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Saturday, September 25, 2021
Notting Hill Carnival Judging point at Westbourne Park. Photograph: Stephen Spark

Notting Hill Carnival judging changes


Mas bands at Notting Hill Carnival (NHC) will be judged twice this year, Soca News has learned.

In addition to the established judging point in Great Western Road, mas organisation Carnival Arts & Masquerade Foundation will be running its own competition. CAMF is one of the ‘arenas’ that formerly reported directly to ousted Notting Hill organiser LNHCET. It has been an outspoken critic of the way Kensington & Chelsea Council appointed Carnival Village Trust (CVT) to run the event this year.

CVT’s offshoot Notting Hill Carnival Limited (NHCL) will simplify the judging process, dropping the various categories of size and classification. It was felt that, apart from the Samba (now Brazilian) category, the categories were all but meaningless, as few understood the difference between ‘Modern Contemporary’ and ‘Fun Fantasy’ or between ‘Traditional’ and ‘Historical’. In combination with Small, Medium and Large sizes, it meant that only one or two bands fell into some sub-categories.

For NHCL’s competition, judges are asked to assign up to 30 points each for Innovation and Creativity and a maximum of 40 points for Performance:

Innovation (use of technology, form and structure; distinctive and unique use of materials; integration of elements, eg headpieces, backpacks, standards, body wear)

Creativity (artistic integrity including use of colour, black and white; novel use of decorative materials; unified costumes eg shoes, hair, make-up/body paint – attention to detail)

Performance (use of space and movement – a sense of drama; narrative, theme, visible design concept; energy, enjoyment and ability to display those; overall dramatic visual impact).

There is also the option to give up to 20 points to the best decorated truck, considering whether it is exciting and creative rather than just covered in commercial banners.

In an attempt to minimise the delays that have plagued Notting Hill carnival for years, NHCL has imposed a strict ‘no stopping’ rule at the Great Western Road judging point. Some band leaders have complained that this will reduce their opportunity to display the band creatively to the judges. However, others welcome a crackdown on self-indulgent dance displays that leave other bands waiting ‘in the wings’ along Kensal Road for hours.

Winners of the mas and other competitions will have their moment in the spotlight at an NHCL Awards Ceremony on Saturday 15 September.