Art and Music      
Chianciano Biennale


Notting Hill Carnival


“Dave, are you coming carnival this year? You’ve got to come; it’s gonna be so, so sick”.

No it’s not. It’s going to be a fucking nightmare.

Between the ages of 15 and 17, I smoked skunk pretty much every day. Me, a guy called Patrick and a guy called Mike. Patrick and Mike wore tracksuits and listened to garage music; I liked the Beatles, wore a brown suit, rode around on a Vespa and wore bowling shoes that I had stolen from the alley at the Warner Brothers complex in Park Royal. It was fair to say that they were slightly embarrassed to be seen with me. None of that matters, though, when you’re a pothead. You’ll hang about with anyone that smokes weed, anyone that can get you weed and anyone you can ponce weed from.

We would pool our resources and buy skunk off one of three posh boys in Ealing. The deals would be executed in a pre-determined manner that would minimize the chance of getting busted by the police. We actually thought there was a good chance our phone calls were being monitored by the drug squad so we talked in code. Once we were well and truly stoned we would wander the streets of Acton eating biscuits and rapping to each other.

Every time I smell skunk it instantly reminds me of those wasted days and nights, and it makes me shudder. This isn’t the only reason I hate the Notting Hill Carnival. 

EVERYONE I know seems to love ‘Carnival’; some of them have been talking about it for weeks. I very rarely make plans, but I promise you that on the August bank holiday weekend I will be as far away from W11 as possible. It’s not as if I haven’t tried to like it, I’ve been three times and hated it every single time. I cannot get over the sense of menace in the air, the gangs of unruly little thugs with bandanas over their faces, tagging walls with markers swagged from W.H. Smith’s and bumping into anyone and everyone. I cannot overcome the fear that I’m going to get stabbed.

Stabbing aside, I find it all incredibly patronizing to see the hordes of Guardian reading, chino and boat shoe-wearing class tourists bogleing and drinking Red Stripe. While the ‘peace and love’ message of Caribbean culture, perpetuated by Rastamouse, Levi Roots and the BBC’s cringe-worthy live coverage of Carnival, is being seriously compromised by the truck moving at two miles per hour, spewing a dancehall song that repeatedly advises listeners to execute homosexuals.

I think that people are slowly waking up to the fact that homophobia is no different to racism. Of course, it is not reserved to West Indian culture; American rappers, for example, use the word ‘faggot’ freely, although I’d be hard pushed to recall a track where they actively encourage the hunting and murder of gays. Of course, I’m not saying that all West Indians are homophobes, I just find it bizarre that you can legally have a truck with 70-odd speakers strapped to, it in the middle of London, defecating such a hateful message. If I was driving a truck around, playing a song about hunting and killing Albanians (for example), or handicapped people I would be arrested within minutes. Plus, I doubt they would be quite as lenient with me the second time around. 

Stabbing and homophobia aside, my biggest annoyance with the carnival is the inevitability of getting separated from your friends and getting completely lost in the crowd. I hate crowds at the best of times. A visit to Oxford Street would not be complete without a compulsory panic attack and the constant checking to ensure I haven’t been pick pocketed (I have never, nor has anyone I know, been pick-pocketed, but those announcements on the tube make you feel as if it is only a matter of time). When the crowd is drunk and rowdy it suddenly transforms from an annoyance to a threat. If being in the middle of a crowd is like being in the middle of a heard of cows then being in the middle of a drunk, rowdy crowd is like being surrounded by stampeding bulls. At this point, you don’t decide which way you’re going to walk; you’re pulled in the direction that the crowd decides to take you. 

Before you know it you’re in a street you’ve never been in before. The music and policemen are getting further and further away and you notice that people look less and less festive and more and more … well, to be blunt, they’re smoking crack. You call your friends, but of course they can’t hear their phones because they are probably dancing like Pato Banton in front of a man playing a steel drum.

At this point you realize you need a piss, so a nice local lets you use his toilet for £3. Of course, when somebody charges you £3 for a piss, you’d feel you’d been completely done if you didn’t piss all over his floor. Sadly, everybody before you has used exactly the same twisted logic. It’s time to go home. I don’t have the energy to describe the tribulations of using public transport in West London during Notting Hill Carnival weekend. 

By all means, please go to The Notting Hill Carnival. I hope you have a lovely time. Just please, please stop trying to convince me how wonderful it’s going to be. I think that deep down we all know it’s going to be rubbish.



2011-08-24 12:53:46
Sounds like a belting day out I'm booking my train tickets today

Leave a comment

Art Social 15
Threadneedle Prize
Royal Court Theatre
Art & Music Newsletter Subscribe
The Holburne Museum