Two million party people. 9000 Police. 40 sound systems. 15,000 handmade costumes. Five tons of chicken. £93m to the London economy.
Unless you write for Vice, Notting Hill Carnival is one of the highlights on the London calendar…but only if you head in with a plan. Go for an aimless wonder round the largest street festival in Europe and you’ll end up spending two days caught in stationary crowds, queueing hours for chicken and a toilet and miss all the good music. If it’s the latter you want to prevent, we’ve put together a list of our favourite sound systems to check out over the weekend. All that’s left is to remember two things: don’t hang around after 7pm and stay away from the beer – it’ll go right through you and Notting Hill is not equipped with enough toilets for more people than currently live in Northern Ireland!
Also check out our guide to the best Carnival warm-up and afterparties
Holding fort since the 1970s, Aba-Shanti is one of the original Carnival systems and hands down one of the most powerful. Owner of an unparalleled dubplate collection, delivered alongside messages of unity and integration, Aba creates a roadblock ever year. Expect straight up dub from the old and rare, to the new and exclusive (just like when he premiered Dubkasm – ‘Victory’ back in 2012). Find it:East Row/Southern Row.
Boxfresh presents Rinse 20 @ Rough But Sweet
Two London institutions come together for their landmark anniversaries (Rinse FM – 20 years, Boxfresh – 25). The lineup is made up of friends and family of the station, including Bicep, Bok Bok, Breach, Elijah & Skilliam, P Money and Josey Rebelle, with plenty more still to be confirmed. For more info, head to the Rinse website. Find it: Hazelwood Crescent / Bosworth Road.
After 31 years at Notting Hill, Channel One had a bit of a scare this year, fighting Westminster Council over licensing issues. Thanks to an 8,500 strong petition and crowdfunding drive though, their long-term future was secured with a permanent licence, so Mikey Dread and Ras Kayleb are thankfully back at their regular spot for good. Expect a reggae oasis of peace, both in the crowd, Dred’s dub selections and Kayleb’s preachings on the mic. Find it: Westbourne Park Road / Leamington Road Villas.
Back for their 30th Carnival, Rapattack are proper old gamers, fronted by the Master MC, with DJ Ricky and DJ Lady Misstify bringing a record bag that spreads as wide as it does deep. Expect them to play anything from 70s funk and disco to 90s acid jazz, classic soul to old-school hip hop. To celebrate their landmark year, there’s rumour of a guest spot from a ‘top US recording artist’ so expect it to be a busy one. Find it: All Saints Road.
Red Bull Music Academy
One of the latest editions to the Notting Hill programme and probably the most talked about every year. So serious is the lineup they have to make it ticketed so if you missed out on the first ballot, there will be another open tomorrow, from 9am til midnight (more info here). For the lucky few, a headline set from Basement Jaxx will make for quite the party. Find it: Westway.
Crowned Number One Sound System at the World Cup Clash 21 years ago, Saxon Sound are another crew present at Carnival who have been mainstays of British sound system culture for decades. Expect an eclectic reggae selection. Find it: St Lawrence Terrace.