking and drinking. Basically standard programming.

But the 2023 edition of the Notting Hill Carnival wasn’t like any other.

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It was the seventy-fifth anniversary of the HMT Empire Windrush arriving at Tilbury with a group of Caribbean workers who contributed to the post-World War II rebuilding of Britain.

As a result, a bus decorated in the Windrush motif joined this year’s march, displaying artwork by Baraka Carberry that showed three generations of those affected by the Windrush.

The bus will continue to exist after the long weekend when it returns in October for Black History Month.

The fact that Carnival 2023 is back this year after being cancelled due to Covid adds to its historical significance.

Since it hadn’t been hosted since 2019, Carnival 2022 saw a modest decline in attendance, but not a downturn in spirit.

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With more than two million visitors over the course of the weekend and well-known personalities like Lily Allen, Idris Elba, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Nick Grimshaw, and Clara Amfo among the crowds, Carnival is back to its height this year.

Streets were congested, as usual, and any newcomer’s foolish plans to “meet friends there” immediately fell through once they left Ladbroke Grove station and saw what a wonderful commotion they had gotten themselves into.

There were lots of off-white sunglasses, crochet “naked” skirts, and leftover silver cowboy hats from Beyoncé’s Renaissance tour.

As usual, Caribbean flag colours were everywhere, from the red, white, and black of Trinidad and Tobago to the black, yellow, and green of Jamaica, which stand for the sun, soil, and hope.

Fortunately, 2023 felt like any other year, said the 25-year-old participant.

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Will explains as we squeeze past the crowds on Portobello Road, saying it demonstrates how the vitality of Notting Hill can never be diminished.

If anything, it’s nice that it seems to happen every other year because it shows that it will never go away.

Will, who has been going to Carnival every year since he was in his teens, believes that even after two years away from Covid, the spirit is still very much alive.

People have attempted to stop the event from happening, but each time they have been unsuccessful.

These efforts include Covid, Met Police concerns over the event’s policing, and prior attempts by City Hall to transfer the celebrations into Hyde Park rather than residential areas.

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Will says, “I know the festival has run into problems in the past, with people seeking to take it out of the neighbourhood, but there really is nothing better than strolling the streets of Notting Hill in the summer sun absorbing the culture.

Plus, a lot of people here consider this location to be their cultural home.

Notting Hill Carnival should continue to grow.

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