Let me tell you the story of my 2017 Notting Hill Carnival Experience. This is a fun, joyful, beautiful and different story to the persistent telling of the supposed acid attack, policemen complaining and people who have no understanding of our culture trying to impose their perspective on Star War’s actor John Boyega’s activities outside of his working hours.
For me this Notting Hill Carnival season was just the most fun! The weather was glorious wasn’t it? And the culmination of sometimes almost a year’s hard work by designers, musicians, band managers, promoters and more all came together to show and celebrate our culture. I really didn’t go to many fetes this year. My schedule was seriously hectic inside and outside of carnival. But I am happy with my choices.
My Notting Hill Carnival began the weekend before carnival weekend with the Soca Addict event by DJ Markee held at the Kia Oval followed by the Just Vibez at Pop Up Brixton. Soca Addict had so much energy! The venue was lovely, overlooking the oval cricket grounds and attendees were full of fun and laughter. It was the best way to start the Notting Hill Carnival season. Just Vibez at Pop up Brixton was just as good! The music was more diverse and more of the attendees were not die hard soca or carnival lovers but the Just Vibez team introduced them to our music and culture.
Had to get my last minute exercise in so next up on Carnival Wedneday was Andrea Cha Cha’s Soca Fitness Fete ‘Sweat in the City’ at the Cargo Club in Shoreditch. With three different instructors, styles, live DJs (Release D Riddim and DTee), it was a fantastic way to work out! The event was packed and there were nice freebees too! Definitely going again next year!
Next for me on carnival Thursday was the pre concert soire (organised by Tri-Angels Entertainment) which also held the press conference for the Buss Head Concert. It was a good to hear the views of the artists such as Bunji Machel, Fay-Ann, Killa and Ultimate Rejects. I had the opportunity to have some individual extended interview time with MX Prime from Ultimate Rejects and Fay-Ann. I chatted briefly with Machel and we spoke about Japan and the work I was doing. Bunji was all over place. Trying to pin him down was difficult. But all in all it was fantastic to get some great advice from Fay-Ann and Machel and speak to the others (Interviews coming soon!).
I attended two boat fetes. Duck Wuk on the Carnival Friday and Ruk A Tuk on Carnival Saturday. Duck was nice but to honest I had a better time at Ruk A Tuk. I don’t know what it is about Ruk A Tuk but I always have an amazing time at that boat fete. Maybe it’s the breakfast before hand, maybe it was the drink. I don’t know but Ruk A Tuk remains a must do for me. The one thing I would say about both boat fetes is that they do take a bit of time to get the music going. Don’t know whether it is due to certain restrictions on the Thames but it would be nice to have music already playing whilst people are boarding. It gets the vibe going. The vibes were full on at Ruk A Tuk. And after both boat rides I ended up at Five Guys in the O2 having a burger. I worked up a serious appetite.
The Buss Head concert had real good vibes. It didn’t take long to get into the venue and the place was packed! It was seriously good and reminded me of when Poison had their Friday carnival concerts. That was one thing that was staple of my Notting Hill carnival weekend. Bunji and Machel were on form as well as Ultimate Rejects and Mr Killa. DJ Puffy did his thing. Top class DJ. But for me you know what was missing? Machel and Bunji performing with a full live band. For me that would have just taken this concert to cosmic levels. And I thought Fay-Ann would have perform a bit as well. But the performances as well as the impromptu wedding proposal on stage by a member of the audience will keep this concert memorable.
Carnival Sunday is always the dirty wassi day for me and to some extent I always tend to enjoy this more than Carnival Monday. It’s the day I play in the same band with most of my friends. I tend to drink a bit more and just have a wild and out time. With the sun out and on full blast? I knew it was going to be a great day. Met up with my peops, sorted drinks, last minute t-shirt cuttings and we had a good time with Island Mas. Island Mas has grown exponentially over the past three years. It is more than likely that it now matches the titan Chocolate Nation in numbers. I had a good time, but for me personally, I feel that it is a bit too big for me now. At times I really struggled to hear the music unless I seriously pushed to the front. I managed to visit quite a few other bands on the route to take some shots and see other friends. It was nice to see various bands on the road with coloured paint, powder and so forth.
