Notting Hill Carnival 2019 highlights – What you need to know if you are planning a visit with and without kids

I recently attended the showcase party for Notting Hill Carnival 2019 and I can now reveal that this year the two-day event will be better than ever before. Here are the highlights of what you need to know if you are planning a visit with and without kids. The world’s second biggest carnival and Europe’s largest street event, Notting Hill Carnival 2019 will – for an incredible 53rd time – be taking place in Notting Hill on the August Bank Holiday weekend. UK’s biggest celebration of culture, diversity and inclusivity, it will once again be full of vibrant colours, incredible music, dancing and delicious food. As is tradition, Panorama, the UK’s biggest and most important Steel Pan Competition takes place on the evening that precedes Carnival at Emslie Horniman Pleasance Park.

Dates for the diary

UK National Panorama Steelband Competition – The Evening of Saturday 24 August 2019 6pm – Emslie Horniman Pleasance Park, Bosworth Road, London, W10 5EG – Buy tickets in advance at via Eventbrite – £10 for adults and £3 children. Under 5’s free

August Bank Holiday – Sunday 25 August 10am Notting Hill Carnival Children’s Day

& Monday 26 August 2019, 12pm Notting Hill Carnival

A group of teenagers from the London Mums’ kids club interviewed Matthew Phillip, Mashup’s son and now Director of Mangrove as well as the Executive Director of Notting Hill Carnival Ltd Matthew Phillip who helps the community, local authorities and public services pull together for a safe and spectacular weekend

Official website – There’s a new Official Notting Hill Carnival App for Apple & Android to download for free ahead of the events to give you live updates and programmes.

Children are the stars of Notting Hill Carnival 2019

Why does Notting Hill Carnival exist?

Notting Hill Carnival is an event founded on inclusivity, acceptance and cultural diversity. The first outdoor event took place in 1966 and was led by local resident and social worker Rhaune Laslett – a Londoner of Native American and Russian descent and an established community activist with a history of addressing and easing inter-cultural tension in the area since the race riots of the 1950s.

It is still proudly a community-led event, and whilst Notting Hill Carnival is rooted in Caribbean culture, with its Windrush-generation influence remaining strongly evident, it is at the same time characteristically ‘London’ – today’s modern London.

Jamaican food is delicious! We tried lots of meat and fish based fritters

Read the full story of Notting Hill Carnival here. 

The Notting Hill Carnival is a 12 month a year event. Planning, designing and making costumes, choreographing dances, writing music and rehearsing performances all take meticulous planning and painstaking hours to prepare, and in the main, this is all done through pure love and volunteers both young and old.

Ginger beer and Jamaican rum cocktails

As a result, the Notting Hill Carnival has generated a whole host of creative opportunities that would not otherwise exist. Throughout London and beyond, people come together to pass on skills and knowledge from generation to generation which teaches respect, culture and new skills.


Children’s Day

The first day of Notting Hill Carnival (Sunday 25 August) is traditional ‘Children’s Day’ or ‘Family Day’.

All are of course welcome, but the bands on the road as part of the carnival parade are dominated by children.

Anyone can join a mas band for Carnival, check here to select a band and apply. Be aware you will have to apply ahead of the carnival weekend and deadlines dates will vary between bands.

What is a Mas Band?

Mas Bands are at the heart of the Notting Hill Carnival parade and are most commonly associated with what visually represents a carnival. It is where themed costumes meet with music, dance, spectators and judges. The origins of mas, from the word ‘masquerade’, go back to the 1800s with the emancipation of slavery in the Caribbean. Prior to their freedom, the slaves would mimic and ridicule the masters, copying the elaborate gowns worn at their celebration balls and combining them with many African traditions of their former cultures – which included costumes made with bones and natural products, and blue devils playing music with tins and bamboo. Read more here.

What is Steelband?

Involved with its conception and present throughout Notting Hill Carnival’s history, Steel bands are an integral part of Notting Hill Carnivals tradition. Bringing the unique sound and energy of the Caribbean to the streets of London. It takes year-round, and even lifelong dedication to master the Steel Pan.

A modern steel pan is a chromatically pitched percussion instrument made from a 55-gallon industrial drum.

What is Panorama?
UK National Panorama Steelband Competition is the annual Steel Pan event and is the most respected and anticipated outside of the Caribbean. The best of the best pan players and steel pan bands from all over the world showcase their skills. This incredible spectacle of sight and sound takes place at the Emslie Horniman Pleasance Park (Bosworth Road, W10 3DH) on the Saturday that precedes Notting Hill Carnival (24th August) from 6 – 11pm. Read more on its origins here.

