A socially distanced carnival – what foolishness is that? We know the answer, of course: a microscopic bit of parasitic protein has succeeded where half a century of funding crises, internal divisions, terrorism fears, dubious policing methods and attacks from newspapers, politicians and bigots have failed. Covid-19, with its unholy paraphernalia of masks, sanitiser and 2 metre warnings, has cleared Carnival off the noisy, grubby streets and into the slick unreality of the virtual world.
At least Notting Hill Carnival will be happening after a fashion, and you’ll be able to watch it in every internet-connected corner of the world. That could give London’s mas, steelpan, soca, calypso and sound systems their biggest audience ever (so share the links below with everyone you know). You won’t even have to queue for portaloo – but if you want rum and roti you’ll have to bring your own!
THE PROGRAMME STARTS HERE
In the week leading up to Carnival, Samsung Electronics UK will be taking over a giant screen in Piccadilly Circus in London’s West End to showcase ‘Colours of Carnival’, a series of short, high-definition Notting Hill Carnival preview films. Look out for costumes designed by Melissa Simon-Hartman, samba drumming group Batala, dancer Elisangela Mahogany and sauce-man Levi Roots. The videos will launch Carnival with a live countdown directing viewers to tune in via nhcarnival.org.
You can also catch the films over the bank holiday weekend at Samsung KX in Coal Drops Yard, King’s Cross.
NOTTING HILL CARNIVAL 2020:
ACCESS ALL AREAS
Carnival runs under this unwieldy title from Saturday 29 to Monday 31 August. The free-to-view shows are being streamed on nhcarnival.org; Twitter: @NHCarnivalLDN; Instagram: @nhcarnivalldn; Facebook: @NHCarnivalLDN. #NHCatHome is the official Notting Hill Carnival app (Apple and Android).
There are four channels to choose from, so you can dip in and out of the mas and pan, sound systems, stages and calypso just as you do in ‘real’ carnival but without having to negotiate your way through crowds and road blocks. Here’s your channel-hopping guide.
On Saturday is dedicated to steelpan (6-9pm, presented by Jason Lewis and Reema Samuel), and calypso and groovy soca (9pm midnight, presenters Giselle Carter and Coco P). On Sunday and Monday (9am midday) it becomes the Culture Channel, presented by Aurie Styler and Claire Cottey. There’ll be stories about NHC and interviews with some Carnival’s pioneers.
Runs on Sunday and Monday (midday to 8pm). Dubbed the Parade Channel, it will focus on the colour and splendour of mas, along with J’Ouvert (don’t forget your powder) and Brazilian samba bands. Viewers will be in the capable hands of NHC stalwarts Martin Jay and Giselle Carter.
Is the Sound System Channel, fronted by Shayna Marie and Ras Kwame, both from Capital XTRA. Catch it on Sunday and Monday (midday to 8pm).
The Main Stage Channel, is fronted by Radio 1Xtra’s DJ Ace and Capital XTRA’s Remel London. It runs on Sunday and Monday (8-11pm).
In a statement, NHCL CEO Matthew Phillip said: “Not having Notting Hill Carnival on the street this year was an incredibly sad but vital decision that was unavoidable for the safety of millions that attend. With Notting Hill Carnival 2020: Access All Areas we wanted to ensure that the vibrancy, sounds and culture was still given an opportunity to flourish in 2020.”
It’s a brave and imaginative response to an unprecedented crisis. Soca News wishes the Sofa Carnival well while waiting impatiently for Notting Hill 2021 when ‑ viruses permitting ‑ we’ll all be on the road again.