A Knight’s Tale (138: Notting Hill Carnival)

2007 was the year of Jessica’s death and my return to London to try to set up home alone once more. My usual meticulous filing system broke down. Consequently I kept slides unidentified in the processor’s little boxes. When Jackie and I were reunited in 2009 she helped me identify the contents, although I had never incorporated them into my archival system. Jackie had remembered this process and thought it was possible that she had labelled one box Notting Hill Carnival.

Indeed she had.

Even then businesses in Westbourne Grove, Westbourne Grove Mews, and Ledbury Road would all prepare for the vast influx of humanity. All the shops put up barricades against the inevitable damage, including the use of walls and doorways as urinals.

For a couple of years I lived in Sutherland Place, very close to this corner where one of the sound units was situated. In 2007 I was one of only two residents who stayed at home for the Bank Holiday weekend. The other woman wore earplugs and, as the music shook our houses, advised me to do the same. The sound from the speakers was actually painful. 

I do hope this young lady occupying one of the floats still has her hearing.

The wonderful light on this August day, and the sparsity of some of the clothing belies the fact that the temperature was very cold. When I left my spot on the railings beside St Stephen’s Mews to go home to use the lavatory and add another layer of clothing

I was able to reclaim it on my return. Other visitors could either use the rows of portable toilets or, as some preferred, our front gardens, where they also disposed of their other waste, including takeaway meals and their containers. Two years later that would not have been possible. I couldn’t get near any of the floats, and when I left my flat I had to prove that I lived in the road in order to pass the barrier to reach home. At least our gardens were no longer accessible to intruders. 2007 may well have been the last manageable year of such a popular event drawing visitors from all over the country. I have never been back to find out.


  1. Pictures remind me of San Francisco’s Pride Parade. I was there for an American Library Association Conference and the Pride Parade was right outside. I do think the music may have been better than what you describe here,but still lots of human waste of all types at the end of the day. (SF has become like that almost all of the time now.)

  2. We lived in Cleveland Sq from 1994 – 2004, close but not too close, though we always went away to avoid the noise and disruption of the Festival.

  3. It looks like quite an event, but not so pleasant for people who live there. Last weekend when we were in the midst of Philadelphia’s Pride event, I said to my husband it was fun to see, but I wouldn’t want to live there (that was after we walked past a section with loud music). 🙂

  4. Such incredible photos. I love the way you played with the shadows. What a scene it was. Possibly living in this busy center helped distract you away from the pain of recalibrating your life once more.

  5. It’s sad that Human-Beans can take something that could be beautiful and find ways to wreck it for other people.
    Reminds me of Mardi Gras. I endured such events better eons ago than I would now. Ha. It’s one of those “been there, done that, don’t need to do it again” events! 😉 HA!
    The costumes are amazing! My fave part of your photos is the light and shadows! Very cool!
    (((HUGS))) 🙂

  6. Fascinating set of photos! I was especially enamored by the one dancer on whom you focused your lens – the one with the amazing, skimpy costume (I think they may have been little white shells along with black feather wings). Her physique was astounding! I had to show her to Bob. I was also fascinated by the idea that the music was so loud that it shook your building and people had to wear earplugs! Sometimes young people play their radios in their cars/pickups so loudly here that the bass notes rattle the pavement and vibrate the car next to them. God help their hearing as time goes by!!

  7. The carnival designation brought Mardi Gras to mind, but the noise levels recalled some other events around here. Most involve enormous numbers of motorcycles or Jeeps on the beach, so anyone who doesn’t want to put up with the chaos has a chance to avoid it. The problems with trash, waste, and lack of respect generally are becoming endemic in certain American cities — particularly those whose leaders are opposed to discipline of any sort. There are pendulums, however, and it seems as though some of them are beginning to swing.

  8. Carnivals are great unless you are living in the midst of them. We wonder what the Venetians feel about their carnival. Probably a love-hate relationship.

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