Notting Hill Carnival is an iconic, world-class celebration of Caribbean culture. This year thelargest street party in the world outside of Rio takes on a deeper significance. It takes place in the very community that has been devastated by the Grenfell Tower fire . Carnival will pay respect to those who have died with a minute’s silence at 3pm this Sunday and Monday. Organisers are also encouraging all attending to show their support and pay their respects by wearing ‘Green for Grenfell’.
Everyone wants a safe city and a safe carnival . But this year concerns have been raised by grime artist Stormzy and others about the Carnival being unfairly associated with crime.
All reasonable efforts to remove illegal drugs and weapons from the capital are welcome. However, reporting on arrests in a way that unfairly associates Notting Hill Carnival with crime is a disservice to the hundreds of thousands of people who go there for a good time. This type of reporting risks reinforcing stereotypes about the Black community.
One glance shows that the coverage of Glastonbury or other large scale festivals is very different, generally positive and without a big focus on crime. While Carnival this year is being associated with drug-related crime, other festivals have offered a confidential drug-testing service to inform attendants about potentially dangerous substances. More festivals have been in discussions to introduce this service this year as a measure to tackle drug-related deaths. Many have, and will, question the disparity in the treatment of the festivals.
The Labour Party has raised serious concerns about the government cuts to policing at a time where we are facing a succession of devastating terrorist attacks. Safety and security at a number of events like the carnival could also suffer from these cuts.
One of the issues that the Grenfell disaster has brought to the fore is the impact of cuts on safety. This is true for fire fighters and fire sprinklers as well as the police. In addition, anger over Grenfell Tower has been heightened because the local council, Kensington and Chelsea, is one of the richest boroughs in London and it has treated its poorest residents with contempt. Notting Hill Carnival needs to be part of rebuilding trust.
The London Development Agency found as long ago as 2002 that it generates £93 million. Carnival is and always will be a key cultural celebration for all Londoners and for the Black community in particular, who have struggled against racism in Britian, and who are among those who have suffered because of Grenfell.
Although it remains a major focus for communities and contributes significantly to tourism and the local economy, Notting Hill Carnival faces a historically significant battle to even exist. Almost every year it faces calls to be moved or even shut down entirely.
The route is hemmed in each year and many have expressed concerns about crowd safety. These persistentattempts to defame and curtail one of the most extraordinary displays of Londons diversity, has to stop. Notting Hill Carnival is here to stay. Efforts would be better placed ensuring that all those who attend have the best experience possible, in the true spirit of the celebration.
With adequate resourcing and support given to the local community and organisers from the government, the local council and others, the concerns that are regularly raised about crowd management and crime can be effectively managed. This year, more than ever, there is a duty for the authorities concerned to make sure this happens.
To all those taking part have a fantastic Notting Hill Carnival. See you on the road!
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