Last year, for the first time in 54-year history, 2020’s Notting Hill Carnival was cancelled. Sadly, despite hopes of its organizers and the lifting of restrictions across the majority of the U.K., 2021’s iteration has been faced with the same outcome as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Traditionally taking place over the August bank holiday weekend, the event — which celebrates Afro-Caribbean culture and has become a significant event in Black British culture — sees hundreds of thousands of revellers hit the streets of Notting Hill and Kensington, in a two-day mashup of music, live performances, and food.
Taking place in London since 1966, Notting Hill Carnival has become a staple in the British calendar — so much so that in 2006 it was voted onto a list of iconic events in England. However, despite the loosening of restrictions across the country, Carnival is going to have to wait another year.
“After lengthy consultations with our strategic partners, our Advisory Council and individual participating bands and sound systems, the board of Notting Hill Carnival Ltd, the organising body of Notting Hill Carnival, has decided that this year’s Carnival will not be on the streets due to the ongoing uncertainty and risk COVID-19 poses,” read a statement via the organisation’s Instagram account.
“This has been an incredibly difficult decision to make,” it continued. “Everyone involved in the event desperately wants a return to the road where Carnival belongs but safety has to come first and with the latest cautious announcement on the government’s ‘roadmap’, this is the only way to ensure that”.
Like last year, while the carnival itself isn’t taking place as it traditionally would, organisers and creatives have been busy arranging alternate events for Londoners to attend this coming weekend, to ensure the street party atmosphere is continued and to satisfy your carnival needs. Here’s a rundown of the major events.
The U.K. Panorama Steel Band Competition 2021, August 28
The U.K. National Panorama Steelband Competition is an annual steel pan event. Over the years, the best pan players and steel pan bands from across the globe have showcased their skills in the event, but this year will see U.K.’s elite go head-to-head, including current champions Mangrove, Ebony, Croydon Steel Orchestra and Metronomes. Tickets for the U.K. Panorama Steel Band Competition 2021 are on sale now, with all money raised split equally between the performers.
YAM Carnival, August 28
From the creators of Afro Nation, YAM is a day-long celebration of the African diaspora, including Caribbean and Latin American culture, with music and food from across the world. Taking place at Clapham Common, live music from Afrobeat, reggaeton, R&B, hip-hop, Afro-swing and dancehall music genres will be found across three stages, with the likes of Kehlani, NSG, Koffee, Ari Lennox, Yemi Alade, Pa Salieu, Darkoo, Nao, Princess Nokia, Ms Banks and Honey Dijon all confirmed. Purchasing tickets beforehand is essential, and you can do so via this link.
Rampage and Friends Carnival Weekend, 29/30 August
Notting Hill Carnival Soundsystem operators Rampage will be hosting a live and virtual edition of their legendary stage at London’s E1 nightclub in Wapping, following last year’s successful virtual rave with the likes of Beenie Man, Protoje, Pa Salieu and Sho Madjozi.
With restrictions no longer in place, Rampage invites a crowd of 1600 guests each day to enjoy two rooms of music with live performances from an array of star guests. Adding to the ambiance, the warehouse style E1 will be decked out with tropical and Carnival inspired decor, with Caribbean food stalls serving up Jerk chicken, patties and other Carnival favourites. You can purchase tickets in advance here.
Soca Fridays, 27 August – September 10
Situated on Powis Square, Notting Hill, The Tabernacle is set on keeping carnival spirits alive with its weekly Soca Friday events. Running until September 10, this free event sees a selection of Carnival’s best-loved Soca DJs — like Crediable, Price Vern, QT 2Hype, Waynes James, DJ Bostman, Nassen and DJ Triple M — perform a blend of Calypso, African and East Indian rhythms to a live audience from 18:00pm-22:00pm every Friday.
Sound System Sundays, August 29 – September 19
Also taking place at Notting Hill’s The Tabernacle is Sound System Sunday, a weekly concoction of classic Caribbean vibes from 14:00pm-18:00pm every Sunday until September 19. The event will play host to legendary Sound Systems of Carnival, with the likes of Love TKO, 4 Play, Arts A Light, Rough But Sweet, Disya Jeneration, G.I Roadshow and Lord Gellys all confirmed.