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Notting Hill fires up its off-road Carnival

ByStephen Spark

t’s another year in exile for Notting Hill Carnival, deported from the streets that gave it life 55 years ago. Where racist residents, grandstanding politicians, snarling media and thick blue lines of police failed, an invisible bug succeeded for the second year running. But only partly…

Covid might be feeling pleased with itself, but the irrepressible energy and determination of Carnival can’t be kept locked down. As every masquerader knows, when one way is blocked you just have to find another. And that’s what organiser Notting Hill Carnival Ltd (NHCL) has done.

Just a few days to wait, and the next free show is waiting for you. The Community Carnival Party at Portobello Green is another VCA event and starts at midday on Thursday 26th, but we had no more details as we went to press.

By this stage we’ll be ready for the premier event in the UK steelband calendar, on Carnival Saturday 28 AugustPanorama. Yes, it’s happening and not, as was rumoured a few weeks ago, in some distant car park, but in its long-time home, Emslie Horniman’s Pleasance off Kensal Road. Four bands will compete for the ultimate steelband accolade: Ebony Steelband, Metronomes SB, Croydon Steel Orchestra plus reigning champions Mangrove Steelband.

It’s not ‘just’ steelpan – there’s mas too! For those of us who somehow missed the Mas Mus Play events at The Tab on 25 July and 1 August there’ll be a chance to catch some costume action at the Pleasance from 6pm, along with Brazilian bands, food stalls, bars and a big screen. After the results are announced, DJs will play and keep things moving until midnight.

As the off-road version of Notting Hill Carnival approaches the chequered flag, there are two final pit-stops, and where better than at The Tabernacle in Powis Square. We finish our Notting Hill journey where we began: with calypso. There will be two nights of the London Calypso Tent on Thursday 26 and Friday 27 August, running from 7.30pm to 11pm.

Other exciting activities in prospect encompass soca (don’t forget Soca Fridayseach week at the Tab, 6-10pm), food and drink, Afrobeats, sound systems and mas-making workshops.

If you’ve missed out on tickets or can’t reach West London, don’t worry – you’ll be able to watch livestreams of Panorama and the Holland Park shows on NHCL’s new TikTok platform at @NHCarnivalLDN.

The Carnival vibe won’t end at midnight on Monday 30 August, though. From 1 to 3 October there’ll be live steelpan and calypso performances at The Tabernacle as part of the International Conference in Carnival Arts, and later in Black History Month we’ve been promised a second round of the Calypso Tent.

One thing is for sure, Covid can’t kill the Carnival spirit.

Full events list here

All information was believed correct at the time of publishing this article, but events are being altered and added almost hourly.
Most events require tickets to be obtained in advance. Prices range from £5 to £15. Some are free but may still require a ticket. For NHCL events, go to, but hurry because shows are selling out fast.

Although we are not aware of any requirement to show a vaccine ‘passport’ for these events, it might be wise to carry proof of Covid vaccination with you, especially when going to indoor shows.

After its 18-month slumber, the soca scene is waking up and raring to go. To keep yourself vaccinated against boredom we recommend a daily injection of!


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