Being a West Indian and a west Londoner, Notting Hill Carnival is vital to my identity. When I parade around Ladbroke Grove in a cape made out of a Jamaican flag – amongst all the fluorescent colours illuminated in the sun – I feel like a superhero.
The crowds can be overwhelming, but the opportunity to bond with people over that flag is special. I’ve lived all over the south of England, in places with very few Jamaicans or Bajans, and felt severed from my community. Now I live in London I can be part of it. Many West Indians are quite reclusive, but when it comes to carnival we are all loud and proud Caribbeans. This year I went by myself, and just had fun with people I don’t know.
It’s the only Bank Holiday I look forward to, and not just because it’s the perfect excuse to illegally drink in the streets. It’s because the sense of community I have yearned for my whole life is guaranteed. It’s because I can make new friends. It’s because it doesn’t matter who you are, or what colour your skin is. It’s because of feeling pure harmony for two days. It’s because of the collective feel-good vibe. It’s because everyone has a good time.
Usually my carnival experience involves the parade, the skimpy costumes, and the amazing food stalls. On Sunday this year, although still in skimpy clothing, it was all about the Red Bull stage where Wolverhampton-born DJ Tiffany Calver was spinning trappy mixes full of drill, grime, and rap, and Alicai Harley was lighting up the stage with her dancehall-fusion music. I couldn’t resist swivelling my hips. But I, as well as the thousands of people with, was super excited for the main act: Spice.
We created mad hysteria chanting for the queen of dancehall, then went ballistic when the pink Power Ranger stepped out from stage left in a fuchsia wig, bodysuit, and Air Force 1s. She dropped it low to her raunchy tunes, and made me proud to bare my Jamaican flag. Her comfortability in her skin is empowering for a little West Indian girl like me, and it made me think: “Us black girls are one of a kind”.
If I didn’t have Notting Hill Carnival I would be a complete loner, and I wouldn’t get to see just how magical my people are.
And that’s what’s so special about it.