If you were in London the weekend of 28, 29 August, it would be hard to say that exactly 20 days ago the city was overwhelmed with fear amid one of the worst riots, looting, vandalism.
The spirit of Notting Hill carnival saw people from all over taking to the streets of London to come together and celebrate. The smell of Caribbean food was tempting, and hard to miss if you were passing by. Several streets seemed to have lined up their own party and it seemed like people were just waiting for a reason to celebrate. I for one just thought to myself, amidst news of a double dip recession, stock markets crumbling, pension rates falling and all sorts of fallacies, it was refreshing to put that behind, get down to Notting Hill and take part in the festive spirit
Going back into the history of the carnival it was interesting to know, such an event actually originated as a response to the riots and the state of race relations in Britain in the late 1950’s. The festival is said to attract a million people every year and more and is the second biggest after the Rio carnival. Until I got there I didn’t know much about it, also learning most of the dance and festivities are led by members of the Caribbean population, many of whom have lived in the area since the 1950s.
Clearly not the best representation of the culture and the residents in that area if you saw the film ‘Notting Hill’ in the late 90’s. What we see of a dreamy fairy tale romantic comedy Notting Hill featuring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts is not what it was once upon a time. In the mid nineteenth century, pottery lane in west Notting hill was a slum area called the ‘Potteries and Piggeries’. Today, a popular and affluent area, most houses sell for an unbelievable seven-figure sum and more.
The streets of Kensington Park Road and Portobello road were filled with party revellers. We were keen to find the Travel Book shop, featured in the film where Hugh Grant tries his luck with Julia Roberts. The bookshop is said to shut down and several people have launched a petition to save it with many including Hugh Grant. The store became a huge tourist attraction immediately following the movie’s release. Along the same street is Book for Cooks, also known to host cooking demonstrations in the back on some days.
We also tried to locate the famous restaurant 192 featured in Bridget Jones Diary, where Bridget and her friends usually huddle to discuss Bridget’s love life. We couldn’t find it. My colleague residing in Notting Hill later told me it, doesn’t exist anymore and is converted into an Italian restaurant now.
It was evening by then, my tired feet couldn’t take me any further and indeed a very interesting day, lots of sunshine, good food, drink and dance and one couldn’t really ask for more.