MORE THAN one million people from all around the world attended the two-day Notting Hill Carnival yesterday and on Sunday, with its fantastic floats with bursts of colour, tremendous costumes and masses of dancers.
The booming sound systems were silenced for 72 seconds on each afternoon to remember the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire which occurred less than half a mile from the main carnival parade route.
Wu Chee, a teenager from Hong Kong, said: ‘I’m here on holiday for a couple of weeks. I had to come to Carnival. Carnival is lit! I’ve seen so many colourful costumes. This really shows the culture of the Carribean. People are here from all over the world, it’s very multi-cultural. I love Caribbean food, I love Caribbean music, and I love Caribbean girls.’
Ade Deji, here on holiday from Nigeria, said: ‘I was with the Fela Kuti Band yesterday and they’re playing tonight at the Jazz Cafe in Camden. I have come all the way from Africa and Carnival is a must because of its history. I’m having a great time and the best thing about Carnival is meeting so many people.’
Samiha Lafif came with her socialist friends from France. She said: ‘We have seen exceptional wonderful costumes. We even saw a socialist float with railway union RMT banner on it. We had such a good time, everybody was great, we ate jerk chicken, plantain and of course rum punch.’
Asher Rule said: ‘I’ve travelled with my girlfriend Dom from Nottingham and Derby. We came all this way for the vibes, the music, the community and I have family up here as well. I love it! I come every year. We have tried the sugar cane and of course the jerk chicken and we are going to party hard and that is what we go to carnival for.’
The issues of the ‘militarisation’ of Carnival by the police was taken up sharply by the Carnival community’s own organisation Reclaim Our Carnival (ROC). Among ROC’s demands is to ‘stop police control of Carnival’ and ‘end the police-led media campaign against Notting Hill Carnival’.
ROC demands ‘the Metropolitan Police stop criminalising Notting Hill Carnival’ and demands that the authorities ‘ stop the annual attempts to close down Carnival earlier each year’.
Michael La Rose (ROC) told News Line: ‘The control by the authorities and the police in the form of the Strategic Partners Group (SPG) includes the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea Council (RBKC).
‘RBKC have no right to decide who runs Carnival. The control by authorities of Carnival has happened over the last 50 years. The Carnival community have resisted all attempts to control and ban it. Since 1989 we’ve had a Carnival leadership that are in collaboration with the police and have been the rubber stamp for the authorities and their plans for Carnival.
‘The militarisation of Carnival is an aspect of policing since the 1976 Carnival uprising.
‘The way that RBKC dealt with the Grenfell Tower fire, all their decisions were based on class, race and not listening to those people in the communities who had complained about Grenfell. They must be held accountable for the role they played and not try and blame the firefighters. We want the Carnival communities to reclaim Carnival away from the authorities and back to the people.’