Blog, Ideas & Inspiration

Inspired by the Notting Hill Carnival? Hold your own in a marquee

August 31, 2016

Over the bank holiday, thousands of people will have had the time of their lives at this year’s Notting Hill Carnival. It’s a two-day event that dates back over 50 years, originally started as a celebration of London’s Caribbean community, their culture and traditions. Unbelievably, it’s actually the second largest carnival in the world, Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro taking top spot. And it’s the largest street festival in Europe.

Go and be a part of it, or watch the media coverage, and you can’t fail to have a smile on your face and find your feet moving to the pulsating rhythms of the music. The parades are jaw-droppingly spectacular, the work that goes into making all the costumes is phenomenal, and the music is brilliant. And the aromas from all the street food are incredible. It’s noisy, it’s busy, it’s lively, it’s exciting, it’s an assault on every single sense, it’s carnival!

And what a brilliant theme for a party, and a marquee is perfect for hosting a mini carnival, where your guests can relax and not worry about damaging your home or a more traditional venue. At Inside Outside we’ve seen our marquees transformed so that we’d barely recognise them ourselves – one week dressed for a formal wedding reception, the next almost bursting at the seams with guests enjoying a slice of Caribbean life.

Dress your marquee in a cacophony of colour, the louder, the brasher the better! Reds, yellows, oranges, greens, blues, hot pinks – go as vibrant as you possibly can, forget about colours working in harmony, clashes are good! To create a carnival atmosphere your guests need to feel excited and invigorated, and colour will go a long way to achieving that. Feathers are always a big feature of the spectacular costumes and large feather fans will look great. You could even add a touch of the Caribbean with some fake palm trees.

Music is, of course, what gets everyone going and the Notting Hill Carnival is all about live music, especially steel bands. If you can hire in a steel band, you really will have recreated the Carnival. If not, find a band that plays everything from reggae to dub to calypso and salsa – the dancefloor will be heaving!


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To complete the theme, make sure that the food you serve has its inspiration in Caribbean dishes – jerk chicken, rice and peas, fried plantain. Mango, lime, pineapple and coconut will also create authentic flavours of Caribbean shores. And to drink? Choose rum-based cocktails with outrageous fruit garnishes, this is not the time to be subtle! And something chocolatey wouldn’t go amiss. On the Sunday of the Notting Hill Carnival it’s become something of a tradition to slap people with melted chocolate. We think it would be a shame to waste it, but why not go for a chocolate dessert or have a chocolate fountain with lots of fruit for dipping – it might be wise to keep the slapping tradition quiet!

And finally, just one more thing: don’t forget the whistles. You’ll probably regret it afterwards, but everyone absolutely needs a whistle at a carnival party!

Need some help pulling everything together? As well as supplying the marquee, Inside Outside works with some fantastic suppliers who can help with styling, catering and entertainment and ensure that yours is an event to remember.

Call us on 01372 459485 or send us an email and let’s talk Carnival!

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