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How to Avoid Having a Shit Time at Carnival (A Guide for Carnival Virgins)

Some tips on how to make sure you don't get lost, crushed, ripped off, mugged, arrested or covered in your own piss.
August 28, 2015, 2:05pm

Before I begin boldly dispensing advice about how to get l-i-v-e at Notting Hill Carnival, I should probably preface this thing by saying I've had some pretty bleak Carnival experiences. If you're looking for tales of "omg the best carnival ever" and bangin' stage recommendations, you will not find them here. What you will find – in the back of a 3.9 surcharge Uber – is a hapless victim of peer pressure in badly fitting shorts, slurping warm puddles of lager from the rim of a Red Stripe.

But fuck that. You're going, I'm going, we both know we're going, so it's time to stop being a Debbie downer, quit worrying about whether your body can survive another bout of Major Lazer and E. coli, and just suck up all the posh dads playing bongos and crowd crushes.


Here are some lessons I've learned, the hard way, about how to have fun at Carnival.

NOISEY: Reflecting on NWA's British Impact


Set your alarm for approximately the time you would get up for work and start commuting into Carnival about then – the only difference is today you get to dance to imaginary music as you eyefuck strangers on the train, which is always a good look. Don't try to pull your "fashionably late" tricks because any time past 5PM and you're a salmon swimming alone up a Danube of piss, cans and vomit. Arrive with about 12 people and make sure you like at least four of them and at least one of them fancies you, because you're going to lose everyone else.

When this happens, don't be a little bitch about it. Don't start waving your phone in the air and wailing because 1) someone will probably try to steal it and 2) it's a lot harder to absorb the "vibe" when you're composing a strongly worded letter to your mobile phone network in your head.

Don't bother policemen with your problems. Not having any signal is not a crime, plus they're too busy trying to suppress their boners. Get some food, find a step that hasn't been pissed on (this will be difficult) and a friendly stranger with a hip flask and you'll eventually bump into someone you know.


Speaking of piss, it's a bit of a cruel joke that despite it being the only festival with one toilet for every 5,000 attendees, the beverage du choix is litre upon litre of lager. I would recommend pouring it onto a sponge and pressing that gently against your lips every 15 minutes. If you're not up for that and you're a girl, you're going to have to man up about getting your rat out in public. Prepare to spend most of the day soaked in your urine from at least below the knee. If you were foolhardy enough to wear a playsuit you're looking at a full crotch soaking that should ripen nicely in the sun throughout the day.

Heavy basslines and medium rare jerk chicken are a solid gold recipe for a naughty bottom. That's a warning, so don't @ me when you're trying to persuade an old woman to let you explosively defecate in her garden. Make sure you come with plenty of crisp notes. One to pay her with; the rest to wipe yourself because you can bet your house on there not being any bog roll.


I don't wish to patronise you with my year 8 PSHE wisdom here, but I'd recommend you copy this one onto your inner arm for when you're four tinnies to the wind. Yes, your Wavey Garms bum bag might scream street smarts, but Walter White you are not. The guy you're weaving down an alley after might be helpfully leading you to a cash point, but it's likely he doesn't have your best interests at heart. What you are actually picking up from the floor, after handing over the readies (and cocking up that weird sweaty palmed handshake you should never, ever try and do again) is a small bag of Class-A Epsom salts and a lifetime of derision. When someone has to take off their socks just to stem your nosebleed, you'll understand.


Don't try to be a social butterfly at this thing because your wings will be crushed and ground into a paste on the concrete. Pick a "good" (you might not know what that actually means, that doesn't matter) soundsystem and stay there. If this experience makes you feel like Mark Corrigan at a dance party, bouncing around on the spot is also fine. If you're doing gun fingers in the air and going "pow, pow, pow", then you can consider your nicked wallet retribution.

You will probably know someone who knows someone who has some sort of Red Bull connections. Do not follow them on this merry goose chase to party central because it will be bullshit. When you're queuing in "VIP" next to a jittery 40-year-old dude in a fisherman's hat it will become clear this "connection" was that prick who drove around in a car with a massive can on it at uni.


As soon as night falls everything is going to start to get real apocalypse-y, so if you found the day a bit intense, disappear. Go and have a lovely house party that isn't in West London.

Definitely don't stick around and go to anyone called Henry's house in Ladbroke Grove for an afterpar-dee. Nothing in the world is going to make you feel more like you're standing on the edge of a gaping cultural precipice than watching someone in a graffiti print snapback toss an empty bottle of prosecco off their dad's £5 million balcony. Millie might have been loving her funky neon whistle earlier on, but now riff raff like you have made it through the door, she's blowing it in between sobs in an attempt to stop them turning Daddy's bureau into firewood.


Make your escape as early as you can. When you're taking off your shoes and picking the clumps of grime from between your toes, stare directly into that big black hole of serotonin, write your feelings in Reminders and set an alarm for 364 days' time that says "you don't have to go".

Who am I kidding? See you desperately trying not to get sucked into the black hole that is Gaz's Rockin' Blues.


Our Carnival content is bought to you in partnership with Rinse. You can catch them at this year's Notting Hill Carnival. Click here to find out more.

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