Rain, stabbings and Digital Soundboy shut-down at Notting Hill Carnival
So, Notting Hill Carnival was a pretty soggy affair this year. I still haven’t managed to wring all the water out or my clothes and my Converse are looking pretty sorry for themselves right now. Despite the rain and the disappointment at not seeing some of my favourite acts, we had a bloody good day out and made loads of friends. I’m not sure if it beat my first time at the event last summer, even though we only went on the Sunday, but it is definitely the sort of event that calls for sunshine – you can’t dance to reggae and eat Jamaican jerk chicken in the rain. Taking place on the August bank holiday weekend, you would expect that we would be in for a few rays, but apparently not! Instead, it was wet, very, very wet.
We caught the train to London first thing and were more than excited to return to the Carnival and on the main day this time – plus with a line-up on the Digital Soundboy stage that included Shy FX, Chase and Status, Lily Allen, Mark Ronson, Gorgon City, Sigma, David Rodigan and B Traits among many others – we couldn’t wait to get dancing. We had been checking the weather forecast every day in the run-up to Monday, and those dark clouds were threatening but we remained positive and although laden with macs and umbrellas, we prayed the sun would shine. Last year the forecast wasn’t great but about lunchtime the sun came out and shone all day – it was gorgeous! This year, we were disappointed to say the least and spent the day trying to avoid the huge puddles, to find the smallest bit of shelter and to dance at stages that with busted speakers. It sounds rubbish, but don’t be fooled – we had a fantastic day and made lots of friends – we didn’t even mind the rain until the music all stopped and we had no more distractions. Then it was a very long, cold and wet train journey home.
After arriving in London, we headed straight to Westbourne Park Station and took a stroll along the road – immediately enveloped in the spicy smells of jerk chicken, goat curry and various other tasty carnival delights. The streets were lined with people and various sound systems at bars and houses along the road. We walked straight into the parade, which I had heard had a late start due to the weather, but they were out in full force and we shaking their tail feathers to the sound of steel drums. The beats from the parade are so strong that you can’t help but dance and we found a good spot in a doorway to watch the parade from a height – strangely we bumped into two friends from home who were already standing there! It was brilliant and helped us stay dry for a short time. After three floats of extravagant costumes and great music filed past, we headed back towards the station with a mojito in hand to find the Digital Soundboy stage – where everyone seemed to be heading.
Our spirits stayed high despite the rain and we were looking forward to a good dance, but sadly we arrived at the Digital Soundboy stage to find no music, just waiting crowds. We stuck around for a bit, then decided to wander around the block and found some great smaller sound systems that had the music going full pelt and everyone dancing. Later, when we headed back to Digital Soundboy we found that again, there was no music and someone told us apparently a generator had broken. Gutted wasn’t the word, we, like countless others had travelled great distances to see this top list of acts play and now none of them would be playing. I understand that it was bad luck that a generator broke, but was there really no way of getting another delivered, or even borrowing one from one of the smaller stages – everyone would have appreciated it considering they had turned out in the pouring rain. I was also surprised to see no signs around explaining what had happened, we only found out by luck after chatting to someone in the crowd as we had no signal on our phones to check the Facebook or Twitter pages – perhaps better communication might have helped.
With music off the cards – we found it pretty difficult to navigate our way to another stage so hung out at the smaller ones – we made it our business to have as much fun as possible. We made lots of friends, had a good laugh with lots of fantastic people including some guys who went to our last festival – BoomTown Fair, and lots of others from our home town. The atmosphere is one of the things I love most about Notting Hill Carnival, everyone is so friendly and happy and just wants to have a good time. We had lots of fun dancing like idiots and taking rain-soaked pictures of our sexy mascara-sodden faces, while basically walking round in circles. I even walked into a portaloo and found two people shagging in the toilet – a new low? It was pretty funny and certainly kept our minds off being wet until the very end when all the stages shut down and suddenly we had no more distractions – we all just looked at each other and realised quite how soggy we were. Cue a soggy tube ride back to King’s Cross and an attempt to use hand dryers in the toilets to dry our clothes – it was not happening. Every item of clothing was drenched and I don’t even want to talk about the state of my shoes.
Others were also having a rather interesting train ride home and were attracting quite a lot of attention – reckon she must have been pretty chilly! It was pretty gutting when we finally sat down on our train home and realised we had two hours of being soaking wet before we were home – thankfully the time flew by and we finally arrived home and could jump in a hot shower, some warm, dry clothes and bed. It was such a good feeling after such a long day of being so wet and cold. I definitely had a great time at Carnival but it’s not a good event to do in the rain – there is little to no shelter around the route and no escaping the elements. Plus no matter how waterproof your shoes, coat or umbrellas are marketed as being, when faced with constant rainfall over a day, they lose their waterproof abilities a wee bit. Not so much of a problem if you live in the city and can get home quickly, but when sat in a puddle the whole way home, it kills your mood a little bit.
I forgot to mention that this year we really noticed the more violent side of Carnival, one of the girls we met had been punched by some crazy girl with an attitude problem, we saw a girl and her boyfriend having a pretty full on fight and we were right next to where one of the policemen got stabbed. We were just walking along the road when police started roping off the road and I just assumed the parade was about to arrive, but the policeman told me to move back along the street because a policeman had just been stabbed. I know that this happens a lot of the main day of the Carnival and that lost of drugs and violent incidents occur, although lower numbers of them this year. But I just don’t understand how anyone could turn such a pure, fun, friendly and happy event like Notting Hill Carnival into something unsafe and aggressive. This applies to all of the festivals where violent incidents are recorded – these people are idiots. It takes a lot of organising and planning to put on an event of this scale and yet it takes one stupid and dangerous incident to close an event down. People acting rashly and stupidly seriously risks the lives of revellers and it risks future fun if the event is no longer allowed to run. Think before you act.
Did you brave the rain to go to Notting Hill Carnival this year? How did you think it compared to previous years? Were you disappointed by the shut-down of the Digital Soundboy stage?