Notting Hill Carnival has long been one of the most important and exciting events in the cultural calendar. For two days across the August Bank Holiday, crowds eleven times the size of Glastonbury gather in west London to watch bright floats, soca bands and parades of dancers glide through cramped streets, while on every corner massive sound systems and make-shift stages smelling of pimento blast ska, reggae and dancehall. Millions of people from around the world gather to soak up the very best of Caribbean culture.
But this year will be different. We won't be packed in like sardines, standing skin to skin, talking to the mandem as they try to secure their whine. In May, organisers announced that Notting Hill Carnival would be cancelled for the first time in its 54-year history. Thankfully, we'll have something to celebrate: for 2020, Europe's biggest street party will be held virtually, with four channels streaming performances from 29th August, kicking off with a live countdown on the big screen at Piccadilly Circus.
The three-day digital festival will celebrate Notting Hill Carnival's history and feature performances, talks and films, with a focus on the food, dance, music and culture of carnival. There will be live-streamed DJ sets from King Tubby's and Rampage sound systems and steel pan from past Panorama champions the Ebony and Mangrove steel bands. Artists from across the Afro-Caribbean diaspora will also be performing, including Jamaica's Koffee and Protoje, Grenada's Mr Killa and Big Red, Nigeria's Davido, Tiwa Savage and Yemi Alade, as well as the UK's WSTRN, Ms Banks and Stylo G, while Spotify has dedicated a whole microsite to the weekend.
While many of us will be disappointed that we can't hit the streets to whine our hips to Machel Montano or AYYY with our girls to Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion's 'WAP' — a bottle of Uncle Wray in one hand, a delicious roti in the other — it doesn't mean we can't recreate the vibes. We may not be in Ladbroke Grove, but we're still bringing the west London street party home with finesse. To show you how, we invited photographer Serena Brown to capture the celebrations, with stylist Alizé Demange kitting us out in our best Carnival-ready outfits. Press play on the Spotify playlists below, and join us in soaking up the sun; Carnival is cancelled, long live Carnival!