Every year on the first Saturday of July, thousands of people descend on one small area of Bristol for the annual St Pauls Afrikan Caribbean Carnival. It’s like the Notting Hill Carnival – but with more cider. This year the theme is ‘HOME – Inna We Yard’.
St Pauls is a neighborhood near the center of Bristol, a city in the South West of England. It’s had a turbulent history – from the Georgian grandeur of Portland Square where the city’s affluent slave traders lived in the 18th Century (it might look familiar from various episodes of Doctor Who and Sherlock), to the race riots of the 1980s, to the urban rejuvenation of recent years. Today, St Pauls is a large, multi-ethnic area with a large Caribbean population and a strong sense of community. I should know; it’s also the place that I’ve called home for two out of the last four years, first living on the Carnival epicenter, Portland Square, itself and now just off St Agnes Park.
Don’t drive if you can help it. Traffic in Bristol is notoriously bad as it is, and the carnival’s road closures will only exacerbate the situation. Instead, use public transport – St Pauls is only a short walk from the bus station or Montpelier train station.
This year’s event will take place on 5th July, from 12 noon until 12 midnight (with numerous afterparties!)
What to expect
- Crowds – every year St Pauls Carnival attracts more and more people (it even had to take a year off in 2012 in order to save up some money and allow for some extra planning). Last year, over 90,000 revelers attended, and this year numbers are expected to run as high as 100,000.
- A masquerade parade – beginning at 12 noon sharp, this parade of floats, local schools, community groups and dance troupes put together a drum-beating, hip-shaking procession that loops around the neighborhood’s roads.
- Music – there are two main stages featuring acts from the world of reggae, dancehall, dubstep and more, not to mention 15 sound systems placed strategically around the streets.
- Street drinking – it’s not just OK, it’s encouraged.
- Spoken word – local poets will be putting on a show in the spoken word corner.
- Caribbean cuisine – whether bought from official vendors or from local people’s front gardens, there’s no shortage of jerk chicken. If you want vegetarian food, you may be best heading round the corner to Stokes Croft though, where there is veggie and vegan food a-plenty.
- A few changes! – if you’ve been to St Pauls Carnival before then you might think you’ve seen it all before, but trust me: this year’s event has a few tricks up its sleeve. In a bid the keep the carnival alive and keep pace with its increasing size and popularity, the Carnival Committee are introducing a range of new initiatives, from running their own bar to releasing an official carnival anthem.
St Pauls Carnival is free to attend, but does rely on donations – so remember to drop whatever change you can spare in the buckets being passed around on the day, or else text ‘CARN45 £5’ (or whatever amount you would like to give) to 70070.