1959. The first of its kind. A coming together of British residents and Caribbean natives to settle the race relations which afflicted Notting Hill the year before. Indeed, the Notting Hill riots proved to be a turning point, a spark for change; enter Claudia Jones. The Trinidadian Journalist and activist organized what is known today as the Notting Hill Carnival – a celebration of west Indian culture throughout the streets of W10 & W11.
Fast forward to 2019 and Notting Hill Carnival remains an essential part of British-Caribbean culture. Today the festivities take over Notting Hill and Westborune Park, via Ladbroke Grove. Floats, parades, cabaret shows, Soundsystems. Carnival is one big mesmerizing maze. Your never quite sure what to expect; a detailed plan of who you’re going to see and when will get torn to pieces after 10 minutes. It’s not like embarking on a festival where you know who you want to see, when you want to eat. No. The spontaneity of Notting Hill carnival is what makes it incredible. Unique. Special.
There’s nothing quite like stumbling upon a sound system hearing the basslines vibrate across your body, dancing with hundreds of strangers without a care in the world.
Nonetheless, if you do want to attempt to plan out your Carnival experience, you won’t go wrong by chasing these following legendary Soundsystems:
A fixture at the Notting Hill Carnival since 1993 (when he was voted DJ Mag’s No.1 DJ), Joseph Smith’s iconic Soundsystem is the home for all things dub and roots.
Location: Corner of East Row / Southern Row.
Channel One Sound System
Formed in 1979 by brothers Mikey Dread and Jah T. Expect to hear a selection of righteous dubplate classics spanning from the 70s to the present day.
Location: Corner of Leamington Road Villas / Westbourne Park Road.
The Kings and Queens of Powis Square, DJ Giovanni and Mister Hustler get the party pumping with a range disco, house and reggae crowd pleasers.
Location: Powis Square
King Tubby’s – the Carnival’s oldest sound system. A mash up of reggae, dancehall, bashment, R’n’B and hip hope. One of the most popular Soundsystems at carnival, expect to stumble across this gem and stay here for hours!
Location: Outside Clydesdale House on Clydesdale Rd
Latin Rave Street Jam
The only Soundsystem to cover Latin music, it’s no surprise that DJ Sylvester and the crew draw one of the biggest crowds at Carnival. Expect to see some surprise name DJs such as Giles Peterson pop up for an impromptu set.
Location: Corner of Portobello Road / Chesterton road.
The towering Rampage Soundsystem draws an incredible 15,000 visitors across the two days. Known as THE place for all things grime, garage and UK Rap – expect guest live P.As from some of the biggest names in the scene.
Tip: Get there early and park up at the front.
Location: Corner of Colville Terrace / Colville Square.
- Bring toilet roll. The Portaloo situation is not great. There will be queues. It will be nasty. There will, most likely, be no tissue paper.
- Bring cash. More food stalls are taking payment via Card these days but don’t risk it. Everything will be quicker if you just bring cash
- Get cash out before you head to Notting Hill. The queues for the cash machines will be stupendous. Save yourself the hassle!
- Buy alcohol before you head to Notting Hill. See above regarding the queues. Also, local stores hike their prices for Carnival weekend. Save yourself some pennies and stock up near yours
- Don’t meet your friends at Carnival. Connection in the area is poor. Very poor. You’re very unlikely to meet up with everyone unless you’re a Carnival veteran and know the quiet areas. Get organising and arrange a meet up at a local station.
- Don’t get off at Notting Hill. Yes, fair, it IS called Notting Hill Carnival but for a seamless journey to the Carnival get off at Latimer Road or Holland Park
- If you’re bringing kids Sunday may be the day for you. Less rowdy. Less people full stop. Write your number on your child’s arm in-case you get separated.
- Don’t get there past 4pm. This is not a festival. It will end at 7pm with the floats in full swing by 2pm. Maximise your enjoyment and get there early.
For consecutive years, tribute will be paid to the victims of the Grenfell disaster. A 72-second silence will be held at 3pm Sunday and Monday for remembrance of those who lost their lives in the tragedy which took place only a stone throws away from the Carnival.
If this is your first time embarking to Notting Hill, soak it all in. Dance carefree. Sample everything about Caribbean, Soundsystem and London culture has to offer. A spectacle like no other, we are privileged to have such a celebration of cultures right on our doorsteps.
Have a magnum or 4 on me!
Written by David Akosim
Label Manager, Radio producer and playlist specialist, David Akosim has worn many hats in his music career. He spent 4 years at Radio 1 and 1Xtra pushing underground club music, working with the likes of Logan Sama, Sian Anderson, Deadmau5 and TQD. In addition David was part of the 1Xtra playlist team curating the daytime sound of the station. As manager of his own label, Resonate Sounds, David is at the forefront of pushing new innovative bass music in the U.K