My husband’s heritage is half-Caribbean, and he’s attended Notting Hill Carnival for years, playing in the procession for several years before he met me. We’ve visited Carnival almost every year since we met, and so it seemed only right we take our children along, even though they are only little. I consider it part of their culture.
Despite Notting Hill Carnival’s reputation (as far as some are concerned), the Sunday is actually the children’s day, when you’ll find lots of children in the procession, as well as spectating. It’s mud-mas day, so expect to get at least splashed with a mix (often spa clays) resembling actual mud, if you get right near the procession itself, or know someone who’s in one of the mud bands.
Find a quieter area to hang out and watch the Carnival go by, with a little space to dance in the pavement. Ladbroke Grove is the busiest, with more people per square metre than you’ve ever seen in your life. Avoid it if you’re with children!
Carrying a baby or toddler in a baby carrier or wrap is the easiest option, as they can have a sleep as well as being held safe. Our 2 year old will be carried this way this year, despite weighing about 13kg. The 4 year old will be on daddy’s shoulders! If you’ve ever been near the Carnival, you’ll know a pushchair isn’t an option.
Our eldest is allergic to nuts, peanuts, anything that ‘may contain’ or is cross-contaminated, plus beans, peas, chickpeas and lentils – some of which are staples of Caribbean food. So we don’t feed him at Carnival. Instead, we take a packed lunch or duck into a Sainsbury’s Metro well outside of the Carnival area (shops will be low stock or limited range) and grab him a safe sandwich and snacks to take with us. His two EpiPens are always carried with us, so that’s nothing new for Carnival.
The little ones’ ears are sensitive, so each has a pair of headphones to muffle the Carnival beats which are very loud up-close!
We go to Carnival for a few hours, then head elsewhere for dinner – due to the allergies, we seek a safe chain, which are easy to find across London. It’s also nice to leave Carnival before everyone else tries to do so on public transport!
Apart from this, dance. Relax. Enjoy the celebration of unity, which is more important in today’s world than ever before. Think of those Grenfell sufferers and survivors so near the Carnival site (some are wearing green in their honour this weekend). Watch the Carnival smiles and the confidence of the procession and party goers, and forget whether or not your bum looks big in that, because that too is something to embrace in the Carnival spirit.