Flicking through some old photos the other day I came across this one from Notting Hill Carnival 2006.
It’s crazy to think four years have gone by since then.
We took Ezra to Carnival when he was not yet 7 months old. At the time we lived in the Willesden/Kensal Rise area so it was only a straight hop on the bus to Ladbroke Grove.
Arriving at Carnival for the first time with your baby in tow is a slightly daunting experience. The crowds, the din, the lack of space to push your stroller through…and the worry at the back of your mind about how exactly you’ll get out when it’s time to leave.
My hubby had started partying before us and we met up at the house of a friend, a useful pit-stop that allowed us to chill, get into festive mode and also change Ezra’s nappies in peace.
Then we braved it to one of the sound systems where we bumped into some pre-baby mates and got our groove on. So far, so cool.
Ezra was a sociable baby and aside from having loads to stare at with the floats and costumes, he enjoyed being fussed over by our friends. Hanging out on daddy’s shoulders (as long as he could take the weight!) gave our little one an excellent vantage point.
But things started going pear-shaped pretty quickly once evening came and the street party was wrapping up. We got into a half-drunk convoy on one of those pointless journeys to a house party hosted by a guy nobody knew at an address nobody could find.
It was dark, the last of the floats were going by and it seemed as if they had cranked up the volume. My poor tired and overwhelmed baby began screaming at the top of his lungs, to the point where I had to bring him out of the stroller.
Lugging a wailing child through the ravaged streets of Notting Hill long after his bedtime was not my finest hour. In fact, it pretty much ruined any ideas I had of doing Carnival with the kiddies for the foreseeable future!
To sum up, taking your baby to Notting Hill Carnival is doable so long as you bear the following in mind:
1. Consider your baby’s age and personality e.g. under three months, highly strung, stranger-shy etc. before carting them out to Europe’s biggest street party.
2. Go on Sunday aka Children’s Day, traditionally calmer and more kid-friendly.
3. Plan your route well in advance using Transport for London’s free map – the less jostling through crowds, the better.
4. Make sure you have at least one good pit-stop/chill-out zone along the way e.g. friend’s place or pub with baby-changing facilities.
5. Carry your baby in a sling for part of the way or even the whole day.
6. Get some ear protectors for when all the noise gets too much for your little one.
7. Have an exit strategy and stick to it!
Notting Hill Carnival is happens on the August Bank Holiday every year, floats from 9am-6pm. Visit the official web site.