What is J’ouvert?

The J’ouvert celebration (from the French, Jour ouvert, “opening of the day”) is an important and integral part of Caribbean carnivals. This ancestral tradition is a procession that traditionally takes place before sunrise of the opening day (Sunday). The participants throw paints and colourful powders to the sound of steel pans and celebrate the start of the carnival.

Live Stages
There are traditionally three at Notting Hill Carnival. The Horniman’s Stage, which on the first day of Carnival (Sunday) is taken over by Red Bull, the Powis Square Stage, based opposite the Tabernacle and the Meanwhile Garden Stage which concentrates on children’s entertainment. Read more here. 

NHC is Me

Notting Hill Carnival 2019 have launched a brand new campaign called #NHCisMe to celebrate and introduce the world to the carnival community, in part, and their artistic input into Europe’s largest, and the world’s biggest community-led, street event. The videos help demonstrate why the Notting Hill Carnival is so important to the people who make it, the people who attend, and to British culture as a whole.

I was impressed with the elaborate and gorgeous costumes by costume designer ?Melissa Simon-Hartman

The campaign released a collection of 14 compelling videos that introduce some of the many elements of carnival and the people behind them. From Masqueraders and steel pan players to veterans of the original carnival and local residents, they tell their own unique story that will help create a greater understanding of what it is about NHC that makes people so passionate about its legacy, its future development, and why it attracts crowds of over 1.5 million.

I met Levy Roots who is a big fan and supporter of Notting Hill Carnival


General Advice including Top Travel Advice

  • Download the official App ahead of getting to the carnival
  • Wear comfortable shoes – you will do a lot of walking
  • Bring a refillable bottle for water
  • Be prepared for all weather.  Sun cream to raincoats should be packed!
  • Meet friends before you get onto the carnival footprint. Mobile phone signal is not always great and it’s extremely busy and very difficult to find an individual in a crowd of 750,000 people!
  • Keep to the essentials. Forget the elaborate jewellery, expensive hat and designer outfit. Comfy and practical is a motto to live the carnival by – anyway, you can guarantee the performers will be MUCH more elaborate anyway!
  • Check out for travel advice in advance. It might sound logical to go to Notting Hill or Ladbrooke Grove Tube but that will be extremely busy, it could be quicker getting off two or three stops earlier and walking – Follow @TFL on Twitter
  • Avoid the obvious stations (Notting Hill, Ladbroke Grove, Westbourne Park) they will be extremely busy and may even be closed. Aim for stations slightly off the carnival’s footprint like Shepherds Bush, Bayswater and Paddington
  • Make a plan – check out and choose a soundsystem or stage that you think will appeal to you
  • Pack some tissues and wet wipes. You never know when a portaloo might run out and how would you wash your hands after some delicious street food!
  • Take photo of children that morning of the carnival so that you can show people what they look like if they were to get lost
  • Locate where the Welfare tent is in case you children get lost
  • Write your phone number on their arm in marker pen and cover it with a liquid or spray plaster to stop it from running when made wet 
  • Carnival has a lot of stewards available and they are very visible. Point these people out, and the Police, out to your children on arrival to carnival as the ONLY people they should speak to if they get lost. And keep asking your children who should I speak to if I get lost through the day
  • Assume you’d get separated and keep reminding them to stay close


Where families can hang out 

  • The Tabernacle – Nice place to chill and a calm Oasis – indoor and outdoor seating £5 on the day

  • Powis Square Stage – Live music and performances
  • Also, why not Join a kids band and be part of the experience – you would be in a fenced off moving area and you get to dance away from crowd

Do Carnival differently and find hidden gems

  • Get involved in a mas band – Go to
  • Go off the parade route and find a Soundsystem
  • PANORAMA, the world famous steel pan orchestra competition- on the Saturday evening before Carnival at Emslie Horniman Pleasance Park, Bosworth Road, W10 6 – 10pm -Top Tip – buy tickets in advance
  • Get involved – maybe become a steward
  • Be your own troop and get you and your mates matching outfits
  • Try the grandstand for the best carnival view – go to the official website to book your spot.

Best points for the parade

  • Judging zone – Westbourne Park – Seated area near the Judging point
  • Westbourne Grove
  • Top Tip – Ladbroke Grove is traditionally the busiest area – try other parts.

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