Tuesday, 31 August 2010

But You Must Try...

I'm a carnival sceptic. I go to the Notting Hill carnival only about every ten years. The avoidance is not only because of the prohibitive crowds and transport headaches, but for another reason.

What irks me about carnivals and urban festivals in general, is the fact they're forced upon you. There's a feeling that if you don't already live there (God help you if you're a Notting HIll resident who works shifts, and no, they're not all rich - there's a huge glut of social housing around there too), you're nonetheless expected to attend if you're a London resident. I'm not comfortable with an assumption that I *should* celebrate diversity. I do this in small private ways every day anyway, as I'm sure we all do.

On a more emotional level, I don't have much connection with Notting Hill, other than having gone to some unforgettable record industry type parties in my early twenties. I'm not a resident and nor am I Caribbean, or have this heritage. Why would I go to carnival then? What meaning could I apportion to going to carnival?

Yesterday I did go. Before the drinking started in The Porchester, I wandered around by myself with my camera in semi-earnest, wanting to
document the Caribbean element of the festival (see above picture). What interests me, artistically, is the meaning people bring to celebrations. A carnival is a great unifier, isn't it? Except it isn't. It's a random collation of disparate individuals approaching the situation with different motives.

These motives range from a desire to get drunk, blow whistles and take drugs, to an extreme spectrum of elevating gang warfare. Some want to celebrate achievements in music, dance and food, or some want to show their friends and themselves how cool they are - being in the centre of a cultural whirlwind etc. In short, a sense of unity and belonging is the gloss, but it's never achieved.

Nonetheless, I got into it and I left after dark feeling a bit silly - although not ashamed, for not allowing myself to enjoy something as exciting on my relative doorstep more often.

If you realise everyone feels as fraudulent as you or at least as confused about their role in carnival as you, then you can enjoy yourself - and we certainly did that.

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