Notting Hill Carnival is 'beautiful spectacle'

Mas performers Starting as a local festival set up by members of the West Indian community, Notting Hill Carnival now attracts up to one million visitors
Mas performer Each group, or Mas (short for masquerade) taking part comes up with its own theme and costume designs
Mas performer The carnival procession starts at Great Western Road and ends at Ladbroke Grove
Mas performer Even though they look light the carnival costumes feel very heavy by the end of the day
Cooks To fuel the party atmosphere hundreds of chefs spend the day cooking a variety of West Indian treats such as jerk chicken

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From the silent streets the drums begin their rallying call, increasing the sense of anticipation.

The crowds lean over railings squinting into the distance to see what is coming.

The sun catches sequins of all colours and a steel band starts up, playing to a different rhythm and building a wall of sound with whistles and vuvuzuelas cutting over the top.

It signals the start of Notting Hill Carnival.

The driving rhythm seems to coax even the most self-conscious to sway their hips and tap their feet as the teams slowly but precisely make their way around the route from Great Western Road to Ladbroke Grove, taking a whole day to do so.

The second day is given over to the adults who stop and dance outside the judges' tent at the start of the route, but then party all the way around. Throngs of people follow and encourage them, joining in the dancing as well as watching.

'Fun and colourful'

For first time carnival-goer Vineo Baun from St Alban's it was an opportunity to take photographs for his family back in India.

Kate Klesner and Riley Megan Katy Klesner (L) and Riley Megan planned to stay at the carnival the whole day

He said: "I'm really enjoying it. I researched on the internet to get an idea of its history but it's more bands and music than I expected, which is good.

"I've really liked it, but it was my father who told me about the carnival. He's in India, but he knew all about it."

Another international visitor, Kate Klesner from Ohio in America said: "We were watching the parade and it was so much fun and colourful.

"At home there's nothing so long and elaborate."

Away from the main route and Notting Hill becomes adorned with smaller clusters of parties, sound systems booming out West Indian favourites as well as the latest chart toppers. The vibrations of the bass can be felt all along the road.

Anyone is invited to join in the party, the only rules seem to be that you must dance and enjoy yourself.

Stall holders selling jerk chicken and other West Indian delights call, shout and blow whistles to get the attention of the crowd.

A cloud of barbeque smoke drifts across the more residential streets.

For Richard Thompson from Backayard food stall, which is selling Caribbean favourites, it is his first time trading at the event.

Notting Hill Carnival Hundreds of thousands explore Notting Hill following the sound of the music

He said: "The carnival's brilliant, we're just getting going at the moment but later we'll be firing.

"When you're here involved you soak up a lot more of the atmosphere. You're also watching what's going on, all the entertainment, so you're right in the mix of everything.

"It's brilliant, a beautiful spectacle."

The entrepreneurs are out in force too.

Home-made food and cakes are sold alongside cold drinks. Behind the stall a sign can usually be found offering the use of the bathroom facilities for £2 a go as toilets are few and far between in the carnival zone.

The owner of the house I went into said she made several hundred pounds in just two days.

The carnival procession officially stopped at 19:00 BST. But with thousands upon thousands of people streaming along the streets and more arriving every time a tube pulls into a station, the party is certain to go on long into the night.

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