On Thursday I went for a walk around the Portobello Road area, three days before the beginning of the Notting Hill Carnival. It is being referred to as ‘Europe’s biggest street party’. But living near the area, it is not a party I particularly look forward to. It takes place in a residential area and has a huge impact on the life of local people. After the recent riots in London and other UK cities, there is a lot of apprehension in the air and as every year, a lot of local residents leave their homes for the weekend. I am staying this year and thought I have a look around.
The local councils, Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster, have a 24 hour noise helpline and ensure the streets are cleaned and rubbish is collected over night. They offer older residents to take them elsewhere over the weekend so they are not affected by the crowds and the noise.
On this sunny Thursday evening, Portobello Road, which is just a short walk away, is a really nice place to be. People are sitting outside pubs and cafes and music spills out from the local shops.
I walk past the Travel Bookshop which is currently up for sale. There is hope that some local volunteers will be able to take over but nothing is certain yet. They have a half price sale on when I walk past, but the shop closed early that evening so no chance of a bargain for me.
Instead I get some herbs de Provence and curry powder from the little Spice Shop a few doors down. Apart from the piles of metal road barriers on many street corners there aren’t many signs of the Carnival yet.
Notting Hill and the Portobello Road area are often associated with wealthy people, musicians, actors and politicians who can afford to buy properties here. But it is also home to a very diverse mix of people and has a lot of social housing. It is sad to see local residents and business owners being worried about damage to their buildings. At the moment it is still very calm, but nobody knows how the weekend is going to pan out.
I am hoping for a peaceful and happy Carnival!