Somehow, and I don’t understand how it happened so quickly, the time has come again for Notting Hill Carnival. This is probably a repeat of what I said in last year’s blog but just to explain again… It happens on the last bank holiday weekend of August and is made up of 2 days – Sunday which is children’s day or family day, and Monday which is a bigger thing because it’s adults’ day.
You have a choice of participating in the carnival procession or just going as part of the public/crowd (going to dance at the stationery sound systems, buying food and drinks from the stalls, watching the procession etc). Last year I went as part of the general crowd on the Sunday and “played mas” (took part in the procession on Monday in a costume. That night I stayed at my little nieces’ house and they said they’d like to do it on children’s day next year, so that’s what happened today.
My “band” (group/float) from last year is called Burrokeets, and on Sunday they run a float called Candy Mas, so I thought it made sense for us to book a place with them for me and my nieces. They’d never been before so had no idea what to expect apart from loud music and free sweets (hence the name Candy Mas).
This morning my half brother Matthew (their dad) drove us to the meeting point for 11am because we’d been told the float would leave at 12. It was funny because we brought their dog with us and so Matthew (the only white middle aged man in sight) was casually walking around the meeting point with a dog. Dogs aren’t exactly a common sight at carnival and I think people actually assumed that the dog was going to take part in the procession!
After about an hour of waiting around we all assembled behind the truck and Matthew drove off (with the dog, probably to the relief of the other participants) and once we reached the actual carnival (we started on a side road so it took a while), the paint and powder was being handed out from the truck. Throwing paint and powder over everyone is a Jouvert tradition (Jouvert means the start of carnival). Jouvert actually happens at about 7am, so obviously when we were throwing it it wasn’t actual Jouvert, but that’s why it was happening basically.
My nieces were keen to get involved so we ran to the truck and were handed some bottles of paint while other people were given packets of “candy fog” (brightly coloured powder). Mary, the older one, decided to pour half her green bottle all over Rose’s head, and we got caught in the firing line of some paint from the other participants. This photo was taken before the worst of it:
I forgot to mention earlier… As you can see in the photo we’re all wearing Candy Mas tshirts. On the Sunday most participants are in tshirts rather than costumes, so you pay about £30 for a tshirt with your band’s logo on it, and that also gets you the powder, paint, lunch and unlimited drinks from the truck.
The paint and powder continued to be thrown for most of the day but not as much as at the beginning. Other than that everyone was just dancing and singing to the very loud music coming from the giant speakers on the truck. There was also a live performance on the truck from a Trinidadian singer.
I didn’t think the girls would be able to last all day but they did well to keep walking until 4pm without really any complaints. By that point I could see that the two younger ones were getting tired so Mary and I agreed to call it a day because otherwise it would be too much for them so we found our way out of the carnival and to a kebab shop where we ate disgusting greasy food and waited for their dad to pick us up.
The security (stewards holding ropes to make barriers) were efficient and it was completely safe within their barriers (so in our band) so to be honest I’d recommend playing mas in a family band on the Sunday with your kids more than I’d recommend just going as part of the public because it’s way less crowded behind the truck and the atmosphere is really positive and fun.