Notting Hill Carnival this weekend, many of us are attending. I thought sharing these early carnival memories of a good friend. Hope u enjoy as much as I did when received 2 years ago!
Notting Hill Carnival is upon us again, I know you are looking forward to it.
At the age of 11 I started secondary school, and for the first time in my life I met up with young lads that had recently arrived in England from the Caribbean. Their stories of sunshine, beaches and Caribbean way of life fascinated me, I would listen for what seemed like hours to their stories of home.
After the first summer break, one of the lads (a youth by the name of A.V.) told me of his uncle that lived in Westbourne Park, West London, he stayed with his uncle for the summer holiday and returned to school with tales of drunken parties, dope smoking, loud music, free food... all outside in the street.
The following year I visited him at his uncle's house and discovered something that would have such a huge influence over me, and shape the way I lived my life.
My first carnival was at the age of 12, (46 years ago) it quite literally took my breath away.
Although there was no more than a couple of hundred people on the streets, to see musicians, bands, dancers and street performers dressed in bright colourful costumes, hear music being played so loudly, on the street, in peoples gardens, and of course in their houses, gramophones, radiograms, record-players, reel to reel tape players, all "brokin' out wid riddim". Some of the amplifiers used by the sound systems must have been at least 100 watts !
Home cooked food, soft drinks and even beer and rum punch being sold at residents gates and front doors, being invited into complete strangers houses and offered food and drinks, everyone and everywhere was Party, Party, Party. Calypso, Soca, Ska, Motown, Soul and even the beginning of Reggae was being played to distortion levels.
Only a handful of policemen, there were no barriers, no closed streets, all shops and businesses were open, and the promise of all night parties in local resident's houses, even the pub's were advertising local parties. Of course I was too young to stay out all night, my parents didn't even know that I had strayed so far from home. I knew I had to be home before it got dark, but it was so hard to leave, it felt like I had discovered a secret world. To a young schoolboy this seemed a bit strange, definitely not how the people of London usually behave. I left my first carnival late in the evening, heading home on the tube, I was buzzing and so excited about what I had discovered on the other side of London. I couldn't wait to tell my brothers and my pals. None of them believed me, they said I was making up stories, they could not believe that such a thing took place in their home town. Two weeks later I was back at school the summer break was over, I managed to put quite a large "posse" together for the following year, we waited through winter, christmas, spring and finally summer was upon us, we kept in touch, and as Bank Holiday weekend approached we prepared with sandwiches, cans of coke, cigarettes (smuggled from our parents) even a couple of bottles of beer. Seven of us set out, each of us with a "Red-Rover ticket" (all day travel pass, equal to today's Oyster Card) we headed to West London.........
Of course now we all know of Mas, Bacchanal, Carnival at Notting Hill, West London. Since those early days all my family and friends have been to see the sights and splendour that it has become. Few of us remember the humble beginnings and the troubles that came in the ignorant years. Every year, carnival grows and attracts more and more visitors, the majority of them come to Party, Party, Party as always.
Many things have kept me from attending carnival each and every year (the list is too long to mention), I have been there as often as I could and have enjoyed myself every single time.....NEVER HAD A BAD CARNIVAL !!! My only regret is that I never owned a camera, what magical pictures I could have captured in those early days of carnival.
Carnival is still a part of my life.
Wish everybody a safe journey and a Happy Carnival 2014!!!