Carnival Monday for me is a different carnival animal entirely. It’s pretty costume time and starts A LOT earlier! This year, I moved from the safety of Kelly Rajpaulsingh, a great designer who knows what suits me inside out and who has been designing for me the past 5 years to Melissa Simon-Hartman another great designer but who had never designed for me before. Come on, did you really think that after Kelly I would go to anyone less than her equal? Not going to happen. I challenged Melissa. Most of her costumes were beautiful, striking but in darker colours. I wanted pink and blue, something I could move through the crowd with but still be striking. She was not happy about the pink at all eh. Let me tell you. But she went outside of her creative box and did it. We were both so anxious at the first viewing. She was worried I may not like it. (I generally do not like large collars on me as I think it makes me look like an American football player) and she had given me lazer feathers rather than proper feathers. Melissa is giving me this speech, this build up and I’m thinking in my head ‘OK, what have I let myself in for?’ Finally she showed it to me and true fact, me knees went wobbly when I first saw it! I absolutely adore this costume! I’m going to indulge here a bit so bare with me please. It was regal but the pink and blue colours gave it a very feminine soft feel. The translucent pink material kept me covered but was sexy. My headress, my gosh, my headress. Details, height, breathtaking! I felt like an empress. I found myself standing taller, fixing my posture in this costume. The attention to detail, my gosh so much detail in the front and the back. You know those costumes that it is lovely from the front but not much happening at the back? Not so with my costume. It had impact back and front. I had people wanting pictures of the front and back, full up and down, wanting a 360 panoramic video of this costume. This costume could easily work in some sci/fi fantasy movie or video game. Did I mention that I love my costume? I love my costume! Many thanks Melissa!
Carnival Monday was a long day. I have make up at 8am. And and a slot with photographer Raymond Lyttle at 10 am. I played with Melissa’s Legion Mas who were with Morris Roots’ Tears. Most bands were late on the route. Our band did not go the the road until about 12:30? It was a long wait. I stayed with them for a bit but walked forward to get pictures of costumes of other bands and see other friends. In my costume designed by Melissa Simon-Hartman with input by Goldlazer, fantastic make up by Keisha DesVignes, Tights by Carnivalista (best tights ever! never any holes after a full day), customised wedges by The Goddess Experience (always on point), I head off to check the other bands.
There were some costumes I definitely wanted to see live. I wanted to see Andrea Cha Cha’s costume again (had seen it at the photoshoot), wanted to see my cousin Dellian’s costume (individual from Bacchanalia), wanted to see Mel and Nic’s costume (Funatiks), Chan and Fiona’s ‘Not Asking For It’ costume. I just wanted to see so many costumes. And they did not disappoint! The costumes were amazing; colours, vibrancy. In the sun? beautiful. But walking that route to find my friends in the other bands and capture the costumes sometimes was not easy. There were some bands which had serious serious amounts of non masqueraders which crowded the route and stopped the trucks moving forward. Not even sure there was any security at these bands. It’s great that non masqueraders want to get involved. Not sure how the order of trucks works. But perhaps the bands which routinely have non masqueraders should be the last trucks on the route? That might make things run smoother. There were some costumes that I really wanted to check out but just didn’t get there. For example Vida’s collection with Chocolate Nation. They must have been way way way at the front as I didn’t see them at all. I really wanted to see that again live. Some bands had vibes, some not so much. I heard Ultimate Rejects song and Freezy’s Split in the middle a lot over the two days. There were some songs I was happy to hear ‘Bad in Bum Bum’, ‘Big Bad Soca’, ‘Fast Wine’. Those were my favourite three for different reasons.
I woke Tuesday morning after carnival with the biggest smile on my face. It was a great Notting Hill Carnival season! Maybe my best! I remembered, being with friends, the fetes, the concert, seeing beautiful costumes, people splattered in various colours, young children dancing in costumes, people asking me the designer of my costume and how it was made, how to to go about participating in carnival. I saw policemen smiling and dancing. There was one particular video I saw later in the week of a policeman who had some serious dancing skills. I saw the community come together to pay respect and homage to the fallen of Grenfell Tower. Passing under the shadow of this dark tower reminded me of loss, avoidable loss it seems. But it also reminded me of necessity of honouring those gone OUR way in OUR space, celebrating life and our culture which some were part of. Notting Hill Carnival brings so any diverse cultures together and from reports of The Voice newspaper brought in £93 million into the city. The general media will keep showing the small negatives of Notting Hill Carnival, twist it, expand it, embellish it. We will keep on showing the positives. In the face of continued adversity, we will continue to fight to show the history, beauty, fun, laughter, dance of our culture. At Notting Hill Carnival.