NOTTING Hill Carnival, Europe’s biggest street festival which showcases London’s multicultural past and present has become a bone of contention between authorities and spectators and artists on the other hand who feel that the spirit of the event is being muzzled by officialdom and overzealous policing.
The event, which is yearly scheduled for the last weekend of August has been taking place since 1964. This year the Carnival attracted around two million visitors over two days of street fun fare including live music ranging from reggae, salsa, sound systems, soca floats and steel bands.
But it seems that behind the splash of garishly colourful costumes, vigorous dancing and overindulgence in jerk chicken and fried plantain by revellers, not all is well within the fabric of the Carnival.
A group purporting to represent Carnival supporters, Carnival mass bands, local community organisations, residents, individual and cultural activists has put out flyers calling for a public meeting on 25 September “to address the crisis in Notting Hill Carnival and to reclaim our Carnival.”
One of the grievances made by the Time to reclaim our Carnival organisers is that although the carnival adds around £100 million in just two days each year to the British economy,the artists and musicians who are the life blood of the event do not benefit.
“The more money the state and the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea (RBKC) make each year at the expense of mas bans, steel bands, sound systems, carnival organisers and masqueraders, the more they squeeze the carnival with the sole intention of taking it over completely,” the communique says.
Furthermore the communique reads: “The people who support Notting Hill carnival, especially the African diaspora in London and throughout the UK have a historical duty to fight back and reclaim the carnival anchoring it in its roots, because it is our Caribbean carnival. The Metropolitan Police, RBKC and the Mayor of London all have one duty. They should take measures to ensure the safety and well being of bands and of carnival goers and cease harassing us and imposing more and more restrictions on what we are allowed to do.”
The Time to reclaim our Carnival organisers say they need to act urgently to:
- Ensure that they and the media do not focus public attention solely on crime and disorder, rather than on art, creativity and historical significance of carnival as the people’s art
- Demand that the hundreds of millions of pounds they have made from the carnival in the last 50 years be returned to the carnival makers to secure the financial independence and safety of the Notting Hill Carnival
- Ensure that the London Notting Hill Carnival Enterprise Trust (LNHCET), the current carnival organisers, serve the interests of the Notting Hill Carnival and its art and music creators and not the bidding of the Met Police, RBKC and the Mayor of London.
Time to reclaim our Carnival meeting: Venue – The Tabernacle Powis Square London W11 2AY
Speakers: Giselle Carter; Cecil Gutzmore; Michael La Rose. Chair- Professor Gus John