When food meets music and people, it's a social gathering, throw in Caribbean flavours, and it's a party! Carnival is an unmistakable event, primarily a Caribbean festival, where the food, the energy, and the party vibe is carried from the sunny beaches, to the UK's cities. It starts in a relatively wholesome manner, a general mix of old to young, families and friends, full of bright colours and generally 'good' vibes. As the night creeps in however, Carnival gives way to a more adult, lively outdoor venue; get high by sharing what the person next to you is smoking, the main music areas turn into dancehall competitions with a master of ceremonies on the mic hyping it up, and you easily lose yourself in the crazy summer haze that is Carnival.
You'll smell the unmistakable scent of the Caribbean, before you see the brightly coloured tents scattered throughout the Carnival area. Bask in the heady mix of flavours: coconut, pimento, and scotch bonnets that make for an irresistible taste of Jamaica. You'll hear the deafening music and laughter that threatens to burst your eardrums but you can't help whining your waistline in time to the beat. And finally, you'll see the thousands of people, smiling, gyrating, bending over and backing it up against bright colours that invite your body to come and party.
Unfortunately, in light of 2011's Birmingham Carnival, that was held in Handsworth, this year's has been cancelled. However, there are still carnivals all over the UK that will, as the song goes, raise the flag. Leeds, Sheffield, and of course, Notting Hill Carnival, are all still going ahead this year, and with the West Indian and African countries doing so well in the Olympics, there has never been more of a reason to celebrate.
Carnival begins with a procession of individual floats; dancers usually wearing hand-made jewelled outfits in the traditional Caribbean colours, or their home countries colours. The procession usually gets the crowd going – people are actively encouraged to join in. Visit the stalls and sample perfectly flavoured meats that are so tender they fall apart in your mouth. Don't forget the delicious sides, like plantain, dumplings and salt fish fritters, perfect as a snack or to accompany your meal.
Accompanying the rhythms of the food is, of course, reggae music. From old school to new school, with 2012 remixes, Carnival covers a host of artists like Beenie Man, Vybz Kartel, and older classics such as Buju Banton and Chaka Demus and Pliers. Throughout the day music carries the festival vibe throughout Carnival but towards the evening the music takes centre stage and dirty beats are mixed with dancehall, dubstep, reggae and rnb. The young become the new school and Carnival gets sexy. There are generally four stages that are dotted around the Carnival area, one typically for each generation, and as the families and children leave, Carnival becomes a mostly adult event where the Carnival turns into a massive music festival.
If nothing else go for the atmosphere. It's an irreplaceable joyous event where everyone is in a playful mood, because the weather is usually good, the food is amazing, the music is sensational and the company is brilliant. With a sea of excited people all dancing to the same beat, steel pans heard in the background, smoke in the air that tells you jerk chicken is cooking, and smiles all around Carnival is not to be missed.