Travel Information: The Notting Hill Carnival is an annual event held in the Notting Hill area of London during the August bank holiday weekend. It is considered to be Europe’s largest free street festival the largest celebration of Caribbean culture in Europe, with up to two million expected to attend the event. This year’s event is due to occur between 26 and 27 August, though there are some events planned for the evening of 25 August. The Notting Hill Carnival comprises parades, food stalls, and various parties.
The Carnival floats begin at about 0930hrs on both 26 and 27 August, and finish at approximately 2030hrs. 26 August is considered ‘family day’ while 27 August is more adult-focused. However, revellers continue the party long after the parades have ended. Carnival celebrations dominate the W11 postcode of West London. The parades on 26 and 27 August are expected to begin on Great Western Road, before heading to Chepstow Road, Westbourne Grove, and Ladbroke Grove. A stage for calypso and soca performances is also planned for Powis Square. Events on 25 August take place between 1800-2200hrs in Emslie Horniman Pleasance Park on Bosworth Road.
Due to the size and street-based nature of the event, the Notting Hill Carnival represents a significant security challenge. For 2018, an estimated 9,000 police officers will be deployed.
In addition, 1,000 British Transport Police were also deployed in past years to provide extra assistance on the railway and London Underground. Police activities also cause travel disruption as they set up Traffic Management Zones and areas used to help with crowd management and the movement of emergency vehicles. The Carnival heavily relies on stewards to help facilitate the movements of parading performers. In 2016, more than 2,000 stewards were put into place (up from 900 stewards in the previous year). Organisers are aiming to recruit ‘more than 1,000 stewards for 2018.
Police also regularly carry out preventative work prior to the Carnival in order to stop potential criminality. Police carry out raids on suspected drug dealers, conduct weapon sweeps and Automatic Number Plate Recognition operations, and target known gang members. 2017 saw 656 arrests in the lead up to the Carnival. In 2016, 200 search warrants were executed, with 55 arrested. Police seized Class A and B drugs, weapons and money. similar preventative measures are expected in 2018.
Crime in Years Past
In 2017, more than 300 arrests were made. 112 of these were for drug offences and 58 for possession for an offensive weapon or knife/blade. 28 police injuries were also reported with 17 arrests made for this offence. Police also reported that a number of people were injured in an apparent acid attack. Attacks of this type have become prevalent in London and travellers should be prepared for what to do in such a situation. In 2016, there were 15 reported injuries involving a knife or blade, two of which were life-threatening. There were 90 arrests for the possession of weapons, up from 57 in the previous year. In total, 454 people were arrested during the Carnival celebrations. Police have partly attributed this higher number to new laws around drug use including Nitrous Oxide and other so-called ‘legal highs’. There were 45 incidents of assault against police officers, including a number of police officers being spat at. These 45 incidents resulted in 25 arrests. There were 151 cases of violent crime in 2016, an increase of 86 per cent on the 81 incidents to have occurred in 2010. An anti-social behaviour zone was implemented in 2016, with 47 people given dispersal notices, meaning that they had to leave the area and not return within a specific timeframe.
The Threat of Casualties
The scale and nature of the Carnival (a well-attended, difficult to control, open-air event) mean that casualties are an inevitability. While injuries have occurred due to crime they can also occur due to overcrowding. The number of casualties has increased over recent years, increasing concerns over public safety. The police have highlighted three significant areas of the route in 2016 where overcrowding was viewed to be a significant issue – Ladbroke Grove, All Saints Road, and Great Western Road.
Travel and Disruptions
Travel to and from Notting Hill on Carnival weekend will be restricted and heavy congestion is likely. It is advisable that spectators attempt to go early or late to see the parade. The road closures within the Carnival’s vicinity are as follows:
From around 1200hrs on 25 August, Kensal Road and adjoining roads will be closed and will reopen on that evening when it is safe to do so.
From 0700hrs on 26 August until 28 August, widespread road closures will extend north from Notting Hill Gate to Harrow Road, and from Latimer Road, St. Mark’s Road and Clarendon Road in the east to Porchester Road, and Queensway in the west. Roads will then reopen on 28 August when it is considered safe to do so. Congestion and delays are expected within the vicinity of these road closures. Moreover, significant travel disruption should be expected in the areas of Baker Street, Victoria Embankment and Highbury Corner due to ongoing roadworks.
Transport for London (TFL) has already announced a series of measures to help prevent congestion and overcrowding. All information is subject to change meaning the TFL’s website should be checked prior to making travel arrangements:
Ladbroke Grove: Closed on 26 and 27 August.
Latimer Road: Closed from 2330 on 26 August until 28 August.
Notting Hill Gate: The station will be exit-only from 1100 to 1900 on 26 and 27 August and the Circle/District lines will not stop.
Westbourne Park: This station will also be exit-only between 1100-1800 and closed from 2330 on 26 and 27 August.
Royal Oak: Royal Oak station will also be exit-only after 1100 and closed at 1800 on 26 and 27 August.
On 27 August, a Saturday service will run on London Overground routes not impacted by closures. Otherwise, the following service changes are planned:
25 to 27 August: No services will run between South Tottenham and Barking. Travellers are advised to use the Victoria line between Seven Sisters (for South Tottenham) and Walthamstow Central or local buses. Replacement bus services will run.
During the above dates, no services will run between Surrey Quays and Clapham Junction but replacement buses will run.
25 and 26 August: No services will run between London Euston and Watford Junction. Travellers should use the Bakerloo line between Queen’s Park and Stonebridge Park. A replacement bus service will also be available.
26 August: Until 1015, there will be no service between Liverpool Street and Enfield Town/Cheshunt (via Seven Sisters)/Chingford. Use local buses or Tube services between Liverpool Street and Seven Sisters/Hackney Downs. Replacement bus services will also run.
Also on the above date until 1115, there will be no services running between Clapham Junction and Willesden Junction. Travellers should use local buses instead.
27 August: No services will run between Euston and Kilburn High Road. Local buses or London Underground services should be used instead.
Docklands Light Railway (DLR)
On 27 August, the DLR will run a Saturday service.
On 27 August, a Sunday service will run on London Trams.
TFL Rail will run a Saturday service on 27 August.
National Rail services will be impacted by planned engineering works. Services to and from Euston, Liverpool Street, and Victoria are set to be affected.
On 27 August, buses will run a Sunday service. From 0500 on 26 August until 0500 on 28 August, buses will be impacted by road closures around the Carnival. During these times, buses will start from the Prince of Wales on Harrow Road to the north of the carnival area. To the south of the carnival area, buses will start from Notting Hill Gate. All bus journeys should be planned in advance.
Transport for London advises that the rail and London Underground services will be the best ways to get around for the Notting Hill Carnival. It warns travellers to expect station closures and significant disruption around Notting Hill, Ladbroke Grove and Westbourne Park. It is advisable to use TFL’s journey planner prior to making journeys between 25 and 27 August – https://tfl.gov.uk/plan-a-journey.
Travellers are advised that although the Notting Hill Carnival is a family event (especially 26 August), travel risks remain. It is advisable to avoid areas where overcrowding is a significant issue in order to avoid injury. It is important to maintain situational awareness due to the threat of criminality or heightened unrest. Any crowds that appear to be becoming restless or aggressive should be avoided or the area left immediately. Travellers should also ensure that that they avoid overt displays of wealth or high-value items so as to evade the attention of would-be criminals. It is advisable to carry only the money, cards, and property needed for the day and these should be kept out of sight from thieves ideally in a concealed inside pocket or money belt; all valuables should be left at home. Be aware that many cash machines may run out of money early in the day. If drinking alcohol during the day or attending night-time activities, take precautions against drink-spiking; keep your drink with you at all times. A police officer should be informed of any concerns, crimes, or suspicious individuals or objects. All police instructions should be adhered to fully as they are likely to be high alert.
Travellers should be prepared for the extremes of British weather and come prepared with water to prevent against dehydration and stay updated on the weather forecast to understand if sunscreen or wet weather clothing is required. Travellers attending the festivities are advised to plan their routes to and from the Carnival carefully; it is advisable to consider walking from a train or tube station not in the immediate facility of the event. Also, it is important to plan ahead and know how you are getting home. If meeting other people, do so away from the Notting Hill area and then arrive together as it will be difficult to find people in the large crowds and mobile phone signal is likely to be impacted. In case of getting lost or separated choose a large landmark at which to regroup, something easy to see in a crowd. Ensure that all members of your group have each other’s phone numbers written down as well as on mobile devices. Be prepared for long waits at portable toilets and plan accordingly; travellers should consider bringing hand sanitiser and a portable potty for children.
Those not attending the Carnival are advised to expect excessive travel delays and should consider rearranging any planned travel to or near the Notting Hill area or plan for longer than usual travel times. Solace Global would not advise clients of the need to employ enhanced security measures when visiting the United Kingdom. Travellers may wish to use travel-tracking technology with an intelligence feed to stay updated on any security-related events and to alert others in case of an emergency.