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Published on July 14th, 2016 | by David Kalloo0
After 50 Years Notting Hill Carnival Deserves Some Respect
I cannot say that I am at all surprised by the negative stories that have started to appear in the national press regarding the Notting Hill Carnival. This sort of behaviour by the press have gone on for as long as the Notting Hill carnival has existed and, I believe, I can safely say it will continue for some time yet.
The latest slur against the Notting Hill Carnival emerged in the Evening Standard after a notion was put forward earlier this year by Tory MP Victoria Borwick to introduce a ticketing system for those wanting to attend the carnival, a reflection of what has happened to the New Year’s Eve celebration in London. Pippa Crerar’s article in the Evening Standard headlined ‘Notting Hill Carnival is ‘frightening and drives residents from their homes,’ poll finds.’ The article went on to say that ‘nine out of ten residents living along the route…flee their homes to escape the “frightening and intimidating “event.’ These are strong words and, for anyone reading this, it would certainly conjure up a horrific picture in their minds. However, Notting Carnival is far from “frightening and intimidating “and while I do not dispute that a small number of people may agree that the event does pose a threat to them, it is not the view of the majority. If one person feels threatened, frightened or intimidated by the event then by all means, measures should be taken to eliminate or reduce such concerns and assure those on the route that their wellbeing would not be compromised.
ComRes who was commissioned by MP Victoria Borwick to carry out the survey, surprisingly had nothing favourable to say about the Notting Hill Carnival according to the Evening Standard’s article. The article went on to say that ‘the benefits Carnival brings to businesses had been overstated by organisers, as just six percent reported any uplift.’ Had ComRes done their homework, they would have found that figures on the income generated by the Notting Hill Carnival was not done by the LNHCET but by independent organisations, including the Mayor of London. While financial figures may fluctuate from year to year, it does not take a chartered accountant to demonstrated the vast network of businesses and employment that carnival creates, not just for London but on a wider scale. It is important to note here that none of this income ever reaches the LNHCET.
Let us be realistic, not everyone enjoys carnival and there would always be a minority that would oppose it at all cost. But to label Notting Hill Carnival as ‘impractical’, ‘frightening and intimidating’, ‘noise’ and ‘nuisance’ is to have a total lack of understanding as to what carnival means to the thousands who create and participate in the event over the last fifty years. Carnival is the sole event anywhere in Europe that brings together people from every single ethnic background who can come together, mingle, dance run a business and have fun, doing so without fear or prejudice. Carnival itself however, continues to struggle for recognition and the seal of approval from a dying Empire. After fifty years of existence, it is a bewildering thought that this cultural extravaganza that holds communities together and foster the true meaning of the term multicultural, is often brunt of the poison pens of the national press. This then provides ammunition for other negative stories to cultivate from a minority.
Notting Hill Carnival must also be able to stand up and defend itself when unfounded accusations are thrown in its face. There are few businesses along the carnival route that are closed for the carnival weekend and, when it’s not carnival days some of these said businesses are normally shut on a bank Holiday. Any dispute that businesses suffer due to carnival is somewhat fragmented, far more business is created because of carnival including; vehicle hire, sound system hire, tents and marques, hotels, transport, food and drinks suppliers, not to mention suppliers of costume making materials and hundreds of other miscellaneous supplies that all play a crucial role in the economics of London and its wider environs and not forgetting it plays a part in international economies too.
While Notting Hill Carnival is the ‘biggest street festival’ in Europe we must not forget that it takes place in the heart of a residential belt. Residents and business in one way or the other, would be affected by it, this we cannot argue. However, to say that residents pack up and leave in their hundreds is a bit far-fetched. Bear in mind too, that it is the August Bank holiday and many families would have chosen this time to take their vacation coinciding with the Notting Hill Carnival and not escaping because of the carnival. The carnival partners work alongside each other to ensure that residents in the area feel safe in their home during the carnival. It is no fun looking out your window to see someone vomiting or urinating in your front garden. No matter how avid a carnival fan you are, you would not condone this behaviour. People’s perception to this have to change as this happens regularly every weekend of the year outside the carnival period. However, whenever this occurs it is a total lack of respect for someone’s property.
I am somewhat intrigued as to where ComRes found the information that ‘many officials have shied away from addressing the security challenges’ that the carnival is faced with every year. ComRes, and I gather that may stand for ‘community residents’ or something along that angle should know that security at Notting Hill Carnival is not something that is swept aside lightly. It is a major event in the London calendar and the safety of those at the event are taken very seriously by the agency charged with policing the event. However, those, and I speak here specifically of the Metropolitan police, the agency responsible for safety and security have always played a part in trying to undermine the carnival. They do so by deploying excessive number of staff and present an intimidating presence amidst the carnival arena.
If the MP for Kensington was serious about the Notting Hill carnival when she said: “I want everyone in the Carnival to work together to ensure this event is one everyone can enjoy.” She should have gone to the LNHCET and hold consultation with the board on how best to make the carnival better for each and everyone, including those who are not carnival enthusiast but live within the arena. This would have proved a far better approach in assisting with and, meeting the many challenges that the carnival is faced with year after year.