How to make the most of Notting Hill carnival

‘Let loose – and smile!’ From TV presenter Maya Jama to DJ Barely Legal, carnival regulars share their favourite moments and give tips on getting the most out of Europe’s largest street party this weekend

Thris Tian, co-hosts Worldwide FM

Thris Tian - DJ
Thris Tian Photograph: Publicity image

I’ve been going to carnival for about 30 years. My dad used to take me down, since before I was five. August bank holiday – you go to carnival. My family is from Antigua so carnival is such an important part of Caribbean expression and cultural heritage, a celebration of emancipation across the islands. For my dad, it was really important that I connected with that culture – the food, colours, the smell. In the 80s there was loads of tension, there were serious riots, but for carnival people would come together. But it has got an edge, it’s not fluffy, there’s a strong community message that comes out of it. You almost like you feel like it’s your duty to go. When I got into my teens and started going on my own around ’98, that’s when garage was popping. I definitely wasn’t into dancehall, bashment or soca, that was dad and uncle music. So I’d go to Rampage and all the drum’n’bass sound systems, huge speakers blaring out. I’ve put on parties in warehouses, beaches, amazing locations, but there’s a realness about a massive stack on Westbourne Park.

Joseph ‘JP’ Patterson, senior editor, Complex Magazine

Joseph Patterson
Joseph Patterson Photograph: PR

I wasn’t allowed to go to carnival as a child, and I always seemed to miss it during my teens and mid-20s. But for the past five years, I’ve made up for lost time. Growing up in a Caribbean culture (with a Jamaican father and Guyanese mother), I’m used to big cook-outs with reggae music blaring. My tip for carnival first-timers would be to get fully stuck in; try the jerk chicken (with ketchup) and the hard-dough bread; move to the beat of the drums on the floats; let loose — smile! Don’t let the negative headlines fool you: any pre-conceived notion about carnival gets shattered upon arrival. Rampage on Colville Square is probably the sound system you want to be at; the Red Bull stage goes off as well. And do what I do: walk up and down and take in the united vibes of London.

Samba drumming band Batala perform in the Monday parade during the second and final day of the Notting Hill Carnival, west London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Monday August 29, 2016. See PA story SOCIAL Carnival. Photo credit should read: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire
Samba drumming band Batala at last year’s carnival Photograph: Jonathan Brady/PA

DJ Barely Legal, playing at Outlook festival in Croatia (6-10 September)

DJ Barely Legal
DJ Barely Legal Photograph: Shezi Manezi

I live in London now but I’m from Birmingham originally and from the age of 14 I used to get the train down just to go to carnival. Since then I’ve been every year except one, but do I handle myself there better now than when I was a teenager? No! It just gets messier and messier and I never learn. But it’s carnival, everyone lets loose. When it comes to planning your day – try to travel light, with a bum bag for your valuables, as pickpocketing is a problem. I like to go with just one or two people – you don’t want to be losing people/waiting around and you’ll bump into your mates anyway. If it’s gonna rain, bring a rain coat! That said, I think my favourite carnival memory is of 2015 when it absolutely tipped it down. I don’t think I’ve ever been so wet in my life – but I stayed out and everyone was having an amazing time. Well I was...

Varaidzo, arts and culture editor,

Varaidzo Photograph: HidersSeekers

Carnival used to be something I looked down on, literally, while sitting on my dad’s shoulders as a kid. We’d go on Sunday, the ‘family day’, but this year I’m taking advantage of the whole bank holiday weekend. On Friday night, gal-dem’s club night Sugar is back for a carnival special with a line up of women DJs of colour. Then Saturday is for prep: buy water, buy wet wipes, find shoes you can walk and dance in, and plan your outfit. This year, I’m wearing #GreenForGrenfell in solidarity with the residents of Grenfell Tower. My Sunday night motive is SLOCAL’s after party at Five Miles, with DJs from across Europe and In Bloom’s Sade and Neela. And remember: carnival is not a group activity. Avoid disappointment by going with a friend whose vibe matches your own.

A street sound system plays to the crowd during the Notting Hill Carnival
A street sound system plays to the crowd during carnival. Photograph: Miles Willis/Getty Images

Maya Jama, presenter of Cannonball

Maya Jama
Maya Jama Photograph: PR

I have been going to carnival for almost five years – it’s a chance for me to go out with all my friends locally and party, like an annual celebration. One of my best moments has to be when I hosted the RinseFM stage a couple of years ago. I was literally a garage MC shouting over the crowd. Last year we arrived early for the parade, while the paraders were still painting each other … and I was wearing all white. I love all the carnival costumes, but also the dancing. Rampage is one of my favourite systems, but KCC and the Rocking Crew on Wornington Road are amazing – they play US House old and new. As for preparing: I always bring a rucksack, bottle of water, face wipes … and a whistle. And never wear uncomfortable shoes or high heels - you might look amazing but you’ll be struggling by the end of it.
• Cannonball is on ITV from 2 September at 7pm

Bridget Minamore, poet and writer

Bridget Minamore
Bridget Minamore Photograph: PR

As a born and bred south Londoner who hates crossing the river, I only go to Notting Hill once a year – for carnival. . This year, the plan is to go on an early morning walk to the Grenfell site to pay my respects on Sunday, and then head to the Red Bull Music Academy sound system to see rapper Stefflon Don and dancehall queen Spice. Grenfell will (rightly) loom over carnival this year, especially as the survivors and victims’ families are nowhere near getting any closure, and I’m hopeful they’ll be in everyone’s thoughts all weekend. I think it’ll feel celebratory – carnival has always been a symbol of working-class and black communities refusing to back down, and surviving against the odds. London’s been through a lot this year, and a celebration of the city’s diversity is exactly what we need.

Notting Hill Carnival 2016, Notting Hill, London, England
Let it shine … last year’s carnival. Photograph: Euan Cherry/UPPA
Yemi Abiade
Yemi Abiade Photograph: PR

Yemi Abiade, editor, Dummy Mag

I’ve never had a plan for carnival, really. I like to weave between the festivities on the lesser known stages and side streets. You come across some real gems at the smaller sound systems. The best thing about carnival is how eclectic it is musically. I hang around the more dancehall-oriented sound systems, the rap ones and everything in between. Family day on Sunday is always really special because of the number of processions that go by – boys and girls, men and women all bejewelled and dancing in sequences. I somehow managed to get on the Toddla T stage in 2014. Ms Dynamite was performing and, through some act of God, I was dancing next to her. That was probably the best minute and a half of my life up to that point. It was raining but the energy was electric – and when she started her UK garage classic Boo!, I nearly fell off the stage I was so excited. Older and younger people were moving and shaking like their lives depended on it, and you really got the true essence of carnival. I didn’t get to say hi to Ms Dynamite unfortunately – security did away with me before I could muster up the courage.

Emerald Rose Lewis, breakfast show presenter, Rinse FM

Emerald Rose Lewis
Emerald Rose Lewis Photograph: Aron Kleinnn/PR

For me carnival is always on the Monday. It clashes with my favourite festival in the world – Shambala – so usually I go on Monday afternoon post-festival. Minimal clothing is never a bad idea either – it’s carnival after all! I’m a huge fan of a colourful two-piece. My favourite spot last year was Different Strokes sound system on St Luke’s Road, playing hip hop, jungle and drum’n’bass. I like to pick a base and stay there. Gone are the days of walking around all day...I think I’m getting old!

• The 2017 Notting Hill Carnival runs from 26-28 August. For information on what’s on, getting there and more go to

Interviews by Will Coldwell

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