Sunday morning brings us to Jouvert. Pan, paint, powder, oil, horns, chains and who knows what? Anything can happen at Jouvert, which what makes it such a delight. It’s a time of joyous freedom from convention – and also from the crowds and barriers that constrict Carnival itself. The early hours just after dawn are when the spirits come out… of a flask! So get up early (or just fete the night away) and get yourself to Canal Way, at the far end of Ladbroke Grove by about 6am. Slowly, a crowd mysteriously materialises, seemingly out of nowhere, and then the strains of pan resolve themselves out of the mist and a truck lumbers down the road trailing behind it creatures of the night. There’s no more magical moment to be had in London. If you do nothing else for Carnival, do Jouvert.
Carnival waits for no man or woman and even if you’ve staggered out of Jouvert on Sunday morning and are still sticky with red and yellow paint or as dusty as a walking flour bag, it won’t be long before the pretty mas comes out to play. Children’s Carnival is about to start. These days that’s a bit of a misnomer, because there seems to be as much adult – sometimes very adult! – dutty mas as kids’ costumes.
From 10.00 to 10.30 the VIPs in the stands at the Judging Point in Great Western Road get to sit through some worthy-but-dull speeches and a few displays that constitute the official opening ceremony (we ask again: why does Carnival even need an opening ceremony? Especially when it’s only a few invited guests who can watch it). Once that’s over, the Underground begins to disgorge first a trickle and then a flood of humanity, eager to sample the excitement and bacchanal that has made this corner of west London famous around the world. Static sounds and barbecues fire up and fill the side streets with sound and smoke. And suddenly you find yourself in the belly of the ram-jam, baffling, glittering, fire-breathing beast that is Notting Hill Carnival!
Times: Generally, the first mas bands begin to circulate from about 11.30am but it depends on where along the route they start and where you are standing. The children’s bands are mostly finished by about 6pm. After that you’ll be seeing the adult dutty mas and T-shirt bands until the 8.30pm closedown. Static sound systems have to switch off at 7pm. Cost: free – though if you go private to ‘spend a penny’ you may need to pay £2 or more!