Notting Hill Carnival

Trouble at the Notting Hill Carnival

Autumn is here, and I’ve had the chance to reflect back on summer and the great time had at The Notting Hill Carnival. Naturally, I took my psychological head with me.

As you may or may not know, I am of mixed heritage. My Mum’s black and my Dad is white. My Dad always thought I’d get robbed/stabbed at the carnival. My mum always went and enjoyed her reggae tunes, but as a child, I was never allowed to tag along.

My Notting Hill Carnival experience actually began in my adult years. When I would be dragged around by my friends seeking out a particular hot spot for the latest banging tunes! To start going to the carnival as an adult, meant that I was rather late to the game. I had never entertained the notion of doing costume as most people I knew had worn costumes as a kid. I’ve always marvelled at the colour and splendour of it all but never considered wearing one myself. I thought it wasn’t for me and my inner critic would always have something unhelpful to say like…

‘You are too fat’
‘You have too many rolls’
‘Your bottom is too flat’
‘You have too many stretch marks’
‘Your bottom is not big enough’

Until this year that is, when my dear friend (and fellow psychotherapist) Danielle, asked me to join UCOM band.

Let’s just say, I invested £75 and got a t-shirt, bag, unlimited rum punch (woop-woop) and access to a port-a-loo on one of their many trucks (if you know anything about the carnival, you’ll know that having loo access is invaluable). It was nice to be apart of a group and added a new dimension to my carnival experience and I thank Danielle for including me.

On route, I stopped and just marvelled at these ladies (pictured above) in full costume. They just caught my attention. What I loved most, was that they’re fully figured women, embracing their bodies. Don’t they slay! Secretly, I envied their flare, confidence and boldness. I wanted the same for myself. I was so deeply inspired I went up to the lady in silver to tell how much I appreciated her confidence and size. It was a risk, but hey, I live on the edge.

Thankfully, Claire wasn’t offended, she knew I was coming from a good place and was so lovely. She thanked me and said this one thing that stayed with me… She said, ‘before you get here, you feel self-conscious, you feel as if you can’t do it, then you get here (the carnival) and then you realise, it doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter!’

What a profound statement, what a declaration.
What freedom.
It doesn’t matter!

Who the hell were we trying to please in the first place?

Then it came to me, like a download, straight from the heavens. The Notting Hill Carnival is the perfect place for a body revolution. A place to step outside your comfort zone. A place to try something different, be different and wear something that ordinarily you would never entertain. It was at that point, that I said, ‘next year, it’s gonna be me! I’m gonna do costume, rolls ‘n’ all’.

So who wants to join me?
Who’s up for it?
Who wants to get out of their comfort zone?
Who wants to try something different?
Or does fear hold you back?

If fear has you scared, I get it. Or if you overthink it, I get it. But there is one thing I know about fear, whether it’s a carnival costume or having a difficult conversation with awful your boss. We need to face our fears, its the only way to overcome them.

People, let’s start to stare fear in the eye for 2019, do exactly what it says we shouldn’t do and pay close attention to what happens next. In my experience, fears shrink when I face them. The fear gets reorganised, de-prioritised and slips to the bottom of the totem pole, where it belongs.

It’s for this reason alone, that next year, you gonna see this chick in full carnival regalia – dazzle ‘n’ shine ‘n’ all. Now, if that speaks to you and you too wanna brave it. Inbox me – just leave a comment below – and let’s start a mini-revolution! Who’s in?

I also want to to give a shout out to the BreakThur Diva, as your bikini post is massively inspiring. I want to be as brave as you and see the Notting Hill Carnival 2020 as a place to face my fears – full-on. So thank you, Gail.


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Keeley Taverner is a psychotherapist who is a companion to people taking steps to understand and overcome life dilemmas. If you have been inspired by this article, please feel free to contact Keeley or arrange a no-fee fact-finding call.

If you would like to interview Keeley for your publications, please do get in touch. Keeley has recently been featured on the BBC, BBC 1Xtra, The Metro, Daily Express, Therapy Today, Brunel Link magazine and on Radio 1. Keeley is happy to be on radio, TV, podcasts and similar.

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