13 August 2019
How to Have a Happy (and Healthy) Notting Hill Carnival
A celebration of Caribbean culture and heritage, the colourful and flamboyant Notting Hill Carnival has become one of the most anticipated events of the year.
Every year, crowds of revellers descend on West London for two days of reggae, rumba, steel-drumming and sequin-clad parading through the city streets. A celebration of Caribbean culture and heritage, the colourful and flamboyant Notting Hill Carnival has become one of the most anticipated events of the year, the perfect way to see out the summer.
Yet, with so much noise and so many people around, it can be an overwhelming environment for a first timer, even if you’re a seasoned summer festival-goer. With that in mind, the ‘how to stay healthy’ advice is a little different to your standard three-day mud bath and, although there are undoubtedly more opportunities to eat well, there’s still a few things to bear in mind.
Nail down the details
Planning will get you everywhere at an event like this, so the first thing to do is to make sure you know the basics.
When: Always taking place on the August bank holiday weekend, this year Notting Hill Carnival will be held on the 25th and 26th August. As ever, Sunday is considered the family day, while Monday is for those willing to go a bit harder.
Times: Opening time is 10am on Sunday, with the parade setting off at 10.30am. On Monday the parade starts slightly earlier, at 10am. The Carnival has a strict noise curfew of 7pm, when people either head home or to an after-party.
Transport: Plan your route in advance and check before you travel. Ladbroke Grove station will be closed on both days, while Notting Hill Gate, Royal Oak and Westbourne Park will be exit-only until at least 6pm on both days. Needless to say, no buses will be going anywhere near Carnival area.
Get there early
When Notting Hill Carnival first started, way back in the ‘60s, it drew approximately 500 spectators. Today, it’s the biggest street-party in Europe, attended by a whopping one million people each year. With this many people around, it’s best to get there early and beat the crowds, especially if there’s a particular spot that you want to make it to.
Enjoy the food
Don’t bother packing a picnic full of protein balls and falafel wraps, because the food at Notting Hill Carnival is epic, and with street vendors lining the roads and making the air smell incredible, you'll end up buying something anyway. Expect to be able to feast on an endless supply of jerk chicken or jackfruit, fried plantain, curry goat and rice and peas.
Top tip: Be sure to bring cash with you, because most of the local cash machines will run out early.
This should be basic common sense to be honest – if it’s sunny, take sun cream, and if it’s raining, take something to cover you up. Avoid big bags as they’ll only get in the way, but take one that you can at least fit a couple of bottles of water into, as many shops will run out fairly early. Anti-bac and tissues are also vital, both for those chicken-smeared fingers and for when the loo roll runs out.
Consume with caution
Let’s face it, part of the fun of Notting Hill Carnival is enjoying a bevvy or two, and there will be no shortage of rum and Red Stripe around to get you in the party mood. We’d never be naive enough to tell you not to drink at all - although if you are a NOLO fan, you should totally check out these epic cocktails - but, at the risk of sounding like your mum, remember to take it steady and to drink water too.
Not only will this leave you feeling better the next day, but getting too rowdy in a crowded space never ends well, and the queues for the portaloos are infamous.
Embrace the dancing
Switch on your step counter, embrace the music and throw out your best moves to the sound of samba bands. Dancing brings with it a whole host of physical and mental health benefits including improving cardiovascular fitness and muscle tone, bettering balance and boosting mood. Sure, you’re not going to turn into Beyoncé because of your day at Carnival, but every little helps. And with this many epic dancers around, no one is going to be watching you. We promise.
Perhaps the most important of all – just relax and have a great time. Embrace the principles of intuitive eating, enjoy a tipple or two and let your body move with the sounds. You know what they call that? Balance.