Dancers are preparing their costumes while shops and houses are boarded up in preparation for the world-famous Notting Hill Carnival in West London as the festival returns after a three year hiatus.
The famous festival will see streets in the area closed over the bank holiday weekend to make way for the carnival’s colourful floats and parades.
Notting Hill Carnival will close down a huge section of west London from 6am on Sunday August 28 to 6am on Tuesday August 30.
The event is hugely popular and has been known to attract an astonishing 2 million people in years gone by – grinding a whole section of London to a halt.
Carnival participants have said they are looking forward to feeling the bass of the music and seeing their creations ‘brought to life’ as the event returns to the streets of London.
Notting Hill Carnival will close down a huge section of west London from 6am on Sunday August 28 to 6am on Tuesday August 30
Marelle Steblecki, 29, has had her costume ready to go for the carnival since 2018, with the festival returning this year following the pandemic
Businesses across Notting Hill are bordering up their shops over the August bank holiday weekend for fear of damage during the carnival
Homes are also being protected in what is one of the most expensive places to buy a home in the country
Notting Hill grinds to a halt in the run-up to the festival as residents clear out and businesses shut their doors
The world-famous Notting Hill Carnival is known for its dazzling displays and elaborate parades
Marelle Steblecki, 29, a womenswear and carnival designer, who is currently based in Kent, has been designing costumes for this year’s event and said she is ‘excited’ to finally wear a costume she planned to wear pre-pandemic.
‘I’ve had my particular costume, which is rose gold, purple and teal booked with my carnival band (United Colours of Mas) since 2018, so I’ve been waiting to wear this for two years,’ she said.
‘The carnival band that I’m playing with chose their theme as Africa.
‘It is good for people to see that there are true influences behind each costume.’
She said that she feels as though the carnival ‘chose’ her as she was put in contact with South Connections, which was one of the longest-standing carnival bands within Notting Hill, by her school in year nine for work experience.
‘When summer came around, I kept going and because I was there all the time, I became a reliable source of help.
‘People who were doing gemming or feathering would pull me aside and take me under their wing until I expressed the desire to design costumes, and they nurtured my talent and gave me the confidence to pursue this.’
Ms Steblecki said helping to design the costumes has been the ‘stuff of fairytales’.
Most of the protective boarding is covered up with colourful carnival-style graffiti
Pubs shutting down gives graffiti artists a chance to get creative on the makeshift canvas
Around 2 million people have been known to pass through Notting Hill during the carnival
‘I didn’t realise the gravity of all the work that we had been doing during summer until I actually got onto the road at Notting Hill and they were standing in their carnival costumes,’ she said.
‘Once you actually look at everything from a distance, it’s insane to see how much your little bit of help actually goes towards creating something out of this world, like stuff of fairytales.’
She has also been creating custom orders for people including one for a woman turning 40 who wanted to wear a costume to reflect her ‘life’.
‘She wanted her costume to express femininity, beauty and her life, so I have taken her concept and the colours she would like, and interpreted that in feathers and gems and glitter,’ she said.
‘We always try and make it the best that the person wants to receive and go above and beyond, so that they have that ‘I’m so in love and I can’t wait to wear that’ feeling.’
Ms Steblecki is most looking forward to ‘walking down the roads of Notting Hill’ this year.
‘You start to feel the bass of the music, like it starts in the soles of your feet and slowly moves up towards your chest,’ she said.
‘Being on the open streets of London, where people are usually walking around with their heads in their phones to seeing the whole atmosphere change because of the event feels like a parallel universe where everyone is together and celebrating.’
A member of the Ebony Steelband Trust, who will be performing at the carnival said they are ‘glad the carnival is coming back’, even though preparation has been ‘madness’
Millions could soon be taking to the streets of Notting Hill for the first Carnival since 2019
Although the local council said it did not recommend boarding up windows during the festival, many homes and businesses have taken matters into their own hands to try and prevent any damage
Pepe Francis MBE, 79, who lives in London and is director of the Ebony Steelband Trust, who will be performing at the carnival, said he is ‘glad the carnival is coming back’, even though preparation has been ‘madness’.
‘A lot of people have been waiting for it to come back,’ he said.
‘If the pre-carnival event is anything to go by this year, it’s going to be absolutely chocker.’
The steel band which has been at the carnival since its ‘inception’- for over 50 years – is set to participate at the event again this year and are like a family, despite members leaving and joining over the years.
‘Since the band has started, I’m on my fifth generation of people and there’s been a lot of changes,’ he said.
‘But our members look forward to carnival every year and practice takes place regularly from year to year.’
He added that his fondest memories were from ‘back in the day’, when ‘we could roam through every street in Notting Hill’.
His love of carnivals extends further than just Notting Hill.
‘I think my best memories are growing up in Trinidad, but I go to carnivals all over the world, in New York and Miami,’ he said.
‘I love all carnivals, maybe the international ones even more because I don’t have to work as part of them,’ he joked.
Despite stepping down as an organiser around three to four years ago, he said he will ‘always be involved in one capacity or another’.
‘I was involved in running the carnival for the best part of 40 years and even though the board and committee will change over the years, I will always be involved and connected to it.’
However, Notting Hill residents and business owners are fearing the damage that could be caused by the huge number of people at the carnival and have boarded up buildings in advance.
Although enjoyed by the huge crowds that turn up to revel in the carnival atmosphere for the August bank holiday weekend, many are worried about the path of destruction the parades might cause – bringing the neighbourhood into a new lockdown for the long weekend.
The sheer number of people arriving in Notting Hill can cause a headache for local businesses, many of whom have boarded up their windows days in advance for fear of vandalism during the festivities.
The west London neighbourhood is one of the most expensive areas for shops and homes in the UK, with an average house price of over £2 million, according to property website Rightmove.
Although the local council said it did not recommend boarding up windows during the festival, many homes and businesses have taken matters into their own hands to try and prevent any damage.
Restaurants, cafes, shops and multi-million pound houses across the festival area have covered up their windows and doors to avoid any damage caused by the massive crowds passing by.
Thousands of Metropolitan Police officers will be lining the streets to keep order, while the number of metal detectors has been high in recent years in an effort to prevent knife crime.
Several violent crimes have occurred at the festival in past years. At the last carnival in 2019, 463 crimes occurred inside the carnival area in two days – most were not violent but many involved property damage and burglary.
The largest proportion of these were drug offences, of which there were 209 allegations during the festival.
There were also 88 thefts, burglaries and robberies as well as six criminal damage offences recorded.