Monday, August 29, 2011

Notting Hill Carnival

Apparently in the 80's there were race riots here in London. To help integrate people afterward they created something similar to Carnivalle or Mardi Gras for the neighborhood community to show off their culture. Sunday is kids day, and Monday is adults day. I got a group of friends to come with me on Monday.
It starts with a parade with different dance companies and local groups putting together elaborate dance outfits and drumming squads. It was marvelously interesting to watch but there were large gaps that would develop waiting for the next section of the parade to catch up so we got bored and decided to check out the rest.
The parade basically goes in a big circle and in the middle you can buy food or trinkets. There is a large Jamaican influence so we got jerked chicken, curry goat, and fried plantains. I guess another part of the Jamaican culture is weed. This is the first time I've seen it being sold openly on the streets. Apparently it is the one day out of the year that the police look the other way.
And, boy was there a lot of police. Supposedly there was twice the number of police and they were shutting everything down two hours early because they did not want any riots like what happened a few weeks ago. I have to say that the police in London are infinity more friendly than the police in NYC. We were cracking jokes with them, and dancing between them as we walked from place to place.
The reason we walked around so much was that groups had set up platforms every block or so with large groups of speakers. Each platform was playing a different kind of music from the neighborhood and you would just walk up and start dancing. It was like just hopping from party to party. I danced to Reggae, Techno, Jungle, and Drum and Bass.
There was one point where we got so crowded on one block that I could tell the crowd was at a breaking point. The DJ stopped the music and was saying "we need police on our left" (A fight had started from people just pushing harder to get through the crowd) "and an ambulance on the right" (a girl had fainted) We decided it was a good time to leave. In the police's attempt to control the crowd so that it didn't get to crowded we had actually also been effect kettled in on this block.
We finally found the right choice of streets that were not closed to get out of the crowd. We noticed that the police had changed from their bobby hats to florescent yellow riot gear. As we got further away from the crowds there were police arriving that had the armor plated boots so they were ready if a riot did start.
Luckily everything was peaceful and we only got back home about two hours later than we were expecting to. I, personally am amazed at how good of a job the carnival does of exposing different groups to each other. I know I talked to a lot of different people that I wouldn't have otherwise.

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