Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It's Almost Party Time For London's Notting Hill Carnival
London, England's Notting Hill Carnival was launched in 1959 and has since become the world's second largest street festival.

Last year's event drew an estimated 720,000 people. This year's Carnival will be held on Aug. 29 and 30, and there are a variety of hotels in London city centre offering rooms in locations that will give you easy public transportation access to the west London neighbourhood of Notting Hill.

The colourful celebration was originally instituted to cater to the influx of West Indian immigrants who moved into the area after World War II, and to give them a chance to celebrate the cultures of their various Caribbean countries. While it has evolved to become more inclusive and welcomes people of all ages and backgrounds, steel bands and calypso, soca and reggae music still play prominent roles as hundreds of thousands of people dance and parade through the streets.

Sunday is designated as Children's Day, with many activities geared toward youngsters, so those with little ones might want to visit then when crowds are normally smaller and there's more room to move.

There will also be ample opportunities to sample London's diverse ethnic cuisines at more than 300 food stalls lining the streets. Organizers claim the annual Caribbean-based food and drink consumption during the Carnival breaks down something like this:
• 30,000 corn cobs
• 15,000 fried plantains
• one ton of rice and peas
• one ton of Jamaican patties
• 12,000 mangoes
• 16,000 coconuts
• five million hot and cold drinks
• 10,000 litres of Jamaican stout
• 25,000 bottles of rum
• 70,000 litres of carrot juice

"The Notting Hill Carnival, for me, is a barometer of the journey of multiculturalism in England," filmmaker Don Letts, who made a documentary on the festival titled "Carnival!" last year, told me over the phone from his home in London earlier this year. "If you look at how and why it started, it was to unite the people and extend the hand of friendship when the racial climate was a lot more tense in the late '50s."

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