8 Reasons why Notting Hill’s Carnival beats Trinidad’s

Dancing Carnival Police

Police dances with carnival procession at Notting Hill carnival

As a London-born professional steel pan player lucky enough to have experienced many a carnival, both in London and in my father’s homeland of Trinidad, I would hope people think I’m well qualified to make a comparison of the Trinidad Carnival – an event which originated in the 18th century – with the Notting Hill Carnival which emerged in the 1960s.

Notting Hill is of course part of London, one of the great cities of the world with a population of over 8 million. Trinidad, however, is just a small island in the Caribbean with a population of less than 1.5 million. It’s hardly surprising then that Trinidad fails so dismally by comparison on so many elements of carnival.

1. Audience - The size of the entire population of Trinidad descends upon the Notting Hill area for this great carnival whereas although half the island’s population participate Trinidad only attracts about 100, 000 tourists to their event every year.

2. Spectacle - Many believe that the quality and number of costumes displayed in a carnival relate to its quality as an event. How wrong they are. Trinidad has at least 100 times more costumes in their carnival parade than Notting Hill does, but London realises that the parade is strictly for families and tourists to take in- the real action is by the stages on the side streets of the carnival route.

3. Food - While all manner of tasty local food can be obtained from the vendors in Trinidad, the variety is greater at Notting Hill reflecting the greater cultural diversity of the city. Even so, in London there are more vendors of Jamaican dishes than anything else- a fantastic piece of positive discrimination towards Jamaicans and those of Jamaican descent- a people who never had a carnival of their own before 1989.

4. Drink - Both carnivals offer the opportunity to responsibly enjoy all manner of delicious thirst-quenchers, but in Trinidad the obsession with keeping drinks cold with the plentiful supply of ice does rather tend to spoil things.

5. DJs - While the soundtrack of Trinidad Carnival is calypso, soca and steel bands featuring music written especially for the event, Notting Hill offers much greater diversity. The vast majority of young people seize this fabulous opportunity to choose a stage where they can hear all the hip hop, house, garage et al that they would normally hear at a club on a regular Saturday night out.

6. Live Music - Despite the popularity and greater facility of DJs, in Trinidad there is still a lot of live music going on in the carnival parade and at the numerous dances or ‘fetes’ that precede the main event in the weeks before. This is unnecessarily expensive and we must credit London for once again eliminating the expense of using professional musicians and artists who require payment for what patently should be free performances.

7. Contests - We all do love a talent contest, but Trinidad takes it too far. There are numerous youth and adult competitions for carnival costume and music performers, but only a handful get crowned as Carnival Queens or Kings- leaving hundreds of disappointed losers. Notting Hill is barely competitive at all and invariably everyone ends up at worst a finalist and one of the runners-up, creating more of a ‘feel-good’ factor.

8. Security - It’s rare to see the reassuring presence of an officer on duty at Trinidad Carnival. Not so in London. The biggest costumed group by a long way is the London Metropolitan Police. The (Not-So) Thin Blue Line annually descend upon Notting Hill in their thousands keeping the revelers safe and ultimately boosting the economy when they spend their hard-earned overtime pay.

So there you have it – just some of the many reasons why Notting Hill carnival is better than Trinidad carnival. Now let’s hear your views on this.

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6 Responses to “8 Reasons why Notting Hill’s Carnival beats Trinidad’s”

  • Luke says:

    Is this some sort ridiculous ironic joke gone too far?? This is *hopefully* satire but really it’s just too hard to tell… almost every point given actually goes in the Trinidad carnival’s favour, and the above ‘reasons’ in favour of Notting Hill actually support the Trini carnival.

    ‘Trinidad has at least 100 times more costumes in their carnival parade than Notting Hill does, but London realises that the parade is strictly for families and tourists to take in- the real action is by the stages on the side streets of the carnival route’

    So essentially, Notting Hill disposes of the creative, wild costumes etc. and goes for open air club. This is a good thing?

    ‘Despite the popularity and greater facility of DJs, in Trinidad there is still a lot of live music going on in the carnival parade… This is unnecessarily expensive’

    So… wait, the beauty of live music is replaced by DJ crap in Notting Hill and that is better?

    ‘Even so, in London there are more vendors of Jamaican dishes than anything else’

    Uh, ok, but that’s not a good thing. We’ve largely swapped Jamaican food for Trinidadian (boo!), and not introduced any Asian or other food which would reflect the city’s ‘cultural diversity’.

    • It is indeed an ironic piece, Luke, as you seemed to have figured out early on. Notting Hill sucks as a carnival when compared to Trinidad, in my humble opinion and I’m guessing you’d agree. If only you’d stopped after your first sentence. Sadly, it was you who then went too far :-)

  • ElMarko2000 says:

    At last! I had been thinking much the same thing for many years now but I had thought that I was in a minority of one. It’s heart warming to see that I am not alone in realising the inherent superiority of our Notting Hill carnival. Whilst I do concur with all 8 of the above points, I would like to take this opportunity to offer two of my own:

    9. Superior “wining” – whilst Trinidad invented the lateral hip-shaking dance movement commonly known as “wining”, it is here in the UK that this dance has not only been refined but actually improved on. This is clearly due to the influence of the cultures we have here that are not so visible in Trinidad. An example of this is the more expressive hip movement present in Asian dancing. I have many hours of camera footage, privately recorded in both Trinidad and the UK to back this up. And I can assure the reader that I have spent many solitary hours studying this footage in minute detail, to know that this is absolutely true.

    10. More Intelligable Speech – whilst I do genuinely enjoy listening to the imaginative use of grammar and syntax in Trinidadian argot, let’s be honest here, it can be on occasion, almost impossible to understand. At least here in the UK, the influence of the East End barrow boy speak has rendered our version of Caribbean dialect here, slightly more fathomable..

    • An excellent couple of additions, Mark- but at the risk of being labelled a pedant- I’m sorry to have to report that ‘intelligible’ is spelt without an ‘a’ otherwise ironically it becomes unintelligble, innit.

  • Bri says:

    I for one love Notting Hill and been at the event for the last 5 years, but this is a piss poor article.


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