London

Beats and barbecues at the Notting Hill Carnival

Dancer in blue dress
Image caption Hundreds of dancers feature along the parade route

Among the Bank Holiday crowds waiting for a train at Canada Water Tube station are four people dressed head-to-toe in fiery red.

One woman who wears an elaborate sequin dress taps out a beat on a drinks flask, as a man beside her grooves away to the rhythm in his head.

The other man turns to his companions and beams: "It's carnival time." His words imbued with a heavy Caribbean accent.

The quarter nod in expectant unison. Their excitement is shared across the capital as the Notting Hill Carnival marks its 50th anniversary.

Image caption A painter captures the crowds arriving in Notting Hill
Image caption Many of the expensive houses around Notting Hill are boarded up during the event
Image caption Graffiti - including the occasional political slogan - is sprayed on some of the boards

Anybody who departs Notting Hill Gate station is immediately hit by the distinctive sounds, smells and sights of carnival.

Whistles shriek, horns bellow and in the distance is the rumble of bass lines being emitted by hundreds of speakers.

The crowds pass beneath the empty grand houses of west London, their gates and windows sealed off by wooden boards, many of which have been utilised by graffiti artists - or those just wanting to leave their mark.

Further up the road a painter has set up an easel on the pavement to capture the event on canvas.

One teenager turns to his friends: "Well boys, we've finally made it", he says as they approach the parade route.

Image caption One group celebrated the carnival's 50th anniversary as part of their float
Image caption Batala London are regulars at the Notting Hill Carnival
Image caption Dancers crowded on elaborate mobile floats as they followed the parade route

Thousands of people line the street waiting for the colours and dancing of the Mas bands.

In the distance a Brazilian drumming group pounds out samba rhythms in perfect unison.

They stop every so often, waving their drums and sticks in the air to the cheers of the crowd.

Raymond and Bee, who are on holiday from Australia, watch the parade as it passes.

Despite having previously lived in London, this is their first time at the carnival. "It's brilliant", they say as they sway with the music.

Image caption Floats and performers come in all sorts of shapes...
Image caption ...and many different sizes

Another samba band follows, this one a kaleidoscope of sequins and feathers.

Dancers stacked high on decorated floats gyrate and sing as the crowds respond in turn.

A policeman waiting along the route bobs in time to the beat as another is grabbed for a selfie by a group of young girls.

Image caption People from all walks of life attend the event
Image caption Anne and JD were celebrating their anniversary having first met at the carnival

As the day progresses, the streets within the parade route become busier and the smoke from the many roadside barbecues thickens, occasionally engulfing parts of the crowd.

A couple named Anne and JD wait by a wall for their friends to join them.

"I've been coming since I was 11, I used to be on the floats," Anne says.

They are here to celebrate their 30th anniversary: "We first met at the carnival."

Anne says the event has "changed a lot" over the years.

"JD doesn't really like it so much these days but it's been great so far today," she says.

Image caption There is plenty of jerk chicken available for party goers
Image caption Pineapple drinks and coconuts are popular with revellers...
Image caption ...as is the rum punch

On the streets the blaring rhythms of the sound systems create a sonic crossfire, competing for the attention of those who pass by.

A man holding a megaphone stalks outside a jerk chicken stall, urging passers by to join him for a dance.

Above a bar which commemorates the Empire Windrush, the famous ship used by Caribbean immigrants after World War Two, a ska band play to throngs of bouncing people.

Image caption A ska band entertained the masses on staged designed to resemble the Empire Windrush
Image caption Sue and Bernardette travelled from Essex to experience their first carnival

Two friends, Sue and Bernardette, rest on a nearby pavement eating jerk chicken and salt fish.

They say they have travelled from Essex for their first carnival and have been impressed.

"It's been lovely. Really amazing", Sue says. "We hope to come back next year with more of our friends".

Judging by the atmosphere around the area, there will be plenty of others back in 2017 too.

Image caption There are 38 sound systems located around the carnival route - some are larger than others
Image caption One man used a megaphone to rouse the passing crowds into a dance